Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather

Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather

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by Marq de Villiers
     
 

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Windswept is the story of humankind's long struggle to understand wind and weather-from the wind gods of ancient times to early discoveries of the dynamics of air movement to high-tech schemes to control hurricanes.See more details below

Overview

Windswept is the story of humankind's long struggle to understand wind and weather-from the wind gods of ancient times to early discoveries of the dynamics of air movement to high-tech schemes to control hurricanes.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802718433
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
05/26/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
File size:
6 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Wind’s Mystery and Meaning

The story of Hurricane Ivan: It began, as these things so often do, long ago and far, far away. Long ago, at least, in the reckoning of weathermen, and far away at least as seen from the Ca­rib­be­an and the east coast of North America, where the storm’s full fury would in due time be unleashed. In the course of its tumultuous and destructive life, the cyclone they came to call Ivan would exemplify all the perilous uncertainties and complex patterns of global climatology (and exaggerate my own rather paranoid view of hard weather), but its beginning was hidden, even secretive, and could only be seen in rueful hindsight.

In the spring of 2004, it rained in Darfur, the Sudanese hellhole wracked by de­cades of civil war. Darfur is on the southeastern fringes of the endless emptiness of the Sahara, and its soil, beaten down from too many cattle and too many goats over too many years of drought, couldn’t hold the water. It pooled and then gathered in little muddy torrents that swept away the scattered huts of the countryside. A few days before, the refugees in their grim camps had been dying of thirst–an ostrich egg of water having to do for a family for a ­whole day–but ­were now forced to scramble to keep their pathetic scraps of food and their meager possessions from washing away. They ­were still starving, though now sodden and burdened with cholera and dysentery in addition to their other miseries.

All along the Sahel, the southern fringes of the Sahara, the rains came. Lake Chad, which had been shrinking for de­cades, stopped shrinking briefly, andthe remaining hippo channels winding through the papyrus and water hyacinths filled up. The dusty plains north of Kano, the Nigerian trading city, looked lush for the first time in fifteen years. Outside fabled Timbuktu the ground took on a shiny green sheen, before the goats in their insatiable hunger nibbled the new plants down to a stubble, then trampled the residue into the mud. In Niger, Mali, even in ­ever-­arid Mauritania, the rains fell for the first time in a de­cade. Not enough, really, to unparch the desert, but more than usual.

No one in the Sahel knew why it was raining, or, except for a few aid agencies, cared; they ­were just grateful the water was there. In the outside world hardly anybody paid much attention. There ­were a few exceptions–the paranoid actuaries for the giant insurance company Munich Re, for example, who are paid to worry, and a few analysts in hurricane centers across the Atlantic, who ­were wrestling with the complex causative cycles of violent weather–but more people should have been concerned than that, for they ­were about to get a brutal lesson in the interconnectedness of natural systems. Who would have thought that, say, a rural tavern in Pennsylvania would be threatened by a ­storm-­born flood that was linked in complicated ways to the ending of a drought half a world away?

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