Weather Gadgets

March 25, 2008

Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather


Wind is personal for de Villiers, winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource. A gust from a ferocious gale in South Africa came close to blowing him over a cliff when he was a child, a fearful experience that invests this articulate study of the history and nature of moving air with notable immediacy. Winds figure in the creation myths of almost all cultures, he notes. But it wasn't until the mid-18th century that scientists began to develop a cogent theory about wind and its relation to weather. Two centuries later, during WWII, high-altitude flyers discovered the jet stream and "a real understanding of winds was, finally, in place." De Villiers has marshaled an absorbing if daunting array of historical, cultural, environmental and scientific facts to detail that wind, despite its destructive power, makes life on Earth possible. But the book's grace notes lie in entertaining did-you-know nuggets. Among them: a great storm that lashed London in 1703 caused windmill blades to rotate so fast that friction set them on fire; Cuban meteorologists, more advanced at the turn of the last century than Americans, warned fruitlessly about the path of the hurricane that devastated Galveston.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at March 25, 2008 8:18 AM

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