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Reviewed by:
  • Hydroclimatology: Perspectives and Applications
  • Patrick Kahn (bio)
Hydroclimatology: Perspectives and Applications. Marlyn Shelton. Cambridge University Press, 2009

A growing consensus of opinions in the scientific community indicates a warming trend in the climate record, which can be partially attributed to human influences. With the increasing relevance and concern for global warming, understanding the atmosphere-terrestrial dynamic has taken a prominent role in scientific investigations as attempts are made to understand future impacts on society. Hydroclimatology: Perspectives and Applications, by Marlyn Shelton, provides a concise introduction to an interdisciplinary science combining climatology and hydrology. This book provides a substantive analysis of relevant literature from prominent researchers in each field. Through discussion of the fundamental components of the hydroclimate system, data-gathering techniques, and spatial and temporal aspects, the textbook provides the foundation for further in-depth scientific analysis. While this book can be used as a standalone guide to hydroclimatology for those with little previous understanding, background knowledge of climatology and hydrology concepts would aide in easier comprehension.

The book’s ten chapters can be broken down into five sections. Chapters one and two provide a framework for hydroclimatology; chapters three through five address methods for measuring and acquiring atmospheric and terrestrial components of the hydroclimate system, including a chapter on the use of remote sensing for data collection. Chapter six introduces fundamental concepts of hydrology and runoff and measurement methods. The fourth section includes chapters seven and eight, which introduce spatial and temporal aspects, and chapters nine and ten discuss two hydroclimate extremes: floods and drought. Within each chapter, suggestions are made [End Page 249] for further detailed reading on specific concepts, solidifying this book’s role as a fundamental course textbook.

The first section discusses water as the unifying factor between hydrology and climatology. In the first two chapters, the reader is introduced to the hydrologic cycle, the radiation budget and its role as the engine that drives the hydroclimate system, and the global water budget as primary connections between the atmosphere and terrestrial subsystems. Shelton also offers a brief history of water’s importance throughout human civilization and the emergence of some common measurement methods. Ample diagrams illustrating important processes and notable mathematical expressions are included to further clarify important concepts.

The second section, consisting of chapters three, four, and five, presents common methods and instruments for gathering in situ atmospheric and hydrologic data. The functionality of each instrument is defined and augmented with photos and equations where necessary, and each variable’s relevance to the greater hydroclimate system is discussed. Shelton also examines common mathematical models for estimating variables for instances where in situ measurements are otherwise difficult.

Chapter five presents essential remote-sensing theory and explains common satellites for data collection. Technological advances in remote sensing have allowed for easier high-resolution data collection, and many relevant studies are referenced throughout the chapter. While a background in remote sensing would be desirable, the author successfully presents important concepts for less-familiar readers.

Chapter six, a standalone section, explores hydrologic concepts as they pertain to runoff. Here the reader is presented with the various types and forms of runoff in order to grasp the inherent difficulty in accurately measuring runoff due to its widespread nature. Human reliance on terrestrial water is discussed, thus providing a greater understanding of atmospheric linkages.

Section four addresses the spatial and temporal variations in global hydroclimatic processes. Through the liberal use of maps, the reader becomes familiar with the spatial and temporal distributions of notable hydroclimate variables and explanations for their variances. Shelton also discusses various meso-scale atmospheric processes, such as El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and their influence on temporal variations in the hydroclimate. [End Page 250]

The final section examines the two hydroclimate extremes: floods and drought. As global temperatures continue to rise, rising global populations may observe an accompanying increase in these potentially catastrophic events. The atmospheric underpinnings of floods and their geographic distributions are discussed in chapter nine, and then case studies of notable past flood events are presented, accompanied by visuals of site-specific atmospheric conditions. In chapter ten, common drought indices are reviewed and two explanations for their causes are...


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pp. 249-251
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