About two months ago when I went to the bookstore, I was intrigued by the cover of the book, Windswept by Marq de Villiers. On the cover is a spinning vortex of clouds that had the appearance of a hurricane or perhaps an extratropical cyclone. On previous visits to the bookstore, I had noticed the book on the shelf, and I wasn't really sure if it was something I wanted to purchase and read. I guess I'm more of a guy who likes to read a book that talks directly about storms like Isaac's Storm or The Great Hurricane of 1938. Those books immediately peak my curiosity. However, like with the book, Path of Destruction, I took a closer look, and found that this would be a good book to try out for my collection and book review. Looking at the inside cover, and the first few pages, I found that Windswept was similar in structure and technique to the book, Divine Wind by Kerry Emanuel.
Rather than have all kinds of historical, cultural, and scientific information on hurricanes interwoven in a book as Emanuel does, Marq de Villiers, who has written books on a variety of topics including history, politics, and travel, provides a nice little supplemental book on wind and weather by weaving in episodes from his diary on Hurricane Ivan from the 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season with personal storm experiences, wind origins and mythology, layers of the atmosphere, composition of the atmosphere, regional winds, atmospheric circulation belts, weather inventions and forecasting milestones, and such things as the Beaufort Scale. De Villiers, who is a resident of Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes, a location known for its wicked weather throughout the year, also provides twelve appendices including various forms of the Beaufort Scale, Fujita Scale, Saffir-Simpson Scale, and notable storms that impacted Canada. If you don't have the money to go out and by a book on basic meteorology, this can be a very nice substitute at a much cheaper price.
Marq de Villiers is a well traveled person, who knows his geography. I learned such things as the capitals of Chad, Niger, and Mali, found out a little about what life is like in parts of the Sahara and South Africa from his personal anecdotes, and still was able to jog my memory on some of the things I learned not only in basic meteorology, but also in basic climatology as well. There is even a chapter in the book devoted to sports or hobbies influenced by the wind such as sailing, hang gliding, kite flying, and surfing. Like Emanuel did with his book on hurricanes, de Villiers put a great deal of research into different disciplines governed by the wind. The winner of Canada's Governor General's Award, de Villiers goes into great length about how windmills and wind turbines work, the pros and cons of wind energy, and analysis of both sides of the wind energy debate.
Of course, there is a great deal of discussion on hurricanes, tornadoes, and nor'easters. In a similarity to another book, Hurricane Watch by Jack Williams and Dr. Bob Sheets, de Villiers discusses in great detail the work done by researchers, scientists, and forecasters that work for the Canadian Hurricane Center. He also compares and contrasts the building for the National Hurricane Center in Miami to the offices for the Canadian Hurricane Center in Nova Scotia. This was done to depict the realities that both of these facilities have to deal with. Located in the heart of hurricane country, the NHC is much more likely to experience a significant storm than its counterpart in Canada. However, that is not to say that hurricanes do not affect our neighbors to the north. As a matter of fact, a recent storm, Hurricane Juan, hit Nova Scotia very hard back in 2003. Following that season, many forecasters and researchers in Canada lobbied hard to have the storm's name retired.
You know how the old saying goes. Never judge a book by its cover. Although in this case, you won't have to worry about that because I strongly urge you to purchase this book. It is very well written and researched, and for those who are interested in weather, you will find that this book is quite riveting and fascinating.