Canon of Insolation and the Ice-Age Problem Milankovic

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Canon of Insolation and the Ice-Age Problem
Milankovic Milutin
September 1, 1998
Hardcover: 636 pages
Publisher: Agency for Textbooks; 1st edition (September 1, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8617066199
ISBN-13: 978-8617066190
Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
Editorial Reviews

The original edition of `The Canon` was published in German (1941). It was translated into Serbian (1997), into English in Jerusalem (1969), and finally into English in Belgrade (1998). The present review is based on Balgrade translation edited by the Textbook Publishing Company, Belgrade. The book has 634 pages, 57 illustrations, 28 tables and 1338 equations.This paper it seeks to give a general overview of Milankovich s accomplishments. the aacount does not follow the historical order of his discoveries, but the order as they appear in `The Canon`. The translations quoted in this paper are from the English edition of 1998. `The Canon` was an interdisciplinary, work between mathematics, astronomy, geophysics and geology. With astronomical methods, Milankovich solved the problems of the secular perturbations in the movements of the Earth; with geophysical methods he solved the law of the Earth s insolation: while with geological methods he studied succession and the history of Quaternary glaciations.
By Atinev on October 10, 2010
CANON OF INSOLATION - the basis of all sciences involved in any theory of paleoclimates

This is an English translation of the famous Milankovitch`s book written originally in German, and published by the Royal Serbian Academy in 1941. In contrast to the earlier English edition by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations, this edition is exquisitely typeset and bound, is supplied with a signed photograph of Milankovic, with 14 pages of name and subject indexes, and with a comprehensive (36 pages, with 7 figures) biographical essay on Milankovitch`s life and work, written by a Milankovitch scholar and academician Nikola Pantic.

Titles of the six parts of the book are: `The planets` motion around the Sun and their mutual perturbations`; `The rotation of the Earth`; `Secular wanderings of the rotational poles of the Earth`; `The Earth`s insolation and its secular changes`; `The connection between insolation and the temperature of the Earth and its atmosphere. The mathematical climate of the Earth`; and, `The ice age, its mechanism, structure and chronology`. With its extensive technical exposition of the topics listed this classic book will serve well as a supporting text for a variety of graduate courses in atmospheric and astronomical sciences, and, in view of Milankovitch`s special interest in and the comprehensive coverage of the history of science involved, will also be of interest to historians of science.

This book aims to give an extended view of all sciences involved in the astronomical theory of paleoclimates. It provides the fundamental principles of celestial mechanics to compute the revolution of the Earth around the Sun and its rotation, of plate tectonics and polar wandering, of the insolation geometry and the radiative transfer through the atmosphere, and finally of climate modeling. As such, most of the book has remained valid through time, although new and more accurate theories are now available in each of those topics. It can therefore still be used as an in-depth introduction to the astronomical theory of paleoclimates.

Such a theory claims that changes in the elements of the Earth`s orbit around the Sun and in the inclination of its axis of rotation generate sufficient variations in the amount of solar radiation received on the Earth to account for quasi-periodic climate changes at the time scales of tens to hundreds of thousands of years. In terms of climate dynamics, this astronomical theory is the oldest explanation of the recurrence of the Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles. It is currently one of the most popular due to Milankovitch`s work. Actually such hypothesis dates back from the nineteen century with Joseph Alphonse Adhémar in France, John Herschel in Great Britain, James Croll in Scotland and some others (for an historical viewpoint see for example Imbrie and Imbrie 1979, Berger 1988, V. Milankovic 1995). It is however, Milankovic who, for the first time in 1920, completed a full astronomical theory of the Pleistocene ice ages, from the computation of the orbital elements and of the subsequent changes in the insolation, to modeling long-term climatic variations and comparing them with geological data.

Actually, Milankovitch proposed that a long, cool summer and a short mild winter are the necessary conditions to enter an ice age. This view, first put forward by Joseph John Murphy in 1869, was quite rapidly accepted by Brückner, Köppen and Wegener (1925). Milankovitch`s main contribution was to put such a theory on a firm mathematical basis. He introduced and computed how the intensity of solar radiation striking the top of the atmosphere during the caloric summer and winter half years varied as a function of latitude and of three fundamental astronomical parameters (eccentricity, obliquity and precession). He then emphasized the importance of the caloric summer insolation at 65°N as a controlling factor of the northern hemisphere glaciation with its dominant obliquity driven periodicity of 41,000 years. Finally, he estimated the magnitude of ice age departures from the present air surface temperatures, calculating the radiation balance at the Earth`s surface. The essential product of the Milankovitch theory is the curve that demonstrates how the intensity of summer sunlight varied over the past 600,000 years. On this curve, he identified certain low points which at the suggestion of Köppen he put in coincidence with four European ice ages reconstructed 15 years earlier by Albrecht Penck and Eduard Brückner (1909) and from which he concluded that those geological data constituted a verification of his theory.

It remains that the basis of all sciences involved in any theory of paleoclimates can be found in the Milankovitch book. Critically read, it will remain for ever a milestone in climate science. It is owing to the careful work by Milankovitch that we may expect to start to understand how the Earth system is responding to the astronomical forcing and how it might behave in the future.

We are convinced readers will enjoy this classic book, reasonably priced given its attractive looks, and volume.

André Berger and Fedor Mesinger

André Berger is a Professor of meteorology and climate dynamics at the Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. He has spent most of his time working on the astronomical theory of paleoclimates, from celestial mechanics to climate modeling.

Fedor Mesinger has taught meteorology, including numerical weather prediction, at the University of Belgrade; and is now with NCEP, Camp Springs, MD. He is one of the principal designers of the Eta Model.

(Published in Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 81, 1615-1618)

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