The Weather Book


224 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-471-79877-0




Reviewed by Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer is a Toronto-based free-lance writer.


Though published in Toronto, The Weather Book was written and designed in the United Kingdom. The authors are four British meteorologists and the foreword is by BBC science writer Nigel Calder. There are only six specific Canadian references and just three Canadian illustrations.

The book is divided into five chapters (“What Makes Weather?” “Natural Phenomena,” “World Weather,” “The Changing Climate,” “Forecasting”), each written individually by one of the four authors. The volume’s layout is bold and dynamic. Each page is filled completely, magazine-fashion; no white space is left at the end of sections. The book is composed of equal portions of clear, accessible text and beautiful illustrations (full-colour photographs, eye-catching graphics, and a pot-pourri of art from around the world).

In reality, this book is five thorough, original articles that, except for their length, would be comfortable in any of the glossy popular science magazines such as Science Digest. Like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (Random House, 1980) and Chris McGowan’s The Successful Dragons (Samuel Stevens, 1983), this book takes an interdisciplinary approach to a specific science. The authors haven’t turned back when their meteorological research led them into astronomy, geology, palaeontology, or physics. Sidebars are used extensively to give the reader the background needed to appreciate these other disciplines.

Peter Wright’s 87-page “Natural Phenomena” chapter is the largest section in the book. It’s a comprehensive encyclopedia of two-page explorations of dew, smog, hurricane detection, ball lightning, and so on. The chapter on forecasting provides a thorough history of that arcane art. Unfortunately, little space is devoted to the interpreting of weather maps.

The book is designed for easy reference. Each chapter begins with an abstract, the index is thorough, and a serviceable glossary is provided. The unannotated bibliography is a disappointment, though, listing only 15 general sources.

With its combination of clear writing and spiffy layout, The Weather Book would be equally at home in a reference shelf or on a coffee table.


Hardy, Ralph, and others, “The Weather Book,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,