On sea ice by W.F. Weeks. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, 2010. No of pages: xv + 664. ISBN 978-1-60223-079-8 (hardback).


ON SEA ICE by W.F. Weeks. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, 2010. No of pages: xv + 664. Price: US$85-00. ISBN 978-1-60223-079-8 (hardback).

Matthew R. Bennett*, * Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, Fern Barrow, Poole, BH12 5BB, UK

The interaction between glaciologists and the sea ice community is in my experience rather limited, sea ice being very different from glacier ice. The study of sea ice is, however, a subject which has grown of increasing importance to all natural scientists as its role in driving deep water circulation has emerged and as it has begun to disappear at an alarming rate from Polar Regions due to the impact of global warming. The fact that the volume by Weeks ended up on the desk of a glaciologist needs some explanation. I suppose the book editor assumed that in the absence of a real sea ice expert that a glaciologist was the next best thing. For my part I accepted the invitation out of pure curiosity for a subject that I know little about and one that, if you listen to the media, is on the way to becoming extinct!

So having rather laboured the introduction to this review and established the fact that I am not an expert in the field, I have to say that the book is a delight; a traditional academic text like those I remember and loved from my youth and devoured while squirreled away in the dusty depths of the university library when the internet, e-books and electronic journals were simply a bad dream. The book has all the key values that such text should have, the authority of an experienced researcher expressing rigour, scholarship and an uncompromising desire to reveal the basic physics of the processes involved. In short, it is a lovely blast from an era now lost on many modern students, who shy away from physical processes at the first sight of a complex equation.

The book works systematically through the subject starting with a historical review of research on sea ice, before becoming engrossed in the fundamental physics of freezing salt water, the growth of sea ice and the complexities of the phase diagrams that portray the inter-play of temperature, salinity and ice thickness. The text gives a full mathematical treatment, and the writing is clear and easy to follow, although uncompromising and challenging in places. These chapters are followed by discussion of the structure of sea ice, its properties and deformation, and its interaction with the sea bed. The illustrations are clear and supported by some excellent black and white photographs, mainly from the author's own collection. The book concludes with a chapter on the future of sea ice around the globe entitled simply in an understated way ‘Trends’. This chapter provides an honest assessment of the current trends in sea ice cover around the globe, and paints a bleak picture for polar sea ice and ultimately for those who study it!

So what about the market for such a book? Well, it is the kind of text that every geography or oceanographic library around the world should have within its reference collection, assuming that there is still money left these day for ‘real’ books. It will no doubt be a valued reference for those working in the field, especially since it is written by one of its more respected figures. It is, however, unlikely to find itself a wider readership, being rather peripheral to many students' degree courses and, from a student perspective, looking rather ‘hard and mathematical’. The latter is a sad reflection on modern students and not a criticism of the author, who I applaud for producing a book without compromise to the glitz of many modern publications. To close, it is a book which was delight to read and review, reminding me of my youth, a textbook with an uncompromising focus on the fundamental facts and process, and devoid of fluff!