Storm World

STORM WORLD….I completely spaced on this until just now, but I’ll bet a few of you are still wondering what happened to Chris Mooney, who was supposed to be guest blogging here while I was on vacation last week. The short answer is that I ran into some technical difficulties on my end and wasn’t able to create a guest account for him. So no guest blogging.

However, I did read his new book, Storm World, while I was on vacation, so let me take this chance to recommend it highly. The focus of the book is straightforward: is global warming producing more (and more intense) hurricanes? The answer, though, is probably not quite what you’d expect if you’ve read Chris’s previous work, The Republican War on Science. Unlike RWS, there’s nothing partisan about Storm World: it’s a detailed, evenhanded, and deeply reported book about a topic of genuine contention in the scientific community. Not to give anything away, but the conclusion is that we really don’t know yet what effect global warming is having on hurricanes.

Storm World contains a fair amount of history as well as a fair amount of technical discussion of hurricane science, and what surprised me the most was the fact that, apparently, we still aren’t entirely sure about what causes hurricanes in the first place. We aren’t completely clueless, of course, but there’s still an awful lot we don’t know. I guess I had always vaguely assumed that we had long since figured out the fundamental dynamics, given the years of hurricane flights and satellite photos and so forth that we’ve collected. But no. And needless to say, without that it’s hard to say for sure what effect a warmer ocean will have on hurricane frequency and intensity. It’s probably not a good effect, but it’s still genuinely an open question.

So: good stuff. Storm World is a serious book, but also lively and lots of fun to read. Highly recommended.