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Storm Watchers: The Turbulent History of Weather Prediction from Franklin's Kite to El Niño

ISBN: 978-0-471-44486-2
252 pages
November 2002
Storm Watchers: The Turbulent History of Weather Prediction from Franklin


A lively, inspiring account of the pioneers who sought to accurately predict the weather

Benjamin Franklin . . . James P. Espy . . . Cleveland Abbe . . . Carl-Gustaf Rossby . . . Jule G. Charney . . . just a few of the remarkable individuals who struggled against formidable odds to understand the atmosphere and predict the weather. Where they saw patterns and processes, others saw randomness and tumult-and yet they strove to make their voices heard, often saving lives in the process.

Storm Watchers takes you on a fascinating journey through time that captures the evolution of weather forecasting. From the age when meteorology was considered one step removed from sorcery to the modern-day wizardry of supercomputers, John Cox introduces you to the pioneering scientists whose work fulfilled an ancient dream and made it possible to foretell the future. He tells the little-known stories of these weathermen, such as Ptolemy's weather predictions based on astrology, John Finley's breakthrough research in identifying tornadoes, and Tor Bergeron's new techniques of weather forecasting, which contributed to its final worldwide acceptance.

Filled with extraordinary tales of bravery and sacrifice, Storm Watchers will make you think twice the next time you turn on the local news to catch the weather report.
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Table of Contents


PART I: A Newborn Babe.

1. Benjamin Franklin: Chasing the Wind.

2. Luke Howard: Naming the Clouds.

3. James Glaisher: Taking to the Air.

PART II: American Storms.

4. William C. Redfield: Walking the Path of Destruction.

5. James P. Espy: "The Storm Breeder".

6. Elias Loomis: Mapping the Storm.

7. Joseph Henry: Setting the Stage.

8. Matthew Fontaine Maury: A Storm of Controversy.

9. William Ferrel: A Shy Genius.

PART III: The Main Artery.

10. Robert FitzRoy: Prophet Without Honor.

11. Urbain J. J. Le Verrier: Clouds over Crimea.

12. Cleveland Abbe: "Ol' Probabilities".

13. John P. Finley: Down Tornado Alley.

14. Mark W. Harrington: Civilian Casualty.

15. Isaac Monroe Cline: Taking Galveston by Storm.

16. Gilbert Walker: The Southern Oscillation.

17. C. LeRoy Meisinger: Death by Daring.

PART IV: Together at the Front.

18. Vilhelm Bjerknes: The Bergen Schoolmaster.

19. Lewis Fry Richardson: The Forecasting Factory.

20. Jacob Bjerknes: From Polar Front to El Ni?o.

21. Tor Bergeron: A Gifted Vision.

22. Carl-Gustaf Rossby: Conquering the Weather Bureau.

23. Sverre Petterssen: Forecasting for D-Day.

PART V: Suddenly New Science.

24. Jule Gregory Charney: Mastering the Math.

25. Jerome Namias: The Long Ranger.

26. Edward N. Lorenz: Calculating Chaos.

27. Tetsuya Theodore Fujita: Divining the Downburst.

28. Ants Leetmaa: Out on a Limb.


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Author Information

JOHN D. COX, a veteran science writer, is also the author of Weather for Dummies, which the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society called "extraordinary." His journalism experience includes work at the Sacramento Bee, Reuter Ltd., and United Press International. In 1995, Cox was awarded a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied oceanography and atmospheric science.
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"A fascinating volume in which John D. Cox looks at both the science and the personalities of the men who made modern meteorology." (The Associated Press)

"…a fascinating volume in which John D. Cox looks both at the science and personality of the men who made modern meteorology…" (The Associated Press, 14 October 2002)

“…This lively, inspiring account reveals the courage and bravery of the early weather pioneers…” (Firstscience.com, 15 May 2003)

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