Sobel (Environmental Sciences and Applied Physics and Mathematics/Columbia Univ.) grapples with the “complex questions involving science, engineering, politics, and human psychology” that arose in Hurricane Sandy’s wake.
The author, who spends much of his time at Columbia studying climate and extreme weather, looks to Hurricane Sandy as a good example to help explain the scientific modeling that predicted the hurricane’s birth and path. Sandy was certainly an unusual event—in the past 150 years of keeping weather records, no hurricane has made the fast left turn she did—and Sobel wants readers to comprehend Sandy as both a specific phenomenon and within the global picture, to understand the nature of Sandy and the atmospheric forces at play, which means a considerable dip into physics, meteorology and climatology. That dip turns out to be gratifying, as the author provides a readable introduction to patterns in the global atmosphere, their changes and the influence they have on weather events. Once through this basic course, which includes forays into hurricane science, winter weather and the history of forecasting, readers will walk away with a handle on the dynamics of weather systems. Sobel uses music to help explain coherent patterns applicable to weather, and he delivers approachable discussions of the Fujiwhara effect (“Two giant entities in the atmosphere, dangerous and powerful but elemental...normally solitary, each doing its own thing, engage with each other”) and other phenomena. For tonal color, Sobel ends his examination of Sandy with a look at the Occupy movement and its role in recovery from the storm. He then shifts to a satisfying survey of updates and clarifications on the climate change front (including the vexing water-vapor issue) and the evolution of risk-management barriers and preventative measures.
An engaged and engaging examination of “what current science allows us to say (or does not) about Sandy’s relation to human-induced climate change.”