The following review was written for the initial edition of Christopher C. Burt's Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book. This year, Burt has revised and updated the original edition and with the number of weather records being broken in the past few years, this is a welcome new volume. I personally have used the original edition many times in my work on this website and for other research, and that trend continues since I received the new edition a few months ago.
While the major aspects of the book are the same, there appears to be a number of new graphics, though I have not compared each edition page for page. The most significant addition is a table and discussion of extreme temperature and precipitation trends across the United States by decade over the past century and a piece.
Hardcore weather enthusiasts are strongly drawn to periods of extreme weather, but it is no exaggeration to say that local and national media are also drawn to such stories. Throw in our love for statistics and the mere mention of a record-breaking day as a news tease or headline draws many to read or listen further, indicating the general public has strong attractions to extreme weather. It is therefore no surprise that I would be drawn to Christopher Burt's Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book.
I expected a book containing lists of weather records and perhaps some filling prose describing extreme weather such as tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. What I was not prepared for was the beauty of the presentation of the material. To give you an idea of how stunning I found the many colour photographs in this book, I have already rendered one as a watercolour and will likely try painting others in the near future.
Chrisopher Burt has done a marvellous job of researching and presenting weather records and the top extreme weather events. Such a book could be rather dull reading, leaving the lure of records and lists to carry it. But this is not the case with Extreme Weather. Burt has augmented the list and tables with some interesting writing to tie the whole volume together.
The book is not a complete catalogue of significant weather events, but it does present more than a listing of the hottest, coldest, wettest, driest, windiest, snowiest, and wildest weather. Though much of Burt's data mining focuses on the United States, he does not neglect looking at extremes from other parts of the globe. As I know well, data outside North America are not as readily available, except in some of the English-speaking countries where a British tradition to collect data continues. In fact, I learned herein that European countries do not keep the detailed statistics of snowfall like we do here in North America. They generally record their snowfalls as water equivalents.
In addition to the captivating colour photographs of some extreme weather, Extreme Weather is extensively illustrated with dozens of colour maps and tables of weather records focusing on over three hundred US cities. Burt also includes essays on historical examples of some bizarre weather events observed: luminous tornadoes, ball lightning, super bolts, electrified dust storms, heatbursts, snow rollers, pink snowstorms, falls of fish and toads, and other strange meteorological events.
There are a few errors in the text, but Burt has been wise enough to provide a web page to correct any errors and to update information as new records are set for categories and places mentioned in the text.
Whether you are a rabid weather lover or just a fan for good statistics and record events, Extreme Weather has much to offer. I will place it next to my desk for quick reference to many weather facts and figures, and I am sure it will also sneak out for reviewing of its illustrations. This is one book I recommend for all.
Weather Doctor's Book Review: Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book ©2005, Keith C. Heidorn. All Rights Reserved.
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