Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pg. 69: "Divine Wind"

Kerry Emanuel is Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at M.I.T. and the author of Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes.

Christopher C. Burt, author of Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book, called Divine Wind one the five best books about weather, adding:
I'm not sure if there has ever been a book that integrated weather with art, literature and science so effectively as Divine Wind. Kerry Emanuel...brings these disciplines together elegantly in this book about hurricanes. The science of hurricanes is covered in great detail, interspersed with exceptional illustrations, literary excerpts and case studies of some of the most infamous tropical storms on record.
The book sounds fascinating...and I don't think that has anything to do with the fact that I'm a citizen of Katrinaland.

I asked Kerry to apply the "page 69 test" to Divine Wind. Here is his reply:
I wrote Divine Wind as an attempt to convey the beauty and mystery of hurricanes, as revealed by history, art, literature, and science. It was designed more as a coffee table book than as something meant to be read continuously from beginning to end; chapters describing the science of hurricanes are interwoven with accounts of how these storms have affected us and changed the course of history. Works of art and literature are interspersed throughout.

As it happens, page 69 occurs in the middle of an account of an 1889 tropical cyclone that affected Samoa and prevented a naval war between the U.S. and Germany. Samoa had changed hands among the British, Americans and Germans for many decades, and had been controlled by Germany since 1886. But German rule was unpopular among the Samoans, and in 1888 the U.S. dispatched a small naval force, threatening to regain control of the island. By March of 1889, all three western nations had ships in the harbor at Apia, poised to go to war, when a tropical cyclone struck on the 15th, devastating the fleets and putting an end to the prospect of war. Only one ship survived intact, the British frigate Calliope, which had just returned from exercises and had a full head of steam, enabling her to put out to sea.

This account end on the middle of page 69, and the second half of the page contains the first few stanzas of "The Ballad of the Calliope," written to commemorate that event. This ballad continues on pages 70-71.

Thus page 69 gives the flavor of the historical and literary content of the book, but does not contain any of the science, which is an important component.
Many thanks to Kerry for the input.

"This book is almost sui generis--in-depth science combined with fine narrative history and a real appreciation of folklore and art. Kerry Emanuel has gone about as deep into his subject as it's possible to go, and the result is mandatory reading for anyone who's got the Weather Channel preset on their remotes."--Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Wandering Home: A Long Walk Through America's Most Hopeful Region

"Until I read Divine Wind I had never found a book unique enough to contain the science and the history of hurricanes accented with the prose, songs and art about them. It provides fascinating accounts of notorious hurricanes that have changed history. With sound science it educates readers about how hurricanes form, how strong they can get, how they are tracked and what types of devastation they can cause. Both meteorologist and non-meteorologist will be captivated with it. I couldn't put the book down, anxious to absorb the next fascinating piece of hurricane history. Divine Wind is a must read for everyone interested in how hurricanes work, how they have molded coastal city history and how they have affected wars."--Dr. Steve Lyons, Hurricane Expert, The Weather Channel

Click here to read more Divine Wind reviews.

There are storm images and supplementary teaching materials to accompany the book here.

Kerry Emanuel made the "TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World." They called him "The Man Who Saw Katrina Coming":
Less than a month before Katrina hit, the journal Nature published an extensive study that Emanuel had conducted in which he surveyed the power of roughly 4,800 hurricanes going back decades. His findings are as damning as they are scary. In that span of time—the period during which climatologists have been warning that greenhouse gases are steadily raising atmospheric and ocean temperatures—the power of the storms doubled. Warm ocean water is like nitroglycerine for hurricanes, and while many researchers had been predicting an explosion of more powerful storms, Emanuel, 51, offered evidence that it was actually happening. "I didn't expect to get people's attention with this paper," he says, "but the timing, so close to Katrina, may have helped wake them up some."
In a more recent paper quoted in an April 2006 article in the hurricane-obsessed Palm Beach Post, he argued that Atlantic hurricanes are likely to be powerful and frequent for the next 100 years. Emanuel, as quoted by the Post:
"It's unlikely we'll ever see a quiet decade for the next 100 years in the Atlantic...I don't think there's any evidence of anything you would call a cycle."
Oh, boy.

Previous "page 69 tests":
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue