It isn’t meteorologists’ fault that they can rarely predict weather on the small scale. They don’t have the tools or time to offer anything other than an educated guess as to how the weather across vast areas might develop, so they certainly can’t tell you how the specific terrain and landscape might affect the microclimate in which you live. The devil, says Tristan Gooley in this marvellous new book, is in the detail. With just a little knowledge and fresh eyes, we can see how the weather in our own local climate is likely to develop.
Few of us are able to read nature’s signs – we just don’t notice things anymore – but Gooley does and in his surprising and absorbing books, such as How to Read Water, The Natural Navigator and now The Secret World of Weather, he provides us with the tools. This third book consists of 22 chapters, many of which focus on phenomena such as clouds, wind, rain and dew, while others cover how terrain and specific ecosystems, such as hills, forests and towns, shape the weather. Some of it’s basic common sense, but can still bring you up short: ‘The Earth rotates towards the east, which means most winds blow in that direction too, flowing from west to east. This, in turn, means that most weather arrives from the west.’
Other little nuggets offer more obvious value to preambulating amateur meteorologists: ‘The bigger the tree’s leaves, the more rain gets through to the ground,’ he writes. It seems that trees with big leaves offer much less refuge from the rain than those with needles, which tend to channel the rain down the tree’s trunk, instead of onto your head. Who’d have thought?
The most winning aspect of this book, however, is Gooley’s witty, conversational writing, which makes reading a joyful breeze.