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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather Hardcover – May 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
A well-known meteorologist and founder of WeatherData, Smith takes readers on a fast-paced account of the biggest storms in recent years and how weather forecasting has developed into a true science since the 1950s. Part memoir, part science account, Smith's tale begins in the late 1940s, when weathermen were actually forbidden to broadcast tornado warnings. The U.S. Weather Bureau blocked storm forecasting for fear of getting it wrong, just as today, according to Smith, the FAA has banned weather radios from airport control towers. He delivers a moment-by-moment account of the monster tornado that leveled Greensburg, Kans., in 2007 as well as a damning account of governmental incompetence in the leadup to Hurricane Katrina. But as Smith shows, scientists themselves can be close-minded and prevent their field from progressing: Smith recounts the struggle by Theodore Fujita, creator of the tornado severity scale, to see his findings on microbursts—which have killed hundreds of people in airline crashes—accepted by other scientists. This account of people who do something about the weather should appeal to just about anyone who enjoys talking about it. Photos. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Back Cover
Warnings - The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather tells the compelling, previously untold story of how the science of weather forecasting has become the most effective science at saving lives: More than cardiology, cancer research, or traffic safety. Thousands of lives are saved every year -- at a very low cost to society. Like The Right Stuff and Rocket Boys, Warnings is a work of narrative non-fiction a first-person backstory of those who have dedicated their lives to the science of storms and the creation life-saving storm warning technology. They have toiled largely in anonymity outside the scientific world, until now. This book tells their amazing, unexpected story.
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Warnings reminds us of how our world has become much safer since WWII as meteorologists provide ever-better warnings about destructive weather. The author has a lifetime of experience on the front lines of our struggle to better forecast extreme weather, and so limit the destruction of life and property. After WWII, forecasting extreme weather (e.g., tornadoes) was considered too politically risk to even attempt. Now weather forecasting systems save thousands of live per year, avoiding threats some of which the public seldom even sees.
Smith describes this progress with a minimum of technical detail and many vivid stories. He describes what it feels like to chase tornadoes — accompanied by your fiancée, hoping she isn’t terrified enough to end the engagement (she didn’t). He describes the smell of a destroyed town, the struggle of innovators with hidebound bureaucrats, and the thrill of technical breakthroughs.
There are only (roughly) ten thousand practitioners of applied meteorology in the US, yet they have produced vast savings in money and lives. We grow ever more dependent on them. This is their story.
Applied meteorologist (and weather entrepreneur) Mike Smith has written a lively look at how tornado forecasting tools and techniques have improved during the past 50+ years and how these improvements have saved many, many lives. He's got a great writing style and a knack for explaining complicated things in a simple, straightforward manner.
I really enjoyed the book, especially those parts dealing with tornadoes.
Various government agencies, such as the FAA and the Weather Bureau (later, the National Weather Service) let politics and turf wars get in the way of better serving the public, in terms of issuing warnings and disseminating information. This was eye-opening to me.
This is a book I'd definitely recommend to people who are interested in disasters, the weather, or are from the central states.
" Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather " is a fantastic book that captures the evolution of meteorology through the personal accounts of Mike Smith. Like the perfect storm in which converging elements collide, this book is part memoir, part science and all real. This wonderful 304 page-book is composed of the following twenty-three chapters: 1. The Ruskin Heights Tornado, 2. No One Ever Knew it Was Coming, 3. "Nice People, But Odd", 4. The Government Gets in Gear, 5.The "Town That Died In Its Sleep", 6. The Paul Revere of Grandview Junior High, 7. The End of the Beginning, 8. Storm Chasers, 9. Tragedy, 10. Fujita, 11. The Day TV Weather Grew Up, 12. St. Louis and the Holiday Weather Hotline, 13. The Microburst Mystery, 14. Delta 191: Why Weren't They Warned, 15. The Delta Trial, 16. Weatherdata, 17. America Gets Dopplerized, 18. Hurricane Andrew, 19. Katrina: Part One, 20. Katrina: Part Two - Inaction In Action, 21. Katrina: Part Three - Murder By Bureaucracy, 22. Greensburg: Capstone of the Modern Warning System, and 23. Where There's Life, There's Hope.
1. Written like a great engaging novel, but it's all real!
2. Great science writing! Bravo!
3. An educational treat.
4. The history of meteorology in elegant, page-turning prose from a first person account.
5. Meteorological terms well defined and illustrated.
6. The evolution of the Weather Bureau culture, fascinating stuff.
7. Mr. Smith knows his science and does a better job of conveying it to the masses.
8. Supercell thunderstorms, truly enlightening.
9. Tornadoes, tornadoes, tornadoes.
10. Interesting facts throughout the book.
11. How weather radars work.
12. The most important storm chase ever and why it is so.
13. Weather detective extraordinaire, Ted Fujita.
14. Find out when the first tornado was broadcast live.
15. Downbursts and microbursts!
16. The crash of Delta 191 in detail and its impact.
17. Doppler radars and its interesting history.
18. So many splendid examples of the progression of meteorology. Excellent!
19. The impact of Mr. Smith's Weatherdata business...
20. The evolution of the creation of various weather agencies.
21. A fascinating look at hurricanes. A better understanding of wind forces.
22. Hurricane Katrina analyzed to complete satisfaction and what we hopefully learned from it.
23. The terrible tornado that struck Greensburg, Kansas.
24. The advantages of precise forecasting.
25. Great use of illustrations!
26. Enjoyable read from cover to cover!
1. No references to speak of.
2. Having to buy extra copies for friends and family.
3. Having to wait for Mr. Smith's next book!
In summary, Mr. Smith "blew" me away with this book. A unique scientific book that reads like a great mystery novel and educates like an encyclopedia. This book was a real treat to read. It starts off with Mr. Smith's prodigious knowledge in meteorology, his passion for his work and his innate ability to convey such experiences in an engaging manner. Bravo! I can't recommend this book enough!
The book isn't all politics though. I just mention it as it's rarely covered in other books on weather. There's a good discussion on the evolution of radar, from surplus military gear to modern purpose-built doppler radar. Smith does a good job of breaking down the technical jargon and meteorological concepts into what general readers can understand without a science background.
A good read which is told more as a personal account rather than dull historical textbook.