I first met David Phillips in the mid-1970s. He was the featured speaker at a conference banquet. Actually he did not really speak as much as introduce us to his a wonderfully choreographed, three- screen slide presentation of clouds, sky and weather set to classical music.
Since then, David Phillips has risen to be Canada's most recognized weather person. He appears regularly on news and specialty TV channels talking about the current and past weather. He has produced the Canadian Weather Trivia Calendar for 13 years, written a regular column in Canadian Geographic and been a sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit. He also continues his work as senior climatologist with the Canadian Meteorological Service.
Blame It On The Weather: Strange Canadian Weather Facts is Phillip's second book. Its style and content are similar to his previous best seller The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry.
Blame It On The Weather contains a series of interconnected essays under chapter headings:
The book ends with a quiz to test how weatherwise you have become in reading the book.
The only complaint I have with this book is its title, and that is because, as readers of The Weather Doctor will know, I began this site as a result of being tired of hearing everyone blaming the world's ills on the weather instead of enjoying weather. But I concede the title is a great marketing tool given recent weather events and their high human impacts and media attention. Two essays deal with the title subject, and Phillips handles them with great insight and wit.
In one, Phillips poses the rhetorical question of why the weather is our favourite scapegoat and answers it with these words:
Because no other factor, except perhaps health, looms larger in our daily lives and so directly affects our actions. Weather affects what we eat, how we feel and how we behave....Weather has great appeal as a scapegoat because it is impersonal, random, complex and uncontrollable. Nothing can be done about it. No guilt--it's nature's fault.
The essays on the Canadian weather and climate cover a wide range of topics, several focussing on specific situations, turning dull statistics into interesting stories.
For example, here in Victoria, British Columbia, we take great delight in flaunting our mild, albeit somewhat wet, relatively stormless winters and mild temperatures to the rest of Canada. Phillips extracts a small degree of revenge for the rest of the nation when he points out that only a few Canadian cities have had snowfalls greater than 50 cm (20 inches) in one day and only one western Canada city is on this list: Victoria. Three times in the Twentieth Century, this city experienced such an event. Phillips' essay on major Victoria snowfalls, includes a good summary of events of our great 1996 snowstorm. (I know because I had a great view of it from my apartment window...when I could see over the snow piled on my balcony!)
[What Phillips failed to mention is that we also had a major snowfall of around 20 cm three days before Christmas 1996, a green Christmas and Boxing Day, and then the Big Storm which severely curtained New Year's Eve celebrations.]
Blame It On The Weather is filled with such stories with the typical good humour and good science we Canadians have come to expect from David Phillips. For weather afficionados here in the Great White North, it is a book worth having (as is his first) to lighten up those stretches of "bad" weather. For those elsewhere not familiar with Phillips or Canadian weather, I strongly recommend ordering a copy of Blame It On The Weather: Strange Canadian Weather Facts. You will enjoy his style and learn something about the great variety of Canadian weather and climate.
Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM
THE WEATHER DOCTOR
March 26, 2000