In his quest to understand how the forecast works, the author visits old weather stations, watches new satellites blast off, follows the dogged efforts of scientists to create a supercomputer model of the atmosphere, and traces the surprising history of the algorithms that power their work during what is now "a golden age of meteorology."
... [a] vivid account ... Mr. Blum runs through the early history of weather prediction before embarking on a grand tour of forecasting institutions across Europe and America. He is a sharp analyst and engaging guide, adept at translating difficult concepts in meteorology and computer science for the uninitiated. He compellingly emphasizes the forecast’s diplomatic foundations.
The future is often portrayed, in books and in articles, as being overrun by the sinister consequences of robotics and artificial intelligence. In The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast, Andrew Blum offers a reassuring counterpoint to such technodystopias ... one of the most suggestive conclusions of this book is that weather forecasting is shaped by society’s larger agendas ... In his overview of 19th-century weather scientists, Mr. Blum surprisingly omits the distinguished British meteorologist James Glaisher, who risked his life to obtain data by soaring aloft in a balloon. Mr. Blum also mistakenly states that Nazi Germany’s attempt to install 'a clandestine intercontinental automatic weather station' in Canada was 'the only known Nazi incursion on North American soil.' In truth, Nazi saboteurs also landed in New York and Florida. Finally, the book gives a rather perfunctory account of climate change—which is startling, since climate change could, conceivably, profoundly alter our culture, our lives, our planet’s very geography.
Journalist Blum...breaks down the near-unimaginable complexity of the weather forecasting system into its component parts ... Though readers may occasionally get lost in a sea of acronyms, Blum most often manages to draw clear lines between theory and practice. This is a lucid and approachable guide to the satellites, scientists, and supercomputers that make up the forecasting system we so often take for granted.