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January 2009

Mathematical Modelling for Earth Scientists


Xin-She Yang
Published by: Dunedin Academic Press
Publication date: 2008
ISBN: 978-1-903765-92-0
List price: £25.00
320 pp

Quantitative methods are increasingly important in the earth sciences but there are few good books specifically written to help earth scientists develop the mathematical tools that they need. This book helps to fill the gap by providing a concise introduction to mathematical modelling with an emphasis on examples taken from the earth sciences.

One of the major strengths of the book is that it is possible to get a good overview of a whole topic during an initial read of the relevant chapter without getting too bogged down in detail. Where additional detail is provided it is invariably worth further study. Another strength of the book is the large number of worked examples embedded in the text – almost every other double-page spread seems to have one. With very few exceptions, these examples are of great help in providing both focus and clarity to what may sometimes seem a little obscure. The style of the book is informal - I wish that it had been available when I was an undergraduate to help counterbalance the “theorem-and-proof” approach that I was subjected to.

The first chapter comprises an overview of the scope of the text, using detailed examples in places. This is a powerful but high risk approach – a glance at the triple integrals on page seven could put off the casual reader! However the reader is reassured that much of the detail is explained in later chapters. The author states that the preliminary requirements for the book are pre-calculus foundation maths. My view is that this is a little optimistic; readers will gain much more benefit from the book if they have already developed a good grasp of calculus.

This is a well-produced book in a clear type with good supporting diagrams. It has been well proof-read, such that I found very few typographical errors, especially considering the mathematical nature of much of the text. In short, the book provides excellent value for money and is a well-crafted introduction to mathematical modelling for earth scientists. Armed with insights obtained from this book, the reader will be well placed for further study of selected topics at the next level of detail.

Duncan Woodcock


Tectonic Geomorphology of Mountains - a new approach to paleoseismology


W B Bull
Published by: Blackwell Publishing
Publication date: September 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4051-5479-6
List price: £42.50
316 pp

The key to this book is the subtitle – a new approach to paleoseismology - one of the new innovative subsets of geoscience that emphasises the multi-disciplinary nature of geological investigations. Paleoseismology seeks to understand and evaluate the record of prehistoric earthquakes through stratigraphic and geomorphic investigations, to enable better evaluation of hazards associated with future seismic events. This book presents tectonic knowledge within this new focus, and explores the impact of ‘scrunch and stretch’ processes on landscape development and the formation of distinctive tectonic landforms in mountainous environments.

The book contains six chapters, beginning with a comprehensive and well-written exposition on the problems of defining ‘uplift’ in relation to landscape response. The underlying conceptual basis for the book is outlined in Chapter 2 with specific emphasis on fluvial system interactions in active tectonic environments. This is an excellent review of fundamental geomorphic principles, which are clearly explained and discussed with respect to morphometric analysis, system thresholds and temporal responses.

The next three chapters introduce the main landform elements, such as mountain fronts and fault scarps associated with tectonic-fluvial processes, and include a novel attempt to synthesise this information to form diagnostic landscape classes. Using numerical descriptions of landforms and landscape morphology, this section presents a classification of ‘landscape assemblages’ with respect to relative tectonic activity, and is one of the more important aspects of this book. It could, however, been more clearly articulated with better definition of the proposed classes. In the final chapter, there is a change in focus towards paleoseismology and a change in geographic location from western North America to New Zealand. This is another important chapter containing new and important discussion on lichenometry and its use in dating coseismic rockfall events.

The book contains numerous excellent field examples to illustrate the concepts introduced in the text. It clearly relies on the author’s extensive field experiences with most of the examples drawn from western North America and New Zealand. There are many illustrations of present-day landscapes and explanatory diagrams, but with an unusual numbering system that divides individual figures into distinct parts. However, this is only a minor criticism in what is an excellent advanced textbook that should be widely read by all geologists interested in the interaction of active tectonics and landscapes.

Wishart A Mitchell, Department of Geography, University of Durham

Guidebook for Himalayan Trekkers, Series No.1
Geology and natural hazards along the Kaligandaki Valley, Nepal

B N Upreti and M Yoshida (eds)
Published by: Department of Geology, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Publication date: 2005
ISBN: 99933-52-70-5
List price: NRp 850 (approx £7.00)
165 pp

The Himalayan mountains represent some of the most spectacular and dynamic landscapes on Earth. To be able to travel through them is a privilege and for many trekkers it is an experience of a lifetime. The Kaligandaki Valley is one of the most popular trekking routes in Nepal, and for this reason it was selected as the subject of the first of a series of geological guidebooks.

The original form of the book was produced for a field workshop in October 2004 for workers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which has also funded the book’s publication. It has been prepared for trekkers with a keen interest in the natural world and has clearly been written by experienced academic field geologists - their passion for the subject comes through in their writing. Although very technical in its content, the authors have given consideration to those without a geological background by providing a comprehensive glossary of technical terms.

The book begins with an overview of the geology, physiography, climate, vegetation and natural hazards of the Nepal Himalaya in general and of the Kaligandaki Valley in particular. There is a guide for a self-contained one-day tour from Pokhara, with the majority of the rest of the volume given over to the main trek from Jomsom (reached by air from Pokhara) to Tatopani, and thence either via Ghhorepani or Beni back to Pokhara.

The book is profusely illustrated with a good mixture of colour and black and white photographs helpfully annotated where appropriate, with separate line drawings to aid an appreciation of the features being described. To complement the landscape pictures are topographic map extracts on which the relevant geological and natural hazard points of interest are indicated clearly. Detailed close-up photographs of geological features are provided along with photomicrographs to highlight the mineralogical details. The production quality is excellent, printed on glossy paper that helps to highlight the colour illustrations.

The descriptions along each section of the treks are easy to follow, are clearly laid out and are thorough. Occasionally the English is slightly awry but not so much as to detract from the essence of what is being written. Overall, the guidebook is excellent and for those wanting a good description of the landscape and geology on view, it is well worth the money. The authors and publishers have set a high standard for subsequent guidebooks to follow.

John Reynolds
Reynolds Geo-Sciences, Mold