Order Peterson First Guide: Clouds and Weather Today!
The Peterson Field Guide Series has been the standard by which other field guides have been evaluated for over 65 years. In the "Editor's Note" to the Peterson First Guide: Clouds and Weather, Series founder, the late Roger Tory Peterson, remarks:
Even though the Field Guides are intended for both the novice and the expert, there are still many who would like something simpler to start with -- a smaller guide to give them confidence. It is for this audience that the Peterson First Guides have been created.
Peterson First Guide: Clouds and Weather is written by the same authors who produced the Peterson Guide to the Atmosphere: Dr John A. Day and Dr Vincent J. Schaefer. In the aforementioned Guide to the Atmosphere, Dr Schaefer was the lead author. For this book, the authors chose to focus on specific aspects of the atmosphere rather than condense all materials from the full Guide. The authors reason that: "Because it is easiest to learn about things we can see, this book will deal first with clouds then with other aspects of weather." They continue: "Most of the book is visual, with many pictures of clouds and optical effects such as rainbows and haloes."
The authors are well known meteorologists, experts in the study of clouds and precipitation processes. John A. Day, like myself, has a handle Cloud Man (and a great website on clouds). Vincent Schaefer is one of the fathers of the science of weather modification, particularly cloud-seeding. They bring to the Guide years of weather wisdom on the subject of clouds and weather associated with clouds and share that knowledge and wisdom with us well.
After introducing the readers to clouds and optical effects, the final portion of the book gives explanations of other weather elements: causes and types of precipitation, wind and air pressure, air masses and weather fronts. Day and Schaefer believe the book can be used in two ways: one, to give us information so that we can try to forecast the weather; and secondly so we can "also learn to appreciate the everyday sky: the majesty of a sunset, the pristine beauty or cirrus clouds, the pure radiance of a rainbow."
I would reverse the order of their objectives because I feel this field guide achieves the second objective admirably for the beginning weather watcher from 6 to 60 but falls somewhat short in aiding the readers to forecast weather on their own. In part they do not totally achieve their goal because, after 100 pages of describing many of the important elements for a "home" forecast, they discuss some methods to "Forecast the Weather" in less than one page. If the authors had intended the ability to make a simple forecast to be the prime use of this book, then I believe at least an additional ten pages should have been devoted to describing basic forecasting concepts and rules to link future weather conditions with current visual weather observations.
However, just picking up the Guide and thumbing through it gave me a sense of excitement. It fits well into the hand (or pocket) of all ages. It has colourful, easy to understand photographs. And the pictures are large and clearly portray their intended focus. The book has more pictures than text -- a prime quality to my thinking for a field guide. It is also easy to thumb through.
I found the text, which blends superbly with the illustrations, understandable and enlightening for a wide range of Guide users. The layout is easy to follow. The section on Clouds is arranged by cloud sub-type for easy identification: the heap or cumulus clouds; layer or stratus clouds; heap and layer clouds together; precipitating clouds; unusual clouds; and clouds as seen from aloft (as would be viewed from an airliner window). The discussion on clouds comprises half the book.
The next section covers Color in the Sky, sky blue and sunset red, rainbows and haloes, the green flash and coronas as well as a few special sky phenomena. This section completes the strongly visual portion of the Guide, which is filled with many photographs and colour plates. The remaining forty pages cover weather elements and processes, mostly described through text, beginning with precipitation formation and types.
One of the highlights of this last section is the introduction and rung-by-rung description of the precipitation ladder, a wonderful concept to explain how precipitation of any variety forms. While some of this discussion may be too advanced for the youngest readers, it gives the Guide material for these beginning users to eventually grow into.
The remaining pages briefly introduce air masses and fronts and what a weather map can tell us so that we might make our own simple forecasts. I would have liked to see a few pages more here on the relationship among air pressure changes, wind, temperature, clouds and precipitation, such as that given in the charts which were so popular when I was younger and came with all barometers. I realize they are applicable with high accuracy only in certain areas or certain conditions, but they make a great starting point for an inquisitive weather mind to begin forecasting the weather.
Overall, I find the Peterson First Guide: Clouds and Weather a superb starter to the topic of weather and clouds. I would recommend this Guide above all others to the novice weather watcher. A child will never grow out of it -- only into something more detailed. And, because of its handy size, I will carry my copy into the field because I think makes a marvellous teaching aid for field use.
Peterson First Guide: Clouds and Weather by John A. Day and Vincent J. Schaefer, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1991, ISBN 0-395-90663-6.Order Peterson First Guide: Clouds and Weather Today!
Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM
THE WEATHER DOCTOR
For Other Great Weather Books, Visit The Weather Doctor Bookstore