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Eruptions that shook the world


Book cover

Advance reviews

“With his characteristic sparkling brilliance, Oppenheimer expertly recasts the latest scientific findings on how volcanoes work as a compelling and readable account that conveys the enduring human fascination for nature’s fiery outbursts and their capacity to transform life on this planet.” Professor Iain Stewart, geologist and BBC TV presenter

“In his explosive book, Clive Oppenheimer brilliantly shows how the history of volcanoes and people is a tangled account. From our earliest ancestors to travellers battling with the effects of ash clouds on airline flights, our evolutionary destiny has been played out in the shadow of volcanoes, often with disastrous results.” Professor Clive Gamble, Southampton University

“This is forensic geology in the widest sense and an exciting guided tour of the major volcanic and climatic disasters experienced by human kind. Oppenheimer has a rare talent for bringing the science and history together in a clear and engaging way.” Professor Michael Rampino, New York University

“Writing in his inimitably lively and witty style, Clive Oppenheimer takes us through deep time and deep into volcanoes, teaching us how they work and demonstrating how powerful eruptions have often jostled the human toehold on survival. This tour de force is an astonishingly provocative roadmap to the once and future history of Earth.” Dr Dave Pieri, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Pubished reviews

  • Review in Nature: “Closures of international airspace after the recent Icelandic eruptions served as a reminder that volcanoes can be disruptive. But volcanic outbursts have also shaped our history, from aiding the demise of the dinosaurs to altering climate. Ash ejected into the atmosphere may even have led to the meagre harvest that triggered the French Revolution. Volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer relates in rigorous detail the consequences of eruptions over the past quarter of a billion years, and argues that lessons can be learned for future risk management of catastrophes.”
  • Review in New Scientist: “Oppenheimer romps through the geological past, detailing some of the major volcanic events and their global impact”
  • Recommended book in Scientific American: “Volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer of the University of Cambridge surveys the biggest eruptions of the past quarter of a billion years to illustrate how profoundly volcanoes have shaped our world and how we might apply the lessons of the past to managing disastrous eruptions in the future.”
  • Guardian’s “Punctuated Equilibrium”: “A thorough and readable account of the effects volcanoes have had on Planet Earth”
  • Library Journal: “A fascinating work that will engage not just volcano experts but also those with an interest in history, climatology, archaeology, and geochronology”
  • Review on redOrbit: “Oppenheimer’s passion and life-long dedication to this subject is evident throughout his book”
  • ScienceNews: “Oppenheimer wisely avoids the trap of environmental determinism for explaining the rise or fall of a particular civilization. Rather, he thoughtfully makes his case that volcanoes and humankind have been intertwined throughout history, and will continue to be long after the next unpronounceable Icelandic volcano erupts.”
  • Review by Don L. Anderson in Physics Today: “I recommend Eruptions That Shook the World as motivational reading for physics students looking for a thesis topic in Earth or environmental sciences. The book may encourage physicists to take up the fascinating but challenging mission of understanding the workings of deep Earth and the claims that are made for it.” [May 2012]
  • Review by Michael Ort in Environmental History: “…an excellent book for a physical or social scientist who wants to understand how volcanoes work and how they have affected humans over the millennia. For an expert in volcanology … or in archaeology or history, this book provides an excellent opportunity to learn about another aspect of one’s specialty.” [July 2012]