New books show social side of weather and climate

November 27, 2002

BOULDER--If someone you love loves nasty weather or worries about our changing climate, your shopping list should include one of these books. Three of these provide background and ideas for grappling with some of the major environmental challenges of our time: climate change, hurricane disasters, and La Niña. The fourth is for travelers and anyone else interested in where to find the best and worst weather for sunbathing, skiing, or just taking a walk almost anywhere in the world.

Authors from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its parent organization, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), are listed in boldface. The Crowded Greenhouse, by John Firor and Judith E. Jacobsen. Yale University Press, 2002, 256 pages, ISBN 0-300-09320-9, hardcover, $24.95.

Gloom-and-doom books about environmental and societal ills abound. The Crowded Greenhouse tackles two problems not usually considered together and offers hope for solving them. The authors, an atmospheric scientist and a population policy expert, examine the intersection of population growth and human-influenced climate change and find reason for optimism. The book opens with a scenario for the next 50 years in which social, economic, and technological changes have brought people and the planet to a far healthier position. The rest of the book explains how to get there.

The solutions are already known, the authors contend. What is needed is the will to implement them.

John Firor holds the title of senior scientist and director emeritus of NCAR. Judith E. Jacobsen is a writer, lecturer, and consultant on world population issues.

Ordering the book: Yale University Press, P.O. Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040. Telephone: 1-800-987-7323; Fax: 1-800-406-9145; E-mail:; Web:

Hurricane! Coping with Disaster, edited by Robert Simpson, Richard Anthes, Michael Garstang, and Joanne Malkus Simpson. American Geophysical Union, Special Publication Vol. 55, 2002, 360 pages, ISBN 0-87590-298-7 (hardcover), $55.00, ISBN 0-87590-297-9 (paper), $39.00.

This book chronicles the century-long struggle to understand the enormous power and devastating impact of hurricanes. Some authors provide a look at recent advances and promising new technologies for tracking and predicting the path of hurricanes. Others examine what has been done and what still could be done to reduce the vulnerability of people and property to this extreme force of nature.

Stories from the men and women who pioneered the effort to understand, track, and cope with hurricanes bring this volume to life. The book has something to offer a wide range of readers who may be interested in the history of scientific discovery, the science and technology of hurricane research, or the societal and economic challenges posed by major disasters.

Robert Simpson, former director of the National Hurricane Center, is co-inventor of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane damage scale. He conducted the first mission involving research flights into a major hurricane. Richard Anthes is president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and a pioneer in using computers to study and forecast hurricanes and other weather features. Michael Garstang is distinguished investigator and research professor at the University of Virginia and chief editor of the Journal of Applied Meteorology. Joanne Simpson is chief scientist for meteorology in the Earth Sciences Directorate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. She has been studying the mysteries of clouds and hurricanes for half a century.

Ordering the book: American Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20009-1277. Telephone: 1-800-966-2481; Fax: 1-202-328-0566; E-mail:; Web:

La Niña and Its Impacts: Facts and Speculation, edited by Michael H. Glantz. United Nations University Press, 2002, 271 pages, ISBN: 9280810715, paper, $21.95.

La Niña is less well known or understood than its counterpart, El Niño, yet its impacts can be devastating to vulnerable regions around the globe. Researchers gathered for a La Niña Summit at NCAR to focus attention on the phenomenon in 1998. They examined what they do and don't know about it and what governments and communities need to learn in order to prepare for the next La Niña.

Now, a book inspired by the summit presents knowledge gained since that gathering. How good are scientists at forecasting La Niña events? What are the impacts, and where are they most serious? Case studies from around the world provide views of La Niña's effects on different economic sectors in developing and industrialized societies. The book serves as an introduction for researchers and general audiences to what is known and the work that still needs to be done to reduce vulnerability to this global climate phenomenon.

Michael Glantz is a senior scientist at NCAR and the former director of the center's Environmental and Societal Impacts Group. He has authored or edited 20 books on climate and society.

Ordering the book: UN University Press, 53-70 Jingumae 5-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan. Telephone: +81-3-3499-2811; Fax: +81-3-3406-7345; E-mail:; Web:

The Rough Guide to Weather, by Robert Henson. Rough Guides/Penguin, 2002, 432 pages, ISBN 1858288274, paper, $17.95.

Going to Ankara or Anchorage? This first science offering in the Rough Guide travel and reference series is both a basic guide to the atmosphere and a reference for travelers of the active or armchair variety.

The book's opening chapters explain the ingredients of weather and climate and examine wild weather--from tornadoes and hurricanes, to floods and drought, to the basics of El Niño and La Niña events. There is a chapter deconstructing weather forecasts with advice on how to read them. The chapter on climate change discusses how scientists know the average global temperature is rising and examines the uncertainty introduced by "wild cards" that could be influencing how warm Earth gets.

"Weather around the World," the core of the book, provides succinct summaries of the conditions travelers are most likely to encounter in popular and lesser-known locales. Charts for 200 destinations provide essential statistics such as temperature range, rainfall, and relative humidity throughout the year.

Robert Henson is a writer and editor in the public information office of UCAR and NCAR. He is a contributing editor of Weatherwise magazine and frequent correspondent for The Weather Notebook, a nationally syndicated radio program from the Mount Washington Observatory.

Ordering the book: For review copies contact David Wechsler, Rough Guides Publicity, 345 Hudson, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10014. Telephone: 212-414-3712, Fax: 212-414-3352, E-mail:; Web:

NCAR is managed by UCAR, a consortium of 66 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences, with primary sponsorship of the National Science Foundation.

National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

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