346 pages, 76 b/w photos, 15 colour & 77 b/w illustrations
Invisible in the Storm is the first book to recount the history, personalities, and ideas behind one of the greatest scientific successes of modern times – the use of mathematics in weather prediction. Although humans have tried to forecast weather for millennia, mathematical principles were used in meteorology only after the turn of the twentieth century. From the first proposal for using mathematics to predict weather, to the supercomputers that now process meteorological information gathered from satellites and weather stations, Ian Roulstone and John Norbury narrate the groundbreaking evolution of modern forecasting.
The authors begin with Vilhelm Bjerknes, a Norwegian physicist and meteorologist who in 1904 came up with a method now known as numerical weather prediction. Although his proposed calculations could not be implemented without computers, his early attempts, along with those of Lewis Fry Richardson, marked a turning point in atmospheric science. Roulstone and Norbury describe the discovery of chaos theory's butterfly effect, in which tiny variations in initial conditions produce large variations in the long-term behavior of a system – dashing the hopes of perfect predictability for weather patterns. They explore how weather forecasters today formulate their ideas through state-of-the-art mathematics, taking into account limitations to predictability. Millions of variables – known, unknown, and approximate – as well as billions of calculations, are involved in every forecast, producing informative and fascinating modern computer simulations of the Earth system. Accessible and timely, Invisible in the Storm explains the crucial role of mathematics in understanding the ever-changing weather.
"With illuminating descriptions and minimal technicality, Invisible in the Storm provides a vivid historical perspective on how the development of mathematical ideas, together with modern computer technology, has completely transformed our ability to understand and predict the weather. This is a gripping and highly informative book."
- Roger Penrose, author of Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
"As a TV weather forecaster for over forty years, I have always maintained that meteorology depends on mathematics for meaning. Making this conclusive point, Invisible in the Storm takes readers on an intriguing journey through the history of meteorology, revealing the critical role of mathematics from the earliest days of weather predicting to the current age of computer-generated forecasts. This book guides you inside the storm, where math's importance is clearly visible."
- Spencer Christian, chief weather forecaster at ABC-7 News/KGO-TV, San Francisco
"This is a very readable account of why it is possible to forecast the weather with useful accuracy. Focusing on historical background, this well-researched and scientifically accurate book shows how the work of some of the greatest scientists of the past laid the foundations exploited in modern weather forecasting. I am not aware of any other book that covers this ground for a general scientific audience."
- M. J. P. Cullen, author of A Mathematical Theory of Large-Scale Atmosphere/Ocean Flow
"The tremendous improvement in weather prediction capabilities during the twentieth century is among the greatest success stories of the scientific approach to the understanding of nature. Combining a historical account with a qualitative/geometric approach, this enjoyable book makes that story accessible to a wider scientifically educated audience."
- Sebastian Reich, University of Potsdam
Prelude: New Beginnings 1
ONE The Fabric of a Vision 3
TWO From Lore to Laws 47
THREE Advances and Adversity 89
FOUR When the Wind Blows the Wind 125
Interlude: A Gordian Knot 149
FIVE Constraining the Possibilities 153
SIX The Metamorphosis of Meteorology 187
SEVEN Math Gets the Picture 231
EIGHT Predicting in the Presence of Chaos 271
Postlude: Beyond the Butterfly 313
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Ian Roulstone is professor of mathematics at the University of Surrey. John Norbury is a fellow in applied mathematics at Lincoln College, University of Oxford. They are the coeditors of Large-Scale Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics.