Why the Wind Blows: A History of Weather

Why does the wind blow, and why does it blow the way it does?

When I teach human evolution, I feel compelled to bring in climate change. When I do that, I find it very unsatisfying to mention climate change as a thing that simply happened. I need to also discuss how climate itself works, both now (in the present era) and generally speaking. That can be hard. There are so many variables that matter, and that if you leave out will come back and bite you later when you suddenly need them to explain something. Anyway, when addressing climate and how it works, it is very difficult to not bring the students up to speed with climate change and, in particular, anthropogenic global warming. AGW is, after all, a very important topic. To bring the students to the point where they can actually understand stuff about climate at a level higher than they ever will again (at least for the students not going into the field) and not bring them through the most important policy issue of the day would be irresponsible. So I tend to do that. But, again, it is hard because there are so many parts and the student have been exposed to so little of it before.

But, if everybody read Why the Wind Blows: A History of Weather and Global Warming by Matthys Levy first, it would be easy.

Through a series of historical vignettes, Levy introduces all the major meteorological building blocks one needs to understand climate and climate change, and explains each concept very cleanly and clearly.

The first historical event addressed is, of course, the Noachian flood. Levey describes what is known about it, but then raises certain doubts and concludes, hapily, that it is unlikely to have happened. Yet, the point is well understood: Stories about weather are an integral part of our Western Culture regardless of where actual reality comes in.

Levi is not a meteorologist, but rather, an engineer, but he has nonetheless done an excellent job at describing and explaining weather phenomenon in terms that can be generally understood.

Now is a good time to read this book. Hurricane season is here, and it is expected to be a severe one (though so far it has been strangely silent). The quite before the storm … a good time to catch up on your reading!

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