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What's a good introductory book about weather and climate?
June 28, 2011 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a good introductory book about weather and climate?

I want to learn about the relationships between the weather right now and the climate this month, the weather here and the weather in areas surrounding here, the weather now and the weather yesterday, the climate here now and the climate here during the little ice age, etc. Basically, I want to be able to look up at the sky and understand what I see.

Things I'm not interested in:
  • Books specifically and entirely about anthropogenic climate change (thus, this question is not for me).
  • Books more about sociology and history than actual science. I don't care if Otto van Barometer's maid was actually instrumental in the monetization of the snail in the Spanish Empire and that this provokes new questions about the social impact of barometry, or if the introduction of the weather report revolutionized the picnicking industry. I only care about what van Barometer discovered in his lab. (I'm okay with books that cover the social context as well as the science, and would not begrudge an author their obligatory "history of thinking on the topic from ancient Sumeria through to the Renaissance" chapter, but an up-to-date overview of the field has to be the main focus overall.)
  • Books that fudge or skip the details because they assume that the reader isn't interested or lacks the necessary science/math background. I won't be running simulations or anything, but I want to get beyond "hot gases expand" and "it's colder at the poles." I want equations!
I would be fine with an actual textbook written for beginning climatology (etc.) students, if you know a good one, suitable for solo study, that meets my criteria. Thanks!
posted by No-sword to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The standard math-based introduction to meteorology is going to be Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey (2nd edition) by Wallace and Hobbs (2006). Don't get the first edition as it is dated (1977!).

Along the same lines, but without any consideration of climate dynamics, is Martin's Mid-Latitude Atmospheric Dynamics: A First Course.

At one time the non-mathematical intro textbook Meteorology Today by C. Donald Ahrens was paired with Stull's Meteorology for Scientists and Engineers, which goes into the math behind what Ahrens is presenting and has problem sets to work through. Stull was published in 1999 and Ahrens has been updated a few times since then. I don't know how well they match up anymore.

The Ahrens book is really good for a non-mathematical treatment. It goes into as much depth as it can without the math and follows a logical sequence. It's what I used when I taught intro meteorology years ago.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Gabrielle Walker's An Ocean of Air is my favourite science book. As it's about the atmosphere, there's a lot of weather in it, though there's also some science about oxygen etc too.
posted by smoke at 7:02 PM on June 28, 2011

The standard math-based introduction to meteorology is going to be Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey (2nd edition) by Wallace and Hobbs (2006). Don't get the first edition as it is dated (1977!).
Yes, yes, yes! Couldn't have said it better myself. The first edition of this book was praised by all of my meteorology professors, and they loved the 2nd edition even better (it has color!) One of the best meteorology books out there, and there are very few anecdotal-type things in there. Nothing about Otto van Barometer that I can recall. :) And it's a fairly straightforward read so you should be able to solo it with occasional assistance from Google.

I'm sure I can come up with a few other books, introductory and a little more advanced if you'd like.
posted by wxguychris at 8:43 PM on June 28, 2011

I second the Ahrens suggestion. (I have three different editions!) Good introductory book, descriptive rather than math based though. The Stull books work well if you want some (simplified) equations to go along.

Another introductory book Understanding Weather and Climate by Aguado and Burt. Since this and Ahrens are textbooks, they can be kind of pricey, but if you get a slightly older edition from Amazon's used vendors they should be more reasonable.

A more math-intensive but still pretty readable book is Weather Analysis by Djuric. Unfortunately, it is rather light on the climate aspect and mainly has a focus on fronts, jet streaks, vertical soundings, etc.

I've heard wonderful things about Wallace and Hobbs, but have no direct experience since none of my classes used the book. (Probably because there was no second edition until 2006, well after I was out of school.) I know a lot of fellow mets who rave about the book though.
posted by weathergal at 9:54 PM on June 29, 2011

Thanks, everyone!
posted by No-sword at 8:21 PM on June 30, 2011

Looks like you've gotten some great suggestions here. I'll just add a link to the AMS bookstore.
posted by Gusaroo at 11:15 AM on July 1, 2011

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