I generally tend to shy away from reviewing general/overview weather books, finding most to be rehashes of the same material and usually written in a less than inspiring style. I made an exception for The Rough Guide to Weather by Robert Henson for two reasons initially. First, I am familiar with Henson's writing and like his style (though we both write regularly for The Weather Notebook, I have never met nor corresponded with him prior to reviewing the book). My second reason was that the book was touted as a "guide" and I am still on the lookout for good, true field guides to weather. The Rough part had me a bit fooled, I thought it might be referring to bad or "rough" weather; instead, it is the name of the series: The Rough Guide to .
Though not in my definition of a field guide, outside its physical dimensions, I found many aspects of this book a good guide to areas of weather not usually discussed, particularly as well as Henson has. The book begins with the usual topics of weather elements ("the ingredients") and stormy weather ("the wild stuff"). These provide a basic background of weather for those less in the know and are written with a very interesting style that kept even my attention yet should be very understandable to those new to weather and climate science.
The next two chapters ("forecasts and how to read them" and "a primer on global change") are excellent, to say the least. In fact, the forecasting discussion is the best I have ever read on forecasting as a process. Similarly, the global change primer is an excellent middle of the road discussion on global climate and atmospheric change not overburdened with pushing an agenda on either side.
The final chapter "weather around the world" (I did not capitalize the titles in keeping with the book's format) that is a climate guide to many nations and major or tourist cities around the globe. The strength of this chapter is that it is not simply a compilation of climate data, but includes a discussion of the typical weather/climate of each country which put a "face" on local climates.
The book ends with a good list of "resources" and herein lies my greatest problem with the book. Within the lists of books and websites and glossary and conversion factors, is hidden a gem: "weather and health." This section should have been expanded into a chapter.
As a first printing, The Rough Guide to Weather still has several small errors in editing and annoying wrong facts polar explorer Richard Byrd is called Robert, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow becomes Henry David Longfellow but only one I found is scientifically inaccurate. Speaking of downslope winds such as the chinook, "Descending air normally expands as it sinks, which helps to warm it up." and a bit later "expands and warms up." After crossing a mountain barrier, downslope winds compress as they sink and warm up. The expansion of air cools it and that is an important mechanism in cloud and precipitation formation. [I received an email from the author indicating that these and other minor errors are to be corrected in the Second Printing which should be available shortly. --KCH]
Overall, I found The Rough Guide to Weather by Robert Henson a very informative and entertaining book. Though I do not categorize it strictly as a guide myself, it far outshines similar books such as The Complete Idiot's Guide to Weather as a good basic weather book. If you are building a weather library, this book should sit alongside The USA TODAY Weather Book and the Peterson Field Guide: Weather as the basic overview, non-technical volumes. With its wealth of climate data, interesting sidebars on weather events and history, The Rough Guide to Weather should also find a niche in every personal weather library. I strongly recommend this book.
Weather Doctor's Book Review: The Rough Guide to Weather ©2003, Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. All Rights Reserved.
Correspondence may be sent to: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.