Storm Watchers: The Turbulent History of Weather Prediction from Franklin's Kite to El Niño

Storm Watchers: The Turbulent History of Weather Prediction from Franklin's Kite to El Niño

Storm Watchers: The Turbulent History of Weather Prediction from Franklin's Kite to El Niño

Storm Watchers: The Turbulent History of Weather Prediction from Franklin's Kite to El Niño


A lively, inspiring account of the pioneers who sought to accurately predict the weather Benjamin Franklin . . . James P. Espy . . . Cleveland Abbe . . . Carl-Gustaf Rossby . . . Jule G. Charney . . . just a few of the remarkable individuals who struggled against formidable odds to understand the atmosphere and predict the weather. Where they saw patterns and processes, others saw randomness and tumult-and yet they strove to make their voices heard, often saving lives in the process. Storm Watchers takes you on a fascinating journey through time that captures the evolution of weather forecasting. From the age when meteorology was considered one step removed from sorcery to the modern-day wizardry of supercomputers, John Cox introduces you to the pioneering scientists whose work fulfilled an ancient dream and made it possible to foretell the future. He tells the little-known stories of these weathermen, such as Ptolemy's weather predictions based on astrology, John Finley's breakthrough research in identifying tornadoes, and Tor Bergeron's new techniques of weather forecasting, which contributed to its final worldwide acceptance. Filled with extraordinary tales of bravery and sacrifice, Storm Watchers will make you think twice the next time you turn on the local news to catch the weather report.


WEATHER FORECASTING has become a kind of appliance science, part of the electric rhythm of life, absorbed and applied without a second thought to the mundane questions of personal comfort and convenience. How cold will it be today? Or tomorrow? Or how hot? Will I need a sweater? An umbrella? A hat?

Depending on the medium, its presentation can be brief and stylized to the point of wordless icons, or extended and elaborate, colorfully portrayed with animated and entertaining visual effects. These productions relate knowledge that is different from the rest of the daily information stream. This is the future, the telling of atmospheric motions and events that have not happened yet.

Weather forecasting is the product of meteorological science that comes from the edge of our most advanced capability, quantifying circumstances of turbulence and chaos that are at the limits of probability. It is the numerical modeling output of some of the most powerful computers on the planet. This knowledge of the future is costly and difficult to acquire. It is so costly, in fact, its raw material so extensive, its reach so global, and its processing so computationally demanding that only governments can provide it.

Day in and day out, weather prediction is more accurate and more useful than ever, more objective and more thoroughly scientific, although this trend of continuing improvement is not commonly recognized. So generally reliable is this prediction of the future, in fact, that its accuracy is taken for granted, like a public utility or a civil right. When it proves to be inaccurate, the occasion is widely remarked upon and not quickly forgotten.

The daily weather forecast is a marvel of digital electronics, a set of facts that is intensely modified by computer from the first assimilation of raw data to its final graphical output on a screen. Routinely employed are data from sophisticated instruments aboard satellites, automated weather stations, radio-equipped balloons, airliners, ocean buoys, and . . .

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