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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming
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on July 15, 2007
This is not Hollywood and it is not Talk Radio. Mooney has written a passionate book about how hurricane events unfolded in 2004 and 2005 in the Atlantic Basin, and how climate researchers reacted to the storm events, and to each other. Not all of it was pretty, but very much came to be overstated in both journalism and politics. Mooney gives us the drama without giving us the dirt.

I am surprised by the moderate viewpoint. Since Mooney took the time to get to know William Gray, he has developed some appreciation for Gray's motivations and viewpoint, in my opinion. The result is a rare but real book that should be remembered, rather than a bestselling fabricated slant that is quickly disgarded.

Besides being a testimony to the puzzling relationship between hurricane intensity and global warming, the book is a case study on how scientific communities resolve conflict. One has to appreciate the way scientists have to compete for slim research dollars. Sometimes there is more than one good way to go about good science, and so conclusions can differ. Then there are journalists that want to sell scientific research to an unsuspecting audience in the form of a story, and to do so the journalist must market it as being incredible, glamorous, and positive. In other words they spin the story. Finally, politicians use the journalists' story (the words that have already been spun) to benefit their own power struggle. In the end researchers get to stick with the ivory towers, the news media moguls get rich, and politicians go back to roost in power. The truth becomes the victim, suffering in poor perspectives, bad quotations, fantasy conflict, and everything else contained under the heading of yellow journalism.

I'm not a skeptic, but the million dollar quotation comes from skeptic Chris Landsea, which elucidates dire reality with precision:

"They don't even have building codes in some of the unincorporated areas of Texas and Louisiana. So, much less getting ready for any potential scary changes [due to] global warming, we're not prepared for hurricanes as they are today."
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on February 29, 2008
Chris Mooney presents a fascinating inside look into the politics and personalities behind hurricane science and scientists. With the possibility that global warming can increase the destructive power of hurricanes, a formerly non-controversial topic became highly politicized in a short amount of time. Predictably, scientists were in two basic camps: one believed global warming makes hurricanes worse, and one believed that global warming (which may not be occurring) does not make hurricanes worse.

Although Mooney keeps the pace moving along, by the time you finish this book, you may know more about hurricanes than you bargained for. At times, the book is almost too detailed for its own good, but if you know at least a little basic meteorology, you should be able to handle all the atmospheric science thrown into the book. Good book on a fascinating subject.
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on March 15, 2016
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on July 13, 2007
If you are a bit of a news and/or science junkie you're aware of the recent international report about human causes of global warming, the "hockey stick" debate, and other pieces of the ongoing debates and scientific investigations of global warming. There are plenty of people (many of them unqualified) writing commentary about global warming and its potential costs, but this book give you the story behind all the news stories - the history of the research, the scientific debates, the personalities. I am happy that someone willing to do his homework has finally written the story pulling all of it together into a coherent whole for those of us who have been following the news.

My only complaint is that I don't see Dallas, Texas on the author's book tour schedule.
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on August 31, 2013
If you only read one book on the arguments over rising CO2 levels, global warming and climate change, make it this one.

I recently visited my local library intending to check out "An Inconvenient Truth" (the print version of the AL Gore movie I saw when it came out), and "Climate Confusion" (Roy Spencer's book, which I ran across in a Google search). "Storm World" happened to be shelved nearby. I almost didn't pick it up (didn't really like the title -- personal taste / bias) but ended up checking out all three. As it turned out, "Storm World" was by far the best read of the 3.

Chris Mooney's writing is clear and informative. He presents the facts, as well as the opinions of various climatologists, meteorologists, and climate-modeling experts. Impressions of the personalities of the major players are given. To give historical perspective, the author also describes one of the major controversies over the basic nature of storms that began more that 150 years ago, when weather science was in his infancy. And perhaps most importantly, Mooney describes the controversies without injecting his own opinions into them.

I see only 19 reviews (counting mine) of "Storm World" at Amazon, compared to 126 for "Climate Confusion." If the number of reviews is proportionate to the number of people who have read these two books, this is a sorry state of affairs.
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on March 14, 2012
Storm World is basically a history of hurricane science, starting with the 1800s but focusing most on the years 2004-2006, when the author met with leading experts in the field and attended all of the major research conferences. This was a unique period for the hurricane research community, as a combination of major US hurricane landfalls and new research linking global warming to increasing hurricane activity threw the hurricane researchers directly into the national spotlight.

The major strength of Storm World is the accuracy in which Mooney presents the science behind the hurricane/climate debate and most importantly, the importance and impact of each piece of science on a broader scale. Often books about science topics are grossly oversimplified or written from an outsider's perspective. Mooney is so immersed that could easily be mistaken for a hurricane researcher in the field. It is clear that Mooney has carefully read all of the relevant scientific research and most importantly, he successfully contextualizes the important findings and conclusions from the results and correctly places them in the framework of the hurricane research paradigm. Generally, Mooney lets the involved scientists speak for themselves until the conclusion, where he gives recommendations for how scientists and policymakers should be acting in light of the available knowledge.

An important theme is the implication of a lack of scientific consensus. Bill Gray (the empiricist) and Kerry Emanuel (the theorist) represent two opposing viewpoints about the relation of increased hurricane activity to global warming. When the 2005 hurricane season threw their debate into the spotlight, the normally internal squabbling between the two camps boiled over into a political firestorm that brought national attention to this often bitter dispute. Many shortcomings of the hurricane research community were exposed in the process. Science is often considered to be slow and objective, with an emphasis on peer reviewed journal articles. Mooney shows how in reality, the personalities and background of the scientific researchers relate to the perspective of that particular viewpoint, which in turn adds a subjective influence to the final research results. While communicating with colleagues is still important, it is essential for scientists to understand how to work with the media and disseminate their conclusions to policymakers and to the general public. Mooney mentions that blogs have gained acceptance as a way of accomplishing this goal.

Mooney criticizes Dr. Gray for stubbornly clinging to his disdain for numerical modeling, but the issue of projecting future hurricane numbers and intensity remains largely unsettled. The final conclusions offer advice on making policy decisions in light of this lack of scientific consensus. Mooney falls in the middle of the two sides, as he notes that the hurricanes are almost certainly related to climate, but the nature and extent of the relationship is still unclear. However, when considering policy and planning for future storms, it is necessary to prepare for the possibility of stronger storms. Scientists will always be disputing some issue related to the topic; it's a necessary part of the scientific method. But instead of emphasizing the points of contention, society must focus on the areas of agreement and calculate the risk accordingly. Scientists are obligated to help, not hinder that process.

Mooney's interpretation of the hurricane/climate debate will not become easily outdated. Even though the science continues to advance, the debate hasn't gone away and Storm World presents advice for scientists of all disciplines. As Atlantic hurricane activity has quieted down over the past few years, the story has fallen out of the spotlight while the US remains vulnerable to major hurricane strikes. Inevitably, a new hurricane will bring these issues back into the spotlight, and hopefully the scientific community will be better prepared for the next media invasion.

Note: I am a graduate student in meteorology (specializing in satellite remote sensing of hurricanes) and I work with Dr. Hugh Willoughby who was accurately quoted several times in this book.
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on December 5, 2010
Hurricanes have been a perplexing phenomenon for humans. They appear as beautiful spirals on radar, but in reality they destroy everything in their path. Within the last couple of decades, there has been an increasing concern about global warming and the impacts it has on humans and nature. In particular, scientists have been paying close attention to the development and intensity of hurricanes and comparing these instances with global warming. Chris Mooney investigates the political and scientific reasoning behind hurricanes in his book "Storm World- Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming". The book is categorized into three main sections and focuses on the historical background, formation and scientific opinions on global warming and hurricanes.
The book first discusses the history of hurricanes and mentions the lack of information and research on past Hurricanes (prior to the 19th century). Mooney briefly mentions, that the first reports of hurricanes came from ship records, and explorers in the 1500s. However very little is known at this time, many of the records were not accurately recorded or many ships were overcome by the large waves and torrential downpour. Mooney expresses that the most research collected on hurricanes has only been from the last 50 years. This is very surprising in comparison to research on other natural disasters ( such as tornadoes), which has been researched more and better understood.
Mooney also addresses the formation of hurricanes in his book. He educates his readers by describing that the hurricane's spiraling is as a result of the "Earth's rotations" (Mooney 41). He also mentions that hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere due to the Coriolis Effect. While the minute details in Mooney's book help the reader comprehend the structure of a hurricane, Mooney's book is not completely comprised of just these educational explanations. Rather he "dives" deeper into scientific reasoning throughout the rest of the book.
The majority of "Storm World" focuses on the scientific debates over global climate change. Mooney explains multiple accounts of scientists debating with one another and developing their own hypothesis. For the most part, a majority of the scientists described had developed their own thoughts against global warming. For example, scientist William Gray believes that humans are not the main contributors to global warming and the change in hurricane patterns. Rather it is due to the thermohaline circulation of the ocean.
It was surprising that Mooney's book did not cover very much content on the media's perspective and its influence over political stand points. Rather Mooney described one story after another about different ideas on global warming and powerful hurricanes, which have continued to hit the United States. While he seemed quite knowledgable about the formation of hurricanes and their historical background, the reader could get lost within the stories. It was perplexing to remember the main ideas within such detailed context. Perhaps this describes the ambiguity within the research and history of hurricanes. There are so many accounts of them within the last couple of centuries, however little is known at what causes them.
Overall Mooney provides a well developed explanation on what scientists know about the structure of hurricanes. He provides information about both sides of the complex debate over global climate change. In the end, it appears that the debate over global climate change and research on hurricanes, will have to continue to develop over time, in order to determine official theories.
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on October 11, 2007
It was probably a coincidence that this book reached our library just as I started teaching an online meteorology class at a local university. Whether or not, I found it invaluable in directing the discussions for this class since global warming is the most significant current issue for this science, and all roads/students/newspapers etc. lead directly to the issue.

For such a topic that is wrought with both political and emotional issues, I thought Chris Mooney did a wonderful job of presenting all the sides. There are never just one or two sides in any science. I saw that when I did research in HIV encephalitis in med school. It was amazing not only the good research that was done and reported but also the quacks that came out of the woodwork. They could have done reasonable and valid research prior to their introduction of mistaken theories and concepts, but boy, if you insisted they were wrong...even if it did turn out later they were wrong, they would cling to those theories like velcro. Not only did they cling to the theories, but if they couldn't get published in recognized peer reviewed journals, they started up their own journal!

This inability of both scientists and politicians to admit to mistakes about previously held beliefs is a real problem in science. Not just in meteorology, though I can see from Mooney's book that due to the attention that hurricanes brought to global warming, these guys who are often social inept were thrown into a maelstrom they didn't have the foggiest idea how to contend with (weather puns definitely intended).

I recommended this book to my students, and I don't do that often. I will continue to refer back to this book because it put very well the divides that not only exist in science, but even among communities and families concerning this issue (my husband is a wait-and-see guy, while I am one of those people who think we should do whatever we can possibly do to minimize our impact on climate).

Great book...great discussion.

Karen Sadler
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on July 20, 2007
This book is amazing. It's so hard to find any book that deals with global warming in any way that doesn't go to one extreme or the other. Instead, Chris Mooney gives a very balanced view of the debate on the global warming/hurricane connection. The science is explained well, and simply enough for a layman, so anyone with even a slight knowledge or hurricanes and/or global warming would follow it easily.
The most interesting part for me is the personal stories of the main scientists involved in the debate. It's easy to assume that anyone who is such a stubborn denier of global warming such as Dr. Bill Gray would be a political conservative. It's clear from this book that he is not. The way politics weighs on such legendary scientists as Drs. Gray and Emanuel is fascinating. No one ever taught us how not to have our views distorted by the media and used for political agendas when we were in college.

Glenn Schwartz
Chief Meteorologist
NBC10 Philadelphia
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on July 14, 2007
This book presents a very insightful, comprehensive, and refreshingly scientific analysis from all sides--empirical to theoretical--of the "hurricane-global warming" debate. It is very well-researched and written (though at times a bit repetitive), and is crammed with lots of factual information about the meteorologists who are at the forefront of shaping the future direction of research in the "hurricane-climate" debate. Chris Mooney succeeds in laying out all sides of the wide-ranging research viewpoints in this field without taking sides or pontificating his own biases or opinions. He even-handedly maintains his objectivity throughout his discussion, yet leaves the reader with lots of ideas, information, and questions to ponder. I think this book would make an excellent addition to any post-baccalaureate course whose core curriculum relates to climate change or hurricane modeling. Buy and read this book; you won't be disappointed!
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