Glacier science and environmental change edited by Peter G. Knight. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 2009. No. of pages: xiv+527. ISBN 978-1-4051-9653-6 (paperback).


It was with pleasure that I received a review copy of Peter Knight's excellent book Glacier Science and Environmental Change; a book I had admired while browsing the bookshop selves for a while, but had yet to purchase since the price tag of £150 was a bit to steep for my budget! I was also puzzled—the book had been around since 2006—so why was it out to review again? The answer lies in the fact that it has just been released with a soft cover making it more accessible to students and researchers alike; in short, it is now just within the reach of a student's pocket whereas before it was only accessible to the library budget. This is to be welcomed because the book remains an excellent reference source, and its eclectic collection of papers and summaries form an impressive body of information from some of the leading figures within the field.

The thing that has always impressed me about this volume is that it blends in depth reviews from leading figures such as Geoffrey Boulton, Richard Alley, Sridhar Anandakrishnan, T.H. Jacka, David Sugden and John Andrews with a diverse mix of short examples and case studies, many of which are less than a couple of sides long with a few key illustrations. If you need a fresh new example for a lecture or insight into an area which you know little about, then this is the book for you. It is also a fantastic book to have on ones desk; the antidote to marking or administration. In fact, the review copy has sat on my desk for over a week and in idle moments I have picked it up, opening it at random to be amused and distracted from what I am supposed to be doing for a few moments by something different and new. It is a truly fantastic Pandora's Box of information. This is, of course, one of the main criticisms of the book as well; it provides a series of brief snap shots, but not a coherent picture of a discipline, and as a student textbook rather than a library reference it suffers in this respect. It is also a shame that colour was not used throughout, but restricted to a few pages in the centre; this rather dates the format when colour production is increasingly the norm and would have made the soft cover version stand out as something different. Despite these minor reservations, I can see many students buying it.

The book is organised into five parts. The first deals with glaciers, and their hydraulic and sedimentary coupling, and contains some insightful papers on the role of subglacial hydrology in bed deformation. Part 2 looks more widely at the interaction of glaciers with climate or oceans and contains a mix of contributions with some form of marine or climatic reference. Part 3 is entitled ‘changing glaciers and their role in Earth surface evolution’ and contains one of the more eclectic collections of papers in the volume with a strong emphasis on the Southern Hemisphere, although there are a few entries such as that on the landscape of Snowdonia which don't quite seem to fit the general trend. Part 4 deals with glacier composition, mechanics and dynamics, and contains a more coherent set of papers on ice flow. The final part deals with glaciology in practice and contains a range of method-based contributions; it is one of the more diverse collections with a few hidden gems. So, in short, the book contains a diverse collection of case studies and extended examples, loosely organised into five themes. But don't let the lack of coherence put you off-this is an exciting collection of papers and one that I am now pleased to have on my shelves.