In the brief portion of my meteorological career when I did regular, albeit rudimentary, wind forecasting, we were sent each morning, by taxi, the latest two plotted weather maps and a 12-hour forecast map. From these and the local coded airways data, I prepared an air pollution potential outlook for the Ontario regional offices (which were then sent by surface mail!). Today, we have a mind-spinning plethora of weather analysis charts and forecasts at hand in real time for anyone with basic computer access to the internet and the desire to search them out.
Most of the weather books I review fall into the category of books one reads for both enlightenment and enjoyment of the written word. A few, however, are purely practical guides for those desiring more information on a topic. Tim Vasquez of Weather Graphics Technologies has provided us with three such books of the latter variety that are intended to increase our understand of the techniques and technology behind weather forecasting. The latest book in this trilogy is the Weather Map Handbook.
Of his three handbooks (Weather Forecasting Handbook and Storm Chasing Handbook, being the other two), this is the driest from a reader's point of view, but perhaps the most valuable if your interest lies in weather forecasting and internet weather information. In his concise style, Vasquez describes for us the available internet resources, with appropriate URLs, nearly every type of weather map, image, and product in common use:
The Appendix includes plotting schemes and symbols, and the book contains a good glossary for terms used in the book.
While this book is not for the true weather beginner, there are many aspects of the book for which a layperson can gain insights into that sometimes murky realm of weather forecasting. And in Vasquez's unique style, the Weather Map Handbook contains several gems of information that made me eager to discuss with someone. For instance, I could not wait to tell my son about the computing capabilities used in numerical weather prediction through the years as they grew from the first IBM 701 research system to the current (2002) IBM pSeries 690. The chart included the first two computers I ever worked with (IBM 7090 and 360 processors) and my first home computer, the Commodore 64. Today, palm-pilots contain more power than these early, building-housed computers, and the current Pentium processor is 80 times faster than the IBM 360 of the mid-60s and has more than 100 times the RAM. I also loved the inclusion of a page from L.F. Richardson's Weather Prediction by Numerical Process which outlines Richardson's vision of a weather forecast office with 64,000 computers of the human variety to produce a forecast.
If you have any interest in weather forecasting and analysis, then Weather Map Handbook is a must book for your reference shelf. If you work in a related weather field, or are involved in a profession where weather information is important, say engineering or agriculture, you may find many applications of this book, a copy should at least be on the company or department library shelf.
While the Weather Map Handbook is not a book to sit down and enjoy by cover-to-cover reading, it should prove an invaluable resource to those interesting in weather forecasting/analysis and internet information. The book fills a valuable, and mostly neglected, niche in the weather literature. Its list of website URLs alone is worth the price for the serious weather-phile.
Weather Doctor's Book Review: Weather Map Handbook ©2003, Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. All Rights Reserved.
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