Making Sense of Weather and Climate

Read Making Sense of Weather and Climate: The Science Behind the Forecasts, by Mark Denny if you want to … well, do what the title of the book says.

I know a lot of you are interested in global warming/climate change, so you need to know that this book is not mainly about that (but it is covered). Rather, this book is the Rosetta Stone that allows you to connect a general understanding of the planet (it is round, it spins, it has an atmosphere that includes water vapor, and tends to reside between -50 and +50 degrees C, etc.) and the person on the TV talking about air masses going up and down and what is going to happen during “the overnight” and “the overday” and such.

I’ve seen a lot of books giving an overview of meteorology, and they are divided into two categories. 1) Way too specialized and complex, the sort of textbook that can only be used if you’ve got a professor interpreting it for you, and 2) over simple and silly. Denny’s book is the only book I’ve seen that fits in the middle. I’m not entirely sure what method the author used to make this book, but I imagine him sitting there watching a class in meteorology, reviewing what the professor says, and what the textbook says, and thinking, “no, no, don’t say it that way, say it this way” then writing the appropriate section of the chapter.

Another thing about this book: Denny is neither a professor of meteorology or a regular science writer (but see below). He is an industry scientist, so he knows his stuff, and he has experience writing books. The flaws in communication we sometimes see in professionals writing science books, and the limitations in depth and nuance (and nuisance awe) when we sometimes see when pure science writers write science books, is absent in this work. In this sense, Making Sense of Climate and Weather remind me a little of Dana Nuccitelli’s Climatology Versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics, in that it was written by someone who was much much deeper in the topic prior to starting the project, yet not a specialis scientist, and who is a good communicator.

Read this book, you’ll never see a raindrop or a cloud formation quite the same way again.

Denny has written some other popular science books, including: Lights On!: The Science of Power Generation, The Science of Navigation: From Dead Reckoning to GPS, the suddenly tragically relevant Super Structures: The Science of Bridges, Buildings, Dams, and Other Feats of Engineering, the also tragically suddenly-relevant Their Arrows Will Darken the Sun: The Evolution and Science of Ballistics, and Blip, Ping, and Buzz: Making Sense of Radar and Sonar.

From the publishers:

How do meteorologists design forecasts for the next day’s, the next week’s, or the next month’s weather? Are some forecasts more likely to be accurate than others, and why? Making Sense of Weather and Climate takes readers through key topics in atmospheric physics and presents a cogent view of how weather relates to climate, particularly climate-change science. It is the perfect book for amateur meteorologists and weather enthusiasts, and for anyone whose livelihood depends on navigating the weather’s twists and turns.

Making Sense of Weather and Climate begins by explaining the essential mechanics and characteristics of this fascinating science. The noted physics author Mark Denny also defines the crucial differences between weather and climate, and then develops from this basic knowledge a sophisticated yet clear portrait of their relation. Throughout, Denny elaborates on the role of weather forecasting in guiding politics and other aspects of human civilization. He also follows forecasting’s effect on the economy. Denny’s exploration of the science and history of a phenomenon we have long tried to master makes this book a unique companion for anyone who wants a complete picture of the environment’s individual, societal, and planetary impact.

TOC:

Author’s Note
Acknowledgments
Forecast

1. Feeling the Heat
2. Under the Heavens and the Seas
3. The Air We Breathe
4. Dynamic Planet
5. Oceans of Data
6. Statistically Speaking
7. A Condensed Account of Clouds, Rain, and Snow
8. Weather Mechanisms
9. Weather Extremes: The New Normal
10. The World of Weather Forecasting
And That Wraps Up Your Weather for Today
Appendix
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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