Ask Jack: Weather Textbook

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: Would the AMS Weather Book be a good text book to use for a high school meteorology class? How similar is it to the USA TODAY Weather Book?

A: The new book would be a much better text than the old one.

To begin with, since I last revised the  the USA TODAY Weather Book in 1997 much has happened that students will be more aware of, such as Hurricane Katrina. The USA TODAY Book’s discussion of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for example, will seem like ancient history to high school students.

Even more important, The AMS Weather Book has a great deal more than the older book about the interactions among the atmosphere, the oceans, earth’s ice, and all living things.

This means, for instance, that the AMS Book explains how warming of the Arctic affects ocean life, including the polar bears that we hear so much about. (Most of the things that polar bears eat come form the ocean and biologists consider them to be marine mammals.) The book’s stress on research that cuts across different scientific disciplines reflects today’s science and the future of studies of the earth.

The new book is more engaging for both adults and students because I used stories of real people involved in real events to introduce the big scientific topics and even some of the smaller ones.

In a few cases these stories are about people having a bad day because of the weather, such as the story of a man who watched from a neighbor’s stronger house as Hurricane Charley destroyed his home, which opens the chapter on winds and ocean currents. In most cases, the stories are of men and women learning more about the atmospheric and related sciences, or forecasting a major weather event.

While the USA TODAY Book had nothing about air pollution, The AMS Weather Book devotes a little more than half a chapter to this topic. This chapter opens with scientists and students working to learn more about harmful substances in the air.

Also, The USA TODAY Book had very little about the polar regions while the amount of material in The AMS Weather Book reflects the importance of the Arctic and Antarctic to global weather and climate.

The AMS Weather Book also has much more about the science of climate change with some aspects of this topic found in different chapters. For example, Chapter 2, which is about the energy that drives earth’s weather and climate, explains why only some gasses are greenhouse gasses and why they are necessary for the climate that makes life as we know it possible on earth. Putting the basic science of the greenhouse effect in this chapter drives home the point that greenhouse gases have been an important part of earth’s climate for million of years, not something that popped up in recent years.

Finally, the AMS Weather Book has its own Web site with information on the sources I used plus suggestions for anyone who wants to learn more about the topics the book covers. This will be a great resiyrce for teachers who want to learn more about topics in the book or who are looking for books, articles and Web sites to recommend to students.

All in all, I consider the AMS Weather Book to be the smarter, bigger, and more interesting grandchild of the USA TODAY Weather Book.

More on  Using Weather to Tech Science

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