Review of Mike Smith’s Book “Warnings” – A Truely Exceptional Contribution To Meteorology

About two weeks ago I was sent a copy of the book

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith (Hardcover – May 1, 2010)

[Mike’s weblog is].

I was asked to review, and, as a courtesy to a professional colleague, I agreed to do that. I did not expect, however, that I would be riveted to such a truly outstanding contribution to the history of meteorology!

His autobiographical discussion of his experiences, as well as others, with tornados, microbursts from severe thunderstorms, and hurricanes, and the development of improvements in the monitoring and dissemination of their threats that the public and commerce face with this weather feature is as interesting as the best fiction novel!  He presents the plot, provides the (real world) characters, and builds each story in the book to its climax event, whether it is a tornado, a microburst or a hurricane. After reading, you learn quite a bit about not only the science of forecasting, but also the people who were involved. 

Mike also candidly illustrates serious issues with bureaucratic involvement with the development of the improvements in forecasting and the distribution of weather information, including examples from the National Weather Service, the Air Force, Federal Emergency Management Agency and others.

He presents an effective, and very well written,  evolution of how the work of the National Weather Service, private corporations and others has prevented thousands of deaths. Ted Fujita (who I was also fortunate enough to know also) was appropriately recognized for his seminal contributions to severe thunderstorm knowledge.

The Greensburg, Kansas tornado of 2007 is presented at the end of the book to illustrate how far the meteorological community has come in alerting us to the deadly threat of F4 and F5 tornadoes.  Mike was (and remains) a major contributor to why we have made so many improvements to severe thunderstorm forecasting and why so many lives have been saved.

I highly recommend this exceptional book.

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