The New York Times
Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weatherby Marq De Villiers
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. Marq de Villiers is equally adept at explaining the science of wind as he is at presenting dramatic personal stories of encounters with gales/i>… See more details below
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. Marq de Villiers is equally adept at explaining the science of wind as he is at presenting dramatic personal stories of encounters with gales and storms. We have made great strides in understanding how wind affects weather, but much is left to learn about how global warming and pollution may impact the winds themselves. The stakes are high because, as Hurricane Katrina so vividly reminded us, anything that affects the winds eventually affects human life.
The New York Times
“Bad weather almost always makes good copy, and those who study wind and weather can be counted on to do all sorts of neat things, like flying planes into howling hurricanes, building massive wind tunnels and modeling the topography and breezes around the 11th green and 12th tee of Augusta National Golf Course.”—Elizabeth Royte, New York Times Book Review
“Windswept excels at tracking 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, from its inconspicuous birth in the Sahara to its final furies weeks later.”—Washington Post
“A refreshing narrative of meteorology and a different perspective on its history.”—William Burroughs, New Scientist
“A lively, engaging treatise on wind and the weather it makes.”—William Grimes, New York Times
- McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
Marq de Villiers is the author of Sahara: The Extraordinary History of the World's Largest Desert, Sable Island: The Strange Origins and Curious History of a Dune Adrift in the Atlantic, and several other books. De Villiers lives in Eagle Head, Nova Scotia.
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Read an Excerpt
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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