Sunday, April 28, 2013

Storm Kings

If you are interested in violent weather and its prediction, or enjoy watching The Weather Channel, then Lee Sandlin's Storm Kings: The Untold History of America's First Tornado Chasers is worth a read. The author describes the history of weather forecasting and meteorology from Benjamin Franklin's electricity experiments to Fujita's classification scale. It is not necessary to know the definition of the Coriolis effect or how convection works; Sandlin keeps the science simple, focusing on interesting characters who were repeatedly stumped by the creation and behavior of tornadoes.

Today we take accurate weather reports and severe storm warnings for granted, but even 60 years ago there was hesitation in issuing a tornado warning. Storm Kings chronicles the early struggles in experimentation and the resulting, often flawed, theories. The conflicts between the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Weather Bureau regarding administration, data collection, and of course, funding force the reader to wonder how they found the time to issue even the most basic forecasts. The history of meteorologists and their ideas encompass a wide range of very colorful personalities and plans (starting huge fires to make it rain, using dynamite to collapse funnel clouds). Sandlin touches on tornadoes large and small whose damage and eyewitness accounts helped improve weather forecasting.

An "active, severe" storm season has been predicted for 2013...

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