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Journalist David Laskin writes, "The history of weather is both a history of nature and a history of human desire. A history that is made and erased every day." And the history of American weather is particularly problematic: "Our weather and climate have been strange since the beginning of our history. Our perceptions have always been skewed by expectation, our memories distorted by self-interest." From a European perspective, North American weather is never usual: it is too hot, too cold, too violent, and, for most of the continent, much too dry. But Americans' minds never quite catch up with the weather where they actually live: "When we move, weather is the last thing we leave behind and the first thing we find when we arrive. Weather, in a sense, is home." Laskin's great insight is that the weather is never what we expect, because we always misremember the past. And in America in particular, this unexpected weather is always a sign of something: God's vengeance, human tampering, the progress or the regress of civilization. Laskin covers American weather from the warm spell that lured the Norse to Greenland, through the little ice age and the dust bowl, up to the greenhouse anxieties of the turn of the millennium. "We are constantly making and revising the history of weather, but weather itself is ahistorical. Infinite, fathomless, incalculable, it just keeps happening, regardless, every day." --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Laskin (A Common Life) contends that weather is a "human fabrication": the condition of the heavens becomes what we call "weather" only "after it has touched us and we have touched it." Thanks to the science of dendrochronology, it is possible to determine what American weather was like in prehistory, but the subject becomes more absorbing with the advent of the Puritans. They were devout believers in what the author terms theological meteorology, which placed the praise or blame for the vagaries of our climate on God's doorstep. Current practitioners of this applied science, aided by radar, satellites and computers, are able to bring a little order out of the chaos that is the enduring characteristic of weather. And with the development of global warming theories, more emphasis is now placed on terrestrial rather than celestial solutions to weather problems. From Native American rain dances through the establishing of the U.S. Weather Bureau in 1891 to changing styles of TV weatherpersons, Laskin engagingly covers it all.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The book's second half covers the National Weather Service and present-day meteorology, showing how technology has changed the art of weather forcasting. We see the daily weather report through the eyes of the weather men themselves.
Laskin is a great writer whose book will appeal to weather buffs and others alike. I only wish he had spent more time covering specific storms in our history and how they have shaped communities.