Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth
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A cracking popular natural and social history of the hurricane from former Director of the National Hurricane Center Sheets and Williams, the man who created the chromatic weather page for USA Today.

From a distance, hurricanes are incredibly exciting phenomena, and through their muscular, edgy writing style, Sheets and Williams are well suited to bringing these storms to life on the page. They work chronologically, starting with Christopher Columbus, who knew what a long ocean swell and high cirrus cards portended as he noodled about the Caribbean, providing a history of the first recorded storms (is it any wonder that Benjamin Franklin was found in the vicinity?) and following important meteorological breakthroughs. Although the authors try to keep technical information to digestible bites, they do paint a very clear portrait of the mechanics of the atmospheric heat pumps that generate winds and drive thunderstorms and hurricanes; only occasionally do they sprinkle such terms as “intertropical convergence zone” or “millibars.” As the 20th century appears, the material becomes more detailed. Wooly stories such as the one of Joseph Duckworth’s crazy first flight directly into a hurricane are thrilling, but Sheets and Williams give readers a chance to catch their breath during an overview of the strides being made in hurricane prediction through dynamic computer modeling and satellite tracking. Storms from the one that beat Galveston in 1900—and led to the revamping of the US Weather Bureau—right up to Hurricane Andrew of 1992 are thoroughly dissected, though within a narrative framework. Andrew in particular is given an extended, real-time biography, by turns exhilarating and terrifying, with plenty of hellacious anecdotes from survivors.

They are wild and uncontrollable, these hurricanes, and we are lucky to have them, Sheets and Williams suggest, to awe and humble us. (26 illustrations)

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-70390-X
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Vintage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2001


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