Sunday, October 7, 2018

Book Review: 'Extreme Weather (Outdoor Life): 214 Tips for Surviving Nature's Worst' by Dennis Mersereau

Review by Susan Grigsby

Extreme Weather (Outdoor Life): 214 Tips for Surviving Nature's Worst
by Dennis Mersereau
and the Editors of Outdoor Life
Published by Weldon Owen
October 6, 2015
240 pages

The copy I have is a large paperback with really neat metal brackets on the corners. Beautifully illustrated on heavy high-quality paper, it is a book designed as a handy reference tool that can withstand repeated searches.

The “Extreme Weather Survival Manual” is broken down into four sections that follow the seasons and include information about the main types of severe weather that is likely to occur in each, as well as tips for how to avoid harm. Each season begins with an introduction that gives an overview of the coming three months.
Welcome to summer, a season that all too often invokes the same set of feelings as spilling a freshly opened soda on your lap: anger, discomfort, stickiness, despair, and acceptance. Summer sneaks up on you like boiling water on a frog (seriously, who first thought to do that?)—you carelessly enjoy the mild spring weather until you realize you can’t go outside without longing for a cold bottle of water. It’s uncomfortable. But though it’s hard for most of us to truly enjoy the weather, it’s something we get used to along the way.
Interspersed within the explanations of weather phenomena are tidbits of extreme weather history, like the 1925 Tri-State Tornado that hit Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and claimed 695 lives. He also debunks some of the old wives’ tales about the weather, like the baby boomlets that follow nine months after a blackout, or catching a cold from the cold. And he does it all in his own inimitable voice. 

His section on tornadoes is particularly strong, with illustrations of the different warning signs that presage a coming storm: Supercell, Wall Cloud, Green Tinge, Funnel Cloud and Strange Sounds. The illustrations in the this book are wonderful, both the photography and the graphics.
But for me, the meat of the book is in his clear, concise explanations of not just the weather, but of the tools meteorologists use to understand it. I mean, where else will you find instructions on how to read weather radar maps or a Skew-T Chart? 
The editors of Outdoor Life are probably the ones who contribute some of the tips like #54, “Choose Wood Wisely.” That is speculation on my part, based on the fact that I doubt that the appropriate type of fire wood is high on the list of things that intrigue the weatherdude. I could be wrong.
So even though I live in Southern California, where someone once said we don’t get weather, we get climate, I thoroughly enjoyed this work by one of our own. And since I have relatives who for some bizarre reason have moved from coastal Southern California into the wilds of Maine, it will make great Christmas gifts this year. And I can leave the shipping to Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Win, win.

I find a certain irony in the turn that Gawker is making to become more political since we all met the weatherdude here on a political website, and where some actually encouraged him to “stick to the weather, dude.” Especially when the weather reflects one of the most highly charged political issues of the day—climate change. As our weather continues to change and to become more extreme, this guide may prove invaluable.

Editor's note: This review was originally published at the Daily Kos, which notes that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified." The original page can be found here