Blame It on the Rain: How the Weather Has Changed History

Overview

An amazing, enlightening, and endlessly entertaining look at how weather has shaped our world.

Throughout history, great leaders have fallen, the outcomes of mighty battles have been determined, and the tides of earth-shattering events have been turned by a powerful, inscrutable force of nature: the weather. In Blame It on the Rain, author Laura Lee explores the amazing and sometimes bizarre ways in which weather has influenced our history and helped to bring about sweeping ...

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Blame It on the Rain: How the Weather Has Changed History

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Overview

An amazing, enlightening, and endlessly entertaining look at how weather has shaped our world.

Throughout history, great leaders have fallen, the outcomes of mighty battles have been determined, and the tides of earth-shattering events have been turned by a powerful, inscrutable force of nature: the weather. In Blame It on the Rain, author Laura Lee explores the amazing and sometimes bizarre ways in which weather has influenced our history and helped to bring about sweeping cultural change. She also delights us with a plethora of fascinating weather-related facts (Did you know that more Britons die of sunburn every year than Australians?), while offering readers a hilarious overview of humankind's many absurd attempts to control the elements.

  • If a weather-produced blight hadn't severely damaged French vineyards, there might never have been a California wine industry. . . .
  • What weather phenomenon was responsible for the sound of the Stradivarius?
  • If there had been a late autumn in Russia, Hitler could have won World War II. . . .
  • Did weather play a part in Truman's victory over Dewey?

Eye-opening, edifying, and totally unexpected, Blame It on the Rain is a fascinating appreciation of the destiny-altering vagaries of mother nature&#8212and it's even more fun than watching the Weather Channel!

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Editorial Reviews

blogcritics.org
“...crisp, direct, and playful while at the same time powerful.”
Newsday
“The History Channel meets the Weather Channel in Lee’s breezy account.
Washington Post
“...a fast-paced little number that should help you get through a seasonal doldrum or two.”
BookPage
“Refreshing and thought-provoking. ”
Newsday
“The History Channel meets the Weather Channel in Lee’s breezy account.
Washington Post
“...a fast-paced little number that should help you get through a seasonal doldrum or two.”
BookPage
“Refreshing and thought-provoking. ”
blogcritics.org
“...crisp, direct, and playful while at the same time powerful.”
Dennis Drabelle
Lee may be no stylist, but she has gathered a welter of old and new material into a fast-paced little number that should help you get through a seasonal doldrum or two.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this series of sprightly essays Lee presents an intriguing look at how atmospheric conditions have affected a range of historical events, while acknowledging that other factors were important as well. Lee (100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life) argues that, because of the weather's impact, we have less control over events than we think. She theorizes that Greek culture survived a Persian attack in the 480 B.C. battle of Salamis because of naval commander Thermistocles' excellent knowledge of wind currents. In another chapter, Lee vividly describes the 1415 battle of Agincourt, where England's Henry V pitted his exhausted and badly outnumbered army against the French as relentless rain turned the war arena into a mud field. Henry dispatched his archers to force the opposition onto the deadly battleground, where horses and riders collapsed, giving the young king a decisive victory. Elsewhere Lee recounts how in 1800 a storm flooded bridges and roads, disrupting a potential slave uprising in Virginia, while another torrential rainstorm finally delivered water to Civil War prisoners dying of thirst at the notorious prison camp, near Andersonville, Ga. Lee presents intriguing browsing items for history buffs. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Much like the '80s breakup song with the same title, this book chronicles how bad weather has affected mankind, most notably in times of war. Starting with prehistoric man, each chapter chronicles a different event, from Noah's flood to missile launches during the Cold War, including the Wright brothers' first flight and the D-Day Invasion. Chapters may be read individually or collectively. Students will enjoy Lee's concise, conversational style and the quirky relationship she identifies between humans and the forces of nature.-Brigeen Radoicich, Fresno County Office of Education, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A breezy, almanac-like entry in the well-worn meteorology-and-history genre. Lee starts out with an unpromising gods-for-clods and rocks-for-jocks survey approach to her subject, mistaking flippancy for humor and turning groaners along the lines of, "Siberia has cold like Bill Gates has money." There's not much science and precious little unexplored territory for many a desperate page; Lee strives to get a joke or pun in edgewise, evoking the spirit of Doug Adams, whom she identifies as a "humorist," perhaps unaware of his hard-science chops. In time, fortunately, Lee warms up to her subject and begins taking things a little more seriously, even forgoing a chance to joke about the English gully called Dead Man's Bottom in an enlightening discussion of fog, the Wars of the Roses and the many excuses people have for killing each other, friend as well as foe. Even so, Lee skims the surface, delivering numerous vignettes that seldom give more than a taste of an always fascinating subject. What would have happened if the Greeks had not known of the winds off Salamis? What if the weather hadn't been rotten on Election Day 1948? Lee's miniature essays hint rather than explicate, sometimes (as in the matter of the Bering land-bridge theory) drawing on out-of-date references; some of the pieces are only very incidentally about the weather, although they're pleasant enough to read. The book shines at a few points, though: The author's account of the Confederate prison camp usually referred to as Andersonville sheds Hippocratean light on that ugly business, while her recounting of the Winter War fought between Finland and the Soviet Union shows how for want of a glove a kingdom can be lost. Mostlysuperficial bathroom reading for weather-trivia buffs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060839826
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/15/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 628,200
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Lee is the author of eight books. She brings to her writing a unique background including stints as a morning show DJ, improvisational comedian and a professional mime. She now lives in her native Michigan where she writes speeches for some of the world's largest corporations and edits her church newsletter.

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Read an Excerpt

Blame It on the Rain

How the Weather Has Changed History
By Laura Lee

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Laura Lee
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060839821

Chapter One

Humans on the Brink of Extinction

We humans are an egocentric lot. We tend to look at the world and all of its history and prehistory as leading to that great moment when humans would reign supreme, the ultimate goal of creation.

As the humorist Douglas Adams once observed: "This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in--an interesting hole I find myself in--fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? . . . Must have been made to have me in it!'"

The truth, as hard as it may be for us to accept, is that our preeminence on the planet was not preordained. Our human ancestors could well have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and in fact, they nearly did.

Since the beginning of life on earth, there have been periods of mass extinction, bringing down a once-dominant species and making way for a new life-form to have its moment in the sun. The last such mass extinction, sixty-five million years ago, destroyed the dinosaurs and allowed the mammals to take over. Geologists and archaeologists spend their entire careers exploring the causes of mass extinctions. The reigning theory at present is that many can be blamed onextreme weather conditions created by natural disasters.

The dinosaurs were most likely the victims of a wayward meteor that struck the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico and bored a twenty-five-mile crater into its surface. The explosion was the equivalent of the detonation of one hundred million hydrogen bombs--the heat vaporized seawater and saturated the atmosphere. The superheated air swept outward. Dust from the blast traveled so far that it blanketed what is now Kansas and flew into the atmosphere, where it encircled the globe and blotted out the sun, cooling the planet. Plants could not photosynthesize, so they died, and the creatures that depended on them soon followed. It is called the Great Dying. Nearly 90 percent of all life that then existed was wiped out forever. Fortunately for us, one of the survivors was the cynodont, the ancestor of modern mammals.

Our own very similar brush with extinction came about seventy thousand years ago. DNA studies point to a population crisis, sometimes called a population bottleneck. Scientists sought to understand why there was so little genetic variation among humans. There is more genetic variation in a single group of chimpanzees or a clan of gorillas than there is in the entire six-billion-member human population. This points to a time when there were only a few procreating females around. One study suggests the number dropped to as few as five hundred; it would take another twenty thousand years for the human population to fully recover and regain its previous numbers.

The cause of the bottleneck was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in four hundred and fifty million years. The explosion of the Toba volcano on what is now the Indonesian island of Sumatra produced a crater that measured 100 km (60 mi) across and a plume that was at least 30 km (19 mi) high, scattering rock and ash as far away as Greenland. It tossed about 2,800 cu km (684 cu mi) of molten rock into the atmosphere. That's enough to build more than a million Great Pyramids of Egypt. The blanket of ash blocked out the sun, and global temperatures dropped by up to 12ºC (22ºF). The volcanic winter lasted for six years. The increased snow cover that accumulated in this period further reflected the sun's rays, preventing the ground from absorbing heat, which made the world still colder. It was the beginning of a thousand-year ice age.

Some researchers speculate that an ice age that was already in progress was the cause, not the effect, of the eruption. The ice age may have lowered sea levels, relieving pressure on the volcano and allowing it to blow, like a cork being removed from a bottle of champagne. The effects of the eruption then sped the glaciation in progress, providing the trigger that changed the climate system from warm to cold, and as glaciers formed, the sea level dropped further. The exposed soils were carried away by the wind. Dust storms raged for days, killing plants and animals.

Homo sapiens was very close to going the way of the Neanderthal and other extinct human species, but a few hardy individuals survived in isolated pockets in Africa, Europe, and Asia. As a result, our population has only a small sample of the genetic diversity we once had.

Could such an eruption happen again? Absolutely. Not only could it happen, it is almost inevitable that it will. The most likely site of the next supereruption is Yellowstone National Park. The geysers, hot springs, and mountains that bring tourists to the area are caused by a large underground magma chamber that extends about 20 km (12.5 mi) across and 2,900 km (1,802 mi) down-- nearly halfway to the center of the Earth. Yellowstone has already exploded three times. It blows every six hundred thousand years or so. The last six hundred thousand-year mark was reached four hundred thousand years ago. Yellowstone is only one of forty supervolcano sites, but most are extinct, and none is as close to heavily populated areas.

When the Yellowstone volcano blows, scientists say it will unleash a force that is larger than the entire planet's nuclear arsenal. The blast would be heard as far away as England. About one hundred thousand people would die immediately. Toxic gases and ash would be thrown into the atmosphere, and it would fall across the entire western United States within hours. It would continue to spread across the globe on the winds, creating a volcanic winter. It could happen next week, or two hundred thousand years from now.

Continues...


Excerpted from Blame It on the Rain by Laura Lee Copyright © 2006 by Laura Lee. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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