Not often does a general weather book these days present something new to me. The most recent exception is The Weather Identification Handbook: The Ultimate Guide for Weather Watchers by the appropriately-named Storm Dunlop. In its first few pages, I was introduced to a great graphic showing me how to estimate sky angles. As I read through this book, I learned several more new terms and concepts.
I have to admit to my ignorance of some European weather terms led to an incident I find humorous. When I first opened the book randomly, I gazed onto a page with the heading "Praecipitatio." My first reaction was "what a bad spell of weather" (okay, I was tired at the time), and I wondered how proofreaders could have missed that one. Then I read the text and found the word was a new, to me, term for a cloud producing precipitation in any form reaching the ground in contrast to virga.
The roots of The Weather Identification Handbook are European, so North American readers will find a few concepts a little different than we perceive the atmosphere. The most obvious is Dunlop's assertion that "Many of the tornadoes and ‘twisters' mentioned in the media are actually the less extreme, but still potentially damaging, landspouts..." While this may be true in Britain, I think we have more misidentification of downbursts and similar straight-line wind phenomena as tornadoes (I also have never heard the term ‘landspout' used in our media). It is also a bit annoying that all measurement units are given in Imperial measures rather than both Imperial and Metric.
Otherwise, The Weather Identification Handbook is a marvellously illustrated and well-written book that focuses on clouds and other common weather phenomena rather than on severe storms which many field guides written by Americans overemphasize.
Most of the book focuses on cloud and optical phenomena identification and description. I put it on a par with John Day's Book of Clouds, although this book is more portable for taking into the field. The book will be great fun for those who could drop technical terms such as "altostratus translucidus" and "cirrus vertebratus" some of the many lyrical varieties of cloud species into their conversations. I found it amusing to let the various variety terms roll off my tongue and found myself reading them out loud several times.
The Weather Identification Handbook by Storm Dunlop is a book I can heartedly recommend for all weather enthusiasts, whether veterans or newcomers. It is one I would put high on a gift book list for anyone interested in the outdoors.
Weather Doctor's Book Review: The Weather Identification Handbook: The Ultimate Guide for Weather Watchers ©2003, Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. All Rights Reserved.
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