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The Weather Doctor's Book Reviews
When Hurricanes: Causes, Effects, and the Future by Stephen P. Leatherman and Jack Williams arrived on my desk, Tropical Storm Fay had recently finished drenching the Florida peninsula and Hurricane Gustav was setting its sights on New Orleans and surroundings. Hurricane Ike has since ravaged the Galveston area and spread heavy rain over its path into New England.
In the past decades, the hurricane threat to the United States, Central America and the many islands in the West Indies and Carribean has dramatically increased. Much of that threat is due to the increased movements of populations to the coastlines and islands with new buildings and other infrastructure accompanying that increase. The threat is also heightened by the vulnerability of the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, which causes oil and gasoline prices to jump globally at the first forecast of an approaching storm. The memories of Katrina and Andrew are still fresh, and the story of the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is not far below the surface of the collective consciousness as the number of hits on my piece on that storm in the past week attests.
Hurricanes: Causes, Effects, and the Future by Stephen P. Leatherman and Jack Williams is a concise and informative book on the nature of hurricanes that makes a wonderful introduction to hurricanes for those looking for more information on these storms than can be found in the brief media accounts. For those of us with years of knowledge on hurricane science and impacts, the book provides some incredible images that can be enjoyed for their beauty, and explanatory diagrams and text that might provide a new fact or two on what has been dubbed "the greatest storms on Earth."
Authors Stephen P. Leatherman and Jack Williams bring years of experience in weather, climate and marine sciences to their writings, which are among the best pieces in conveying their message in scientifically accurate but easily comprehensible terms. Dr Leatherman, also known as Dr Beach, is an authority on coastal storms and their impacts on beaches. He is currently Director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University. Among his books is the well-known America's Best Beaches. Jack Williams, the former editor of the USA TODAY weather page, now serves as public outreach coordinator for the American Meteorological Society. He is author of the best-selling weather book The Weather Book and co-author with Dr Bob Sheets of Hurricane Watch.
I found this book fun to read and spectacular to look at. The full-page images of hurricanes and their impacts are "jump out at you" images. The explanatory diagrams are of the same high quality in clarity of composition and science that I come to expect from a Jack Williams book. And while I found the book a fun afternoon's read, I was most appreciative of the authors' chapter "Living With Hurricanes." They start it off with two simple rules: "Run from the water. Hide from the wind." They then spend a few pages detailing storm surge and wind damage potential and finish by detailing the most hurricane-vulnerable areas of the United States.
What I would like to have seen in this chapter is an accounting of hazards due to flooding, not only along the coast but further inland where the hurricane winds may have abated, but the heavy rains associated with the storm continue. Tropical Storm Fay showed the hazards of prolonged tropical rains in Florida and Ike's rains brought hazards along its rapid run up the Ohio Valley and into New England. In the past, deaths due to flooding have often exceeded those due to wind and storm surge.
They finish the volume with a look at the future of hurricanes and their impacts, giving some insight into the nature of hurricanes in a world of changing climate. Here, they state a concern that I have also brought up in the past: "We should bear in mind that human decisions may pose as big a problem as the climate can....the United States' main hurricane problem is the ever-growing concentration of population and wealth in vulnerable coastal regions."
I recommend Hurricanes: Causes, Effects, and the Future to all interested in hurricanes but with special emphasis to those just beginning to become interested in tropical storms along the US coast. It makes a wonderful companion book for the novice interested in severe storms to Michael Mogil's Tornadoes, also published by Voyageur Press.
Hurricanes: Causes, Effects, and the Futureby Stephen P. Leatherman and Jack Williams, 2008, Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, ISBN: 0760329923, Softbound, 72 pages .
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