Extreme weather by Tom Streissguth 116 p. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven, 2011. 978-0-7377-4859-1
This series of books accepts human-induced global warming as a fait accompli, bringing the weight of the scientific communities to validate its overarching premise, which is that terrestrial climate is changing demonstrably in terms of humidity, barometric pressure, temperature, and precipitation, or all that makes up “the local experience of climatic elements” that comprises the weather (p.10).
Human fallibility is linked within the text to coal burning, a recent phenomenon in the larger historical record. Dangerous greenhouse gas concentration begins rising with consumption of fossil fuels concurrent with the Industrial Revolution. There is some demonization of chemical fertilizers and other modern agricultural methods. And, while even a complete cessation of gases would not arrest ongoing climate change, the book avoids scare-mongering to discuss potential ramifications on food production and infectious disease.
The book uses data like average yearly temperature and rising sea levels to contextualize the resulting impact on ecosystems, animals, and humans. There is parallel emphasis on the systems of natural factors that also affect the weather, including the geometry of the earth’s orbit and volcanic and solar activity
The range of weather phenomena explored include increased oceanographic activity, increased seasonal variability, alterations in known patterns, such as el Niño, and first-leaf data. The scope of data is necessarily limited because of the recent nature of the science of climatology. There is discussion of wave heights, superstorms, and potential of human communities to anticipate and rebound from extreme hurricanes, extratropical storms, and heavier and more frequent rainfall.
There are a range of depictions of relevant data including levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, annual rainfall over the past two centuries, and measured variations in solar output. Other data conveyed to the reader includes both average minimum and average temperatures rising in tandem, days of frost falling, and frost-free season lengthening. Compelling evidence of climate change includes demonstrations of thunderstorms, which, like the polar jet stream, are moving northward, whice and giving rise to superstorms and other tornadic activity. Tornadic activity is gauged in terms of amount of damage instead of wind speed, which often cannot be measured accurately.
Given the rise in building along sea coasts, there are projections of homes vulnerable to being damaged or destroyed, comparing the losses from the four most devastating hurricanes in recent American history. There is also an examination of the impact on ski resorts and other winter recreations, growing seasons, migration patterns, and vector-born disease. In addition to describing a range of tools to measure weather and plot longer-term trends, the text proposes possible mitigations including weatherproofing homes to improved public health systems..
The book chooses to address the politicization of global warming in an independent text box. In the seven chapters, the occasional photographic images emphasize the human role in climate change. Some technical terms — for example, foliation — are defined parenthetically, but supplemental materials include a basic glossary, a list of books with annotations, periodicals, web resources and websites for more information, and a subject index. An even-handed consideration of the many factors affecting human life that could be altered irrevocably by climate change. Recommended for school libraries.