Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

5.0 6
by Michael Smith

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Witness the most devastating storms of the last thirty years through the eyes of the visionaries who saw them coming

• An insider's perspective of the science and history of weather forecasting. For decades, the author has dedicated his life to saving lives by combining science, experience and instinct. The resulting narrative provides a fascinating


Witness the most devastating storms of the last thirty years through the eyes of the visionaries who saw them coming

• An insider's perspective of the science and history of weather forecasting. For decades, the author has dedicated his life to saving lives by combining science, experience and instinct. The resulting narrative provides a fascinating window into the world of scientific investigation and its impact on all of us.
• A gripping story-telling approach to major natural disasters. With the dramatic depth of Isaac's Storm, the author traces the Herculean effort to improve weather forecasting and advance warning systems. Warnings is narrative non-fiction at its heart-pounding best.
• Fascinating biographical sketches of the most renowned meteorologists. In his extraordinary career, the author has worked with many of the leaders in climate research, including Dr. Theodore Fujita, creator of the Fujita Scale for tornado measurement. The book depicts the personalities behind the breakthroughs, providing insights into the turbulent world of America's scientific establishment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A well-known meteorologist and founder of WeatherData, Smith takes readers on a fast-paced account of the biggest storms in recent years and how weather forecasting has developed into a true science since the 1950s. Part memoir, part science account, Smith's tale begins in the late 1940s, when weathermen were actually forbidden to broadcast tornado warnings. The U.S. Weather Bureau blocked storm forecasting for fear of getting it wrong, just as today, according to Smith, the FAA has banned weather radios from airport control towers. He delivers a moment-by-moment account of the monster tornado that leveled Greensburg, Kans., in 2007 as well as a damning account of governmental incompetence in the leadup to Hurricane Katrina. But as Smith shows, scientists themselves can be close-minded and prevent their field from progressing: Smith recounts the struggle by Theodore Fujita, creator of the tornado severity scale, to see his findings on microbursts—which have killed hundreds of people in airline crashes—accepted by other scientists. This account of people who do something about the weather should appeal to just about anyone who enjoys talking about it. Photos. (May)

Product Details

Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
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6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

After several years as a television broadcaster, meteorologist Mike Smith founded WeatherData, a custom weather forecasting service. In 1992, Mike won the American Meteorological Society's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Applied Meteorology and shared in WeatherData's 2000 Award for Outstanding Service to Meteorology by a Corporation. He is a recipient of five United States patents, with four other U.S. and foreign patents pending. His company now provides specialized weather forecasting services for AccuWeather.

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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love reading books about the weather, and there are several great books out there about grand-scale disasters that shape us. WARNINGS looks at these storms through the lens of a meteorologist dedicated to predicting storms. Mike Smith shows us how these major storms have shaped our understanding of the science of weather, as well as how our growing understanding of weather shaped our ability to warn citizens, plan for disaster, and ultimately save lives. It is also a history of the meteorologists who continued to study dangerous weather and a government that stymied them at almost every turn. It's a smart, fascinating, and highly accessible read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book! I loved EVERY page and EVERY minute reading it. It's written purposefully to not read like a technical science or boring history book and is a quick, very enjoyable read. The book reads more like a suspense thriller or mystery novel as Smith keeps the reader ever eager to hear more throughout his story-telling method of advancing the history of meteorology. Along the way the reader learns a tremendous amount of very interesting things - but the secret is they're presented almost as sidebars to the main story of a given storm. Not only does Smith advance the history of weather forecasting, but also mixes in the psyche of the individuals drawn to the profession of weather forecaster, a bit of his own biography and a whole host of interesting weather facts. And the most clever part of it all is how much one learns reading this book almost without realizing it. I hated to put it down and would highly recommend this book to readers of all interests - even those with the remotest interest in weather.
Vicki_Landes More than 1 year ago
Of all the things we take for granted, weather forecasting and severe weather warnings probably rank up near the top. We normally only notice - and complain - when forecasts are wrong; praise for accurate reporting just doesn't happen. Meteorologist and author Mike Smith hopes to bring a more positive light to the criticized field of forecasting while exploring the history of weather warnings in his book, "Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather". "Warnings" is an intriguing look at the development of early warning systems and the difficulties in deciphering constantly-changing weather patterns. While many have the ability to write a book such as this, Mike Smith has the unique advantage of claiming, 'But I've been a major player in its improvements!' The book gives readers a firsthand account of some of the most disastrous storms of the last half century, showing Smith in the forefront of technological advances. Further, he describes early weather forecasting protocol and the surprising fact that at one time, forecasters were not supposed to give severe weather warnings! Smith goes on to detail lives lost in the government's efforts to stay out of the warning business and his own struggle to overcome that political red tape. The inclusion of pictures further illustrated how important early warning systems are to life and property. The book ends on a positive note, giving the reader a sense of relief as he describes current warning practices while alluding to the fact that there are plenty of advancements yet to be made. "Warnings" is the perfect read those with any level of interest in weather - from a healthy curiosity to a professional involvement; storm chasers and meteorologists alike will find it as informing as it is entertaining. As someone who has very recently earned her masters in emergency management, "Warnings" gave me plenty of alternative viewpoints to think about. For example, I'd never considered the 'disconnect' between a meteorologist's warning and the political resistance of initiating action before it's absolutely necessary (read: Hurricane Katrina). Normally it's viewed as the emergency manager's inability to get proactive support but in actuality that process starts as far back as the initial weather forecasts - that crucial step we take for granted. "Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather" gives you a fresh perspective on the field of meteorology and the history of severe weather warnings. Smith has passion and a child-like fascination with weather which emanates from the pages. I absolutely loved how his obvious devotion to the subject came out in each and every sentence. Very enjoyable and educational read! Vicki Landes, author of "Europe for the Senses - A Photographic Journal"
Fizgig42 More than 1 year ago
My first thought when I finished this book was, "Who knew weather could be so exiting?" (Except maybe my sister how loves to stand outside and watch tornados.) I bought the book, not my normal type of reading material, for a couple of reasons. The author spoke at our Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon and I found his presentation and story-telling style engaging. I also remember watching Mike Smith as a meteorologist on the local TV station as I was growing up and he was always my favorite. The book was probably more personal to me because, for the most part, I knew many of the towns and storms that were discussed. I know what it's like driving into my hometown the day after a tornado and the sick feeling in my stomach seeing the destruction. What I had no idea about was how the warning system that exists today evolved. I had no clue about the "ban" on tornado warnings until the late 1950s or how the evolution of radars and other storm prediction methods had come about. This book reads like a thriller. It kept me wanting to read "just one more chapter." It has some interactive components that can be accessed via the internet, including "The Miracle at Greensburg" the author's presentation that was similar to what he delivered at our luncheon. I finished the book in two days and truly enjoyed every chapter. In my opinion, anyone who grew up or lives in "tornado alley", likes weather, or anyone that likes a "thriller" will enjoy this book. I know that I already have a list of people that want me to "pass it on" to them next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
readerbynight More than 1 year ago
When I first requested this book for review, little did I know I would be reading it and beginning my review amidst forest fires, smoky air, and strong wind gusts! Weather has always fascinated me, not only because "everybody talks about the weather"! "Warnings" is very easy to read for the layman. I was shocked to learn there were no tornado warnings as recently as the 1950s, in some areas of the U.S. much more recently. How many lives must have been lost needlessly in past years? Mike Smith has done his research, has lived his research, and knows how to deliver it. The book is historical, accurate, and personal. The Introduction hooked me, priming the reader for the main event, or in this case events, to come in this book. Smith gradually builds from its early beginnings the study and workings of tornadoes in terms anyone can understand. The subject is fascinating as he writes it. The growth of knowledge, and the way that growth comes about is exciting and tragic at the same time. When the investigations turn to storm-chasing, the reader learns just how important this scientific information-gathering becomes, not just another daredevil stunt among adventure seekers. I found the information on Dr. Fujita's methods and discoveries to be well explained and the ignorance of the official weather prognosticators in their cocooned refusal to accept his discoveries almost inevitable, yet unacceptable and disastrous. Neither pilots nor airport control staff were made aware of impending tornadoes, or "microbursts" (explained in the book) until very recently, a ruling referred to by Mike Smith as "bureaucratic myopia". This is nonfiction, but gave me the shivers in the same way as a fiction thriller would, especially reading of a very close call that was averted not by a weather warning, but because of a power outage at the airport just prior to a landing, causing the pilot to abort the landing. Did you ever wonder how the newspapers got their weathermaps so up-to-date? Did you ever wonder how Doppler Radar came into being and how it works? These are questions I'd asked myself through the years and they are covered in this impressive book. This is not a large book, nor do you have to be a meteorologist or savant to read it. Nor does it deal exclusively with tornadoes. It is all written in simple language. There are a number of photos in the book. While this book deals mostly with the US, it is of global significance. Not surprisingly, the most critical event in the book is Hurricane Katrina. We learn what can go wrong with the forecasts' timely releases, what did go wrong and why, and how the meteorologists tried to get the evacuation process going while there was still time. The survivors were literally 'hung out to dry'. How many more could have survived if it weren't for the bureaucratic non-action? If bureaucracy hadn't fumbled the ball, the meteorological scientists would have netted it. This is a fascinating book, full of suspense, telling it like it is, and a great learning experience without realizing just how much of what you read will stay with you. I highly recommend this book. One last tornado is included: Greensburg, a town that disappeared, but has risen again. As an added bonus, this book is interactive. There are symbols scattered throughout which direct readers to a website where they can find videos, related information, and more.