Disturbances in the Ethiopian Highlands of East Africa can prove troublesome to Florida property owners. As an easterly breeze flows around and over those mountains, vortices are created that drift west, pick up some moisture from the Gulf of Guinea, drop some pressure over the Cape Verde Islands, continue over the Atlantic and if everything goes just right, tromp into the Caribbean as the monsters called hurricanes. One of these brutes could supply the electri-cal needs of the U.S. for six months, as Dr. Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center, and Jack Wil-liams, from USA Today, note in this tribute to the savage beauty of weather. Interestingly, giving the storms names, like Audrey and Gloria, has made them easier to keep track of, and less dangerous as a result. And while our attempts to tame them with silver iodide ("seeding" the clouds) flown in by men with the right stuff in the '50s actually seemed to work, as an expensive hobby, weather control makes missile defense look cheap and easy. From Christopher Colum-bus's first hurricane forecast in 1502 to Isaac Cline's failure to do so in Galveston in 1900 to remodeling Dade County with Hurricane Andrew's 170-mile-an-hour winds, this is a fine, detailed and intriguing tour of the history of meteorology.
The powerful winds of the famous Galveston hurricane of 1900 drove mountains of surging water inland with little warning, and met with little understanding. Hurricanes are no different today, but thanks to advances in meteorology conceived by people like Sheets, the former director of the National Hurricane Center and the wide dissemination of information by news media particularly journalists like USA Today weather page founder Williams the United States public is much better prepared than in the past. While thousands died amid massive destruction at the turn of the century, monstrous Andrew destroyed billions of dollars in property in 1992, but took few lives. Sheets and Williams deliver an accessible history of how meteorologists have learned to understand and predict the course of these fearsome atmospheric giants. Except for a basic blunder in the description of satellite orbital mechanics, in which the authors describe a fictitious centrifugal force instead of inertia, the technical writing is clear and accurate. Complementing the discussion of science and technology are stories of human tragedy and triumph and of the risks that still lurk along our coastlines. Readers will easily and eagerly follow the authors' step-by-step look at advances in both meteorology and emergency response from the first known successful hurricane prediction in the 16th century on Columbus's fourth voyage to the New World through advances in instrumentation, satellite imagery, aircraft reconnaissance and computer modeling in the 20th century to the unresolved problems and the uncertainties of changing climate in the 21st. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
On the face of it, a history of the U.S. Weather Bureau and its success in forecasting the path of tropical storms might seem to be a dubious proposition. Author Bob Sheets, however, was head of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, and spent nearly 40 years studying the immense storms that frequently roll into the southern coastline. Indeed, collecting hurricane lore seems to have been something of a hobby with him as well. This well-told popular history of "hurricane-ology" is one of those books that is comfortable to read and full of the kind of information that stays with the reader. The author wisely teamed up with Jack Williams, a writer and founder of USA Today's weather page. Besides the meteorology of tropical storms, their structure and dynamics, the book portrays some of the great storm predictors of the past in fascinating detail. A section on the famed Hurricane Huntersthe airmen who routinely fly into the heart of active storms to gather invaluable datais especially useful to those who wonder just how they are able to do it and survive. Particularly interesting is a chapter on the immense Galveston Hurricane of 1900 that killed 6,000 people and was easily the worst storm ever to strike the United States. This was the cyclone that Eric Larson described in great detail in his recently published book, Isaac's Storm. Recommended for high school and public libraries. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Random House, Vintage, 331p. illus. index., $15.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Raymond L. Puffer; Ph.D., Historian, Edwards Air Force Base, CA , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Sheets and Williams, on the other hand, are experts in their fields. Sheets is a former director of the National Hurricane Center and a noted authority on hurricanes. Williams is the founder of the USA Today weather page and author of The Weather Book. Their book is both a comprehensive history of U.S. hurricane forecasting and a clear explanation of the science of hurricanes. Anyone who lives in hurricane-prone areas or is interested in hurricanes or science history will appreciate this clearly written work. Lay readers will grasp how hurricanes form, strengthen, and travel, and experts will take much from Sheets's personal accounts of Hurricane Andrew, the history of hurricane hunter aircraft in forecasting, and the explanation of how technological advances have greatly improved the science of hurricane forecasting. Storms will continue to strike, but the authors show that we are much better prepared. Highly recommended for all libraries, especially those in hurricane-prone areas. Jeffrey Beall, Univ. of Colorado Lib., Denver Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-A thoroughly satisfying, chronological investigation of the history and science of hurricanes. Early chapters set the stage with a discussion of 15th-18th-century understandings of atmospheric phenomena, from which point the authors coach readers through 19th- and 20th-century advances in knowledge and technology. They employ vivid accounts of monumental storms and of the people who pioneered groundbreaking techniques to improve the process of forecasting in the interest of saving lives. With its dozen appendixes of facts on deadliest storms, as well as a glossary and valuable index, the book is structured in a way that would accommodate quick research by students. However, its greater value lies in a reading of the entirety as a fascinating exploration of the complex weather patterns that induce hurricanes and of the dedication of those who track them. This volume would be equally viable for its science or its career perspectives.-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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 andterrifying, 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)