This essay has its roots in two events from the past Winter. One was a column by Van Waffle on
his Living With Nature site in which he talked about classic natural history writings available on
the internet. The column started me thinking on what books I would consider as nature classics
and, more specifically, as weather classics. The only problem with his list is that he limited it to
materials available on the internet, rather than the full spectrum of natural history writings.
The second was a serendipitous moment at the Victoria Times-Colonist annual book drive, one
of the largest annual used book sales in the area. At the book sale, I hit the mother lode. You see,
when I go to used book sales or stores, I always have a high degree of excitement and
anticipation over what treasures I may find. I go to pan the tables or shelves for specific books,
or at least specific genres, and always go first to the science or nature section in hopes of finding
at least one book on weather that I do not have. The T-C sale is extra interesting because there
are several possible tables where such books may be found -- and it always pays to look in the
history area as well -- and the crowd makes me feel like I am moving against a swiftly flowing
stream. (Indeed, some streams are shorter than the check-out line.)
Well, this year as I said, I hit the mother lode. It actually took two trips (I walked there and back)
in order to purchase and transport all I found: 25 weather-related books. Two were volumes
already in my library, which I bought to replace my fire-damaged copies. And two were what I
consider "weather classics:" David Ludlum's Early American Hurricanes and Tom Grazulis'
Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991, both in mint condition. I "rescued" them to give them a good
home, much like one would rescue a stray kitten or dog that appeared at one's door.
As I struggled home with my bounty (a two-kilometre walk with three overloaded bags of
books), I started thinking back to Waffle's essay and considered what books I would place on my
personal list of "weather classics." How would I classify them? Should I include technical/text
books? Must they be a certain age to qualify?
In the end, I decided on three categories. The first would be those books I read before entering
university that had a profound impact on my interest in weather and the choice of meteorology
as a career. The second group would cover technical and text books that had an especially strong
influence on my understanding and enjoyment of atmospheric sciences at the time. The final
group would be those books that I could read again and again, those books which I would least
wish to part with.
Here are my three annotated lists (given in no intended order):
Paul E. Lehr, et al., Weather: Air Masses, Clouds, Rainfall, Storms, Weather Maps, Climate,
(Golden Guides) (1987, current edition)
I had all the Golden Guides I could find as a youth, and this book may have been my first real weather book. It still holds up well as a beginner's field guide to weather.
Eric Sloane, The Book of Storms, (1956); Eric Sloane's Weather Book (1952); and Almanac and
Weather Forecaster, (1955)
I remember checking these out of the school and village library many times. His drawings made
weather come alive.
Ivan Ray Tannehill, All About the Weather, (1953)
George Kimble, Our American Weather, (1955)
Additional school library favorites until I got copies of my own. Kimble's book took the reader through the calendar with weather events, a technique I use in my Weather Almanac section.
Herman Schneider, Everyday Weather and How It Works, (1951)
Herman & Nina Schneider, Science Fun with Milk Cartons, (1953)
I remember these came in a set; I read the former frequently and used both to make weather
instruments for the science fair.
Ivan Ray Tannehill, The Hurricane Hunters, (1955)
Another favorite library book, science with a touch of adventure.
S.D. Flora, Tornadoes of the United States, (1953) and Hailstorms of the United States, (1956)
Again, favorite library books on the storms that could, and did, strike around my Illinois home.
Gordon Dunn and Banner Miller, Atlantic Hurricanes (1964)
I bought this one late in my high school years, my first technical weather book and a good overview of hurricane knowledge at the time.
Text and Technical:
Sverre Petterssen, Introduction to Meteorology, (1963 edition)
My first college text on the subject and one I preferred for many years as a basic meteorology
Jon M. Nese and Lee M. Grenci, A World of Weather, (1998)
Knocked Petterssen off my shelf as favourite introductory text, weather science with humour and
R.E. Munn, Descriptive Micrometeorology, (1966)
Changed my interest in storm research to micrometeorology.
R.E. Munn, Biometeorological Methods, (1970)
If it were still in print, I would have used it for a text in applied climatology.
Victor Olgyay, Design with Climate, (1963)
B.J. Mason, Clouds, Rain and Rainmaking, (1962)
R. Geiger, The Climate Near the Ground, (1966)
William Lowry, Weather and Life, (1967)
These opened my eyes and thinking to new, fascinating subfields of meteorology.
The Weather Doctor's Weather Classics:
George Stewart, Storm (1941)
The only work of fiction on the list (though I have enjoyed others). It would have made the Early
Influences list, but I did not read the book until university years. First contact with the material
came from a Disney TV movie adaptation of the book, probably seen in my grade-school years.
Guy Murchie, Song of the Sky, (1952)
I dedicated this site to Murchie because of the influence of this book on my thinking. A
beautifully poetic book on the atmosphere and aviation that showed me science and poetry could
Duncan Blanchard, From Raindrops to Volcanoes (1966)
One of the marvelous Study Science Series cosponsored by the American Meteorological Society
of books for the student or layperson, each written by a prominent scientist. This book leaned me
to studies in air-sea interaction. Reread it again last year and it still is a good read.
Louis Battan, Thunderstorm, (1964) and The Nature of Violent Storms, (1961)
Battan, like Blanchard, was one of the better scientist/writers in the Study Science Series, These
are two of my favorites, the latter one of his five contributions to the series.
Eric Sloane, Look at the Sky, (1961)
Add the three Sloane books on the Early Influences list to this one. All are well illustrated. This
one looks at weather forecasting from an visual perspective.
David Ludlum, Early American Hurricanes, (1963); Early American Tornadoes, (1970); and
Early American Winters, (1966)
This series is a must for any fan of American weather history. These and Ludlum's other
contributions such as Weatherwise magazine earned him my site dedication by showing me how
history and weather were intertwined.
Tom Grazulis, Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991, (1993)
An encyclopedia of tornado events in the US, the book is fun to thumb through and read in
Duncan Blanchard, The Snowflake Man, (1998)
A well-written biography of Wilson A. Bentley who dedicated his life to photographing snow
Wilson A. Bentley and W. J. Humphreys, Snow Crystals, (1931)
Pages and pages of incredible photomicrographs of snow crystals taken by Bentley.
M. Minnaert, The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air, (1954)
Robert Greenler, Rainbows, Halos and Glories, (1980)
D.K. Lynch and W. Livingston, Color and Light in Nature, (1995)
These three are the best general books on atmospheric optical phenomena.
Lyall Watson, Heaven's Breath, (1984)
Jan DeBlieu, Wind: How the Flow of Air has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land, (1998)
Two excellent books on the nature of the wind as seen from many different perspectives.
Peter Viemeister, The Lightning Book, (1961)
A good discussion of lightning and lightning phenomena, though perhaps some of the science is
Richard Scorer and Arjen Verkiak, Spacious Skies, (1989)
Likely the best "cloud atlas" of all. Verkiak's beautiful photographs are mixed with satellite
images and Scorer's technical explanations.
Howard Bluestein, Tornado Alley: Monster Storms of The Great Plains, (1999)
Technical yet very readable account of current tornado research by one of the leading scientists.
Stephen Schneider, The Coevolution of Climate and Life, (1984); The Genesis Strategy, (19776);
and Global Warming, (1989)
A solid trio of books on global climate and its variability expresses Schneider's concern over the
impacts of climate change, particularly global warming, on life and society.
Eric Pinder, Tying Down the Wind, (2000)
Poetic as Song of the Sky though not as philosophically deep. A fun read.
Bernard Mergen, Snow in America, (1997)
David Laskin, Rains All The Time, (1997)
Pierre Berton, Winter, (1994)
These books provide a good look at the impact of their subject on society and culture. Many
fascinating tidbits of information grace these pages.
Eric Larsen, Isaac's Storm, (1999)
John Barry, Rising Tide, (1998)
Henry Stommel and Elizabeth Stommel, Volcano Weather, (1983)
A trio of outstanding weather histories looking in depth at the impacts of the 1900 Galveston
hurricane, the 1927 Mississippi River flood and the 1815 eruption of Tambora, respectively.
Mark Monmonier, Air Apparent: How Meteorologists Learned to Map, Predict and Dramatize
A very readable history on the weather map and how it displays the weather.
Vincent Schaefer and John Day, Peterson Field Guide: Atmosphere, (1991)
The best available weather field guide.
Jack Williams, The USA Today Weather Book, (1997)
The best general weather book available today, well illustrated with many interesting stories and
The following were written as nature books rather than weather books, but they successfully
weave the cycles of season and impacts of weather into descriptions of the natural world. They
thus deserve some mention in my list of classic weather books.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden (as well as his other works)
Walden and Thoreau's other writing contain many descriptive gems on weather events.
Edwin Way Teale, North with Spring, (1951); Journey into Summer, (1960); Autumn across
America, (1950); and Wandering through Winter, (1957); A Walk through the Year, (1978)
Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, (1964)
Charlton Ogburn, Jr., The Winter Beach (1966)
Wrapping Up: My Top Ten
Okay, now is the time to narrow the list down to my Top Ten -- those I would take with me to a desert island. Alphabetically by author, they are:
Duncan Blanchard, From Raindrops to Volcanoes
Duncan Blanchard, The Snowflake Man
George Kimble, Our American Weather
David Laskin, Rains All The Time
D.K. Lynch and W. Livingston, Color and Light in Nature
Guy Murchie, Song of the Sky
Richard Scorer and Arjen Verkiak, Spacious Skies
Eric Sloane, The Book of Storms
George Stewart, Storm
Lyal Watson, Heaven's Breath
Learn More From These Relevant Books Chosen by The Weather Doctor