Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tying down the Wind

Tying down the Wind by Eric Pinder
hardcover, 280 pages, including glossary and appendix
Penguin, 2000
ISBN-13: 9781585420605
nonfiction, meteorology
Highly Recommended

From the Publisher:
Where can you find the worst weather on earth? This book's surprising answer is: everywhere. You don't need to climb Mount Everest or voyage to the icy desert of Antarctica to witness both the beauty and the destructiveness of weather. The same forces are at work in your own backyard.
Tying Down the Wind takes readers on a journey of discovery through the atmosphere, a swirling ocean of air that surrounds and sustains life. The adventure begins in a sunny New England wood lot and ends atop the polar ice of Antarctica-where we learn, remarkably, that the two extremes are not so different after all.
What triggers changes in the weather? How are tornadoes, thunderstorms, heat waves, and blizzards all related? Tying Down the Wind supplies the answers. It will appeal to fans of nature writing and outdoor adventure, as well as anyone interested in understanding the weather that surrounds us. Illustrated with some b&w photographs
My Thoughts:

I thought Pinder, who is a weather observer on Mount Washington, New Hampshire, did a nice job discussing extremes in weather, even though he often reverted to a prose style while doing so. Using poetic descriptions along with explaining meteorology is good for me, but it might turn some readers off, especially those who prefer a more fact based scientific book. For those in the general population who are interested in weather but perhaps don't want a textbook and who might enjoy some flowery descriptions, Pinder's book would be an excellent choice. I'll admit that some of his weather stories are not exactly true (Isaac Cline for example) but I still enjoyed the book. This is for weather watchers who have an artistic side. Highly Recommended


Mark Twain always had plenty to say about the weather, particularly New England weather. "Cold!" he once wrote. "If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death." opening

"It won't be long before you get hammered by a hundred-mile-an-hour blast," meteorologist Mark Ross-Parent shouted, cupping his hands to his mouth like a megaphone.... The two of us were standing - or trying to stand - in sustained gale-force winds on top of Mount Washington, New Hampshire. The land around us crested and dipped with blue and brown mountains, fading on the horizon at the limits of vision. pg. 5

In taking this job at the observatory, I hoped to go beyond a mere textbook knowledge of the mathematical intricacies of weather. I needed to acquire some hands-on experience. Literally. pg. 7

The Coriolis effect or "force" is not really a force, but rather an effect created by the Earth's rotation. Weather books often oversimplify the matter, stating the Coriolis effect causes wind to veer from a straight path, when in fact, it's more accurate to say that the apparent curvature of the wind is the Coriolis effect. pg. 30

The average cloud weighs approximately 25 tons. pg. 35

A comment in the logbook describes the night's activities: "Superb thunderstorms tonight: low-IQ observers play with fluorescent tubes in the tower. If they aren't plugged in, how come they're glowing?" pg. 46

In the case of TV meteorologists, "they're all using the same products. They all get the DIFAX charts from the National Weather Service," Sarah [Curtis] explains. DIFAX stands for Digital Facsimile Service. "That's the main tool....I think the difference you get is from the instinct and people's experiences. I tend to lean toward people who've been in the business the longest." pg. 98

Snow and ice kill more people in the United States and Canada each year than hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes, or wars. Yet no one truly fears winter. pg. 103

In New York and New England in the eighteenth century, colonial Americans....invented a way to keep warm and find a future spouse at the same time. They called it "bundling." Rather than send a suitor home - a long and difficult journey on a frigid winter night - his fiancee's family often invited him to spend the night in the arms of his belle. Naturally, bundling raised a few hackles.... Sometimes anxious parents attached bells to the bed to make sure the young couple shared nothing but pillow talk while fending off the chill with body warmth. pg. 107

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