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Invisible in the Storm: The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather Hardcover – 24 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (24 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691152721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691152721
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review


Winner of the 2015 Louis J. Battan Author's Award, American Meteorological Society


"Mathematicians Ian Roulstone and John Norbury demystify the maths behind meteorology. Trailblazers' work is vividly evoked, from eighteenth-century mathematician Leonhard Euler on hydrostatics to physicist Vilhelm Bjerknes's numerical weather prediction. The pace cranks up with twentieth-century advances such as Jule Gregory Charney's harnessing of the gargantuan ENIAC computer for his work in the 1940s and 1950s on forecasting pressure patterns."--Nature

"[O]ne of the great strengths of the book is the way it picks apart the challenge of making predictions about a chaotic system, showing what improvements we might yet hope for and what factors confound them."--Philip Ball, Prospect

"A welcome and authoritative account of the 20th-century contributions of mathematically sophisticated meteorologists such as Vilhelm Berknes (1862--1951), Carl-Gustav Rossby (1898--1957), Jule Charney (1917--1981), and Ed Lorenz (1917--2008). . . . Clearly, this book is informative and inspirational, leaving plenty of room for innovations by future generations of mathematicians and modelers."--James Rodger Fleming, MAA Reviews

"This book gives a deep insight of the mathematics involved in the forecast of weather. . . . The authors have done a brilliant work to collect a huge amount of historical information, as well as mathematical information, but keeping always a level in the explanations that makes the text accessible to undergraduate students in the first years, and even to people not so familiar with mathematics. All in all, this is a very interesting and enjoyable reading."--Vicente Muñoz, European Mathematical Society

"Shows how much modern weather forecasting depends on mathematics. . . . A superior read."--Alexander Bogolomny, CTK Insights

"Takes readers on a journey, starting with the initial vision of Bjerknes, and then leads them through the early unsuccessful hand-calculated attempts at forecasting the weather mathematically, progressing to the use of early electronic computers which, even though successful, could not produce a timely forecast. It concludes by describing the current methods of Numerical Weather Prediction . . . a book that will appeal to the intelligent 'popular science' enthusiast without disengaging the more theoretically-versed reader."--David-John Gibbs, Weather

"UK mathematicians Roulstone and Norbury provide a lively account of the evolution of numerical weather prediction, focusing on the individuals involved in advancing measurement of atmospheric properties and the implementation of numerical methods to describe and predict atmospheric processes. . . . This unique historical narrative will interest scholars of the history and philosophy of science."--Choice

"Roulstone and Norbury do well within the constraints of this species of book. The story they tell is far from exhausted. I hope they write a sequel!"--John P. Boyd, Mathematical Reviews

"[A] fascinating account of science's admirable but ultimately inadequate attempts to get to grips with the natural environment upon which we depend for life itself, but which is equally capable of visiting death and destruction upon us."--Jonathan Gornall, The National

"[T]he authors have done well to create a book that will appeal to the intelligent 'popular science' enthusiast without disengaging the more theoretically-versed reader."--David-John Gibbs, Weather

"Accessible and timely, Invisible in the Storm explains the crucial role of mathematics in understanding the ever-changing weather."--Nina Shokina, Zentralblatt MATH

"[T]his is a well-written book giving a generally clear and accessible account of how weather forecasts are prepared. The historical detail enlivens the narrative and makes for an enjoyable read. The authors have considerable knowledge and expertise, and the book is scientifically sound. It can be warmly recommended to anyone who wishes to understand, in broad terms, how modern weather forecasts are made and how we may use models of the atmosphere to anticipate changes in the earth's climate."--Peter Lynch, Notices of the AMS

"This very readable book provides an excellent insight into the history of forecasting the weather, with a considerable, but not too challenging, mathematical bent."--Colin J W Czapiewski, Actuary

"Invisible in the Storm: The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather explores how mathematics and meteorology come together to improve weather and climate prediction, taking readers on a fascinating journey through the work of trailblazing scientists over the past 100 years."--University of Surrey website

"I really enjoyed reading the book and I would recommend it to specialists who want to get an overview of the history of numerical weather prediction. I think it is also well worth reading for anyone who wishes to understand the developments in the science of meteorology that has led to the present level of forecast skill."--Erland Kallen, ECMWF Newsletter

"Roulstone and Norbury have done an outstanding job and provide readers a fine bibliography to continue their education on this fascinating topic."--Robert E. O'malley, Jr., SIAM Review

"Accessible and timely, Invisible in the Storm explains the crucial role of mathematics in understanding the ever-changing weather."--World Book Industry

"[T]his is a well-written book giving a generally clear and accessible account of how weather forecasts are prepared. The historical detail enlivens the narrative and makes for an enjoyable read. The authors have considerable knowledge and expertise, and the book is scientifically sound. It can be warmly recommended to anyone who wishes to understand, in broad terms, how modern weather forecasts are made, and how we may use models of the atmosphere to anticipate changes in the Earth's climate."--Peter Lynch, Irish Math Society Bulletin

"This book is highly readable and gives a bird's eye view of development of meteorology. . . . It is strongly recommended to practitioners of meteorology and those interested in understanding this complex subject."--Ravi S. Nanjundiah, Current Science

"The authors have to be applauded for having succeeded in writing a very entertaining and accessible book. . . . The book must be considered essential reading for anyone interested in the history and mathematics of weather prediction."--Sebastian Reich, Jahresbericht der DMV

"I recommend Invisible in the Storm both to mathematics undergraduates and educators who are interested in applied mathematics, weather forecasting, or both."--Steven Boyce, Mathematics Teacher

From the Back Cover


"With illuminating descriptions and minimal technicality, Invisible in the Storm provides a vivid historical perspective on how the development of mathematical ideas, together with modern computer technology, has completely transformed our ability to understand and predict the weather. This is a gripping and highly informative book."--Roger Penrose, author of Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe


"As a TV weather forecaster for over forty years, I have always maintained that meteorology depends on mathematics for meaning. Making this conclusive point, Invisible in the Storm takes readers on an intriguing journey through the history of meteorology, revealing the critical role of mathematics from the earliest days of weather predicting to the current age of computer-generated forecasts. This book guides you inside the storm, where math's importance is clearly visible."--Spencer Christian, chief weather forecaster at ABC-7 News/KGO-TV, San Francisco


"This is a very readable account of why it is possible to forecast the weather with useful accuracy. Focusing on historical background, this well-researched and scientifically accurate book shows how the work of some of the greatest scientists of the past laid the foundations exploited in modern weather forecasting. I am not aware of any other book that covers this ground for a general scientific audience."--M. J. P. Cullen, author of A Mathematical Theory of Large-Scale Atmosphere/Ocean Flow


"The tremendous improvement in weather prediction capabilities during the twentieth century is among the greatest success stories of the scientific approach to the understanding of nature. Combining a historical account with a qualitative/geometric approach, this enjoyable book makes that story accessible to a wider scientifically educated audience."--Sebastian Reich, University of Potsdam



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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
Weather has always been one of the most consequential and most unpredictable aspects of our World. The importance of weather on all facets of human life cannot be underestimated. Storms and hurricanes can have a huge impact, and even less dramatic weather patterns (such as droughts) are of enormous significance. It is no surprise that people have been trying to predict weather for as long as there are any records of civilization, and perhaps for much longer. However, aside from some folk wisdom and very rough rules of thumb, until very recently predicting weather has been little more than guesswork. Things started changing towards the end of the nineteenth century, when a combination of better understanding of the laws of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and overall weather patters convinced many scientists that weather forecasting is, in principle, within the reach of the scientific method. Implementing that vision has been far from easy though, and that program has had many obstacles that it needed to overcome.

"Invisible in the Storm" is the story of the development of modern scientific meteorology. In particular, it tells the story about the importance of mathematics and its use in solving the problem of weather. It turns out that the equations that we use to model the weather are very complicated and complex, and at best we can hope to have very approximate solutions. Early advances in the mathematical weather modeling had to rely more on some shorthand and general principles that could be judiciously applied to some already observed situations. The full exact solution of the weather equations will probably elude us forever, and even approximate solutions are almost impossible to construct.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Glabrous on 28 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book focuses on the people behind the mathematics of weather forecasting, while never losing sight of the simplicity of the insights of the pioneers who took meteorology from an archane art to the leading edge of quantitative science. An excellent and easy read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The narrative throughout the book recalls the development of NWP from the start. Along the way are separate boxed pages which record the formulae being used at that time which do not detract from the narrative but are there for mathematicians to ponder.
An excellent read.
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Well, I'm not mathematically skilled, but I still greatly enjoyed this fascinating story of the evolution of weather forecasting and the challenges it has continued to present to mathematicians and to science in general.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful read. 23 Mar. 2013
By ubpdqn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
enjoyed this book. It is a systematic account of the development of weather forecasting. The writing style is engaging there is a nice balance of historical and biographical detail as well as explanation of the relevant concepts from Mathematics and Physics. It is deliberately limited on the technical aspects. I enjoyed the journey: from developing physical model of the various aspects of weather; the remarkable power of simpler models in large scale phenomena in )the pre-computer era) in motivating ongoing pursuit of the `holy grail' of accurate prediction; the convergence of technologies to increase accuracy of measurement with increasing scope and level of detail of measurement and the increasing power of electronic computing unmasking the problem of chaos; and the need for more sophisticated mathematics to `tame the chaos': to understand the constraints, to better characterize attractors, to develop horizons of prediction and to use statistical (probabilistic) methods such as ensemble forecasting to place bounds on the uncertainties.

The book shows how complex and amazing the weather remains. The human endeavor to understand it has involved different personalities, different viewpoints, changing capabilities. The book describes the importance of non-linearities in explaining the complex and chaotic observed phenomena...it strikes me that although the book presents the a systematic and incremental increase in understanding, that the complex interactions of people, time and technology make progress non-linear. The birth of meteorology and its connections to the Mathemticsm Physics and Astronomy is fascinating. The book is another example of the unreasonable effectiveness of Mathematics in explaining the world, as well as the vision, persistence and hard work of Mathematicians, Physicists, and Metereologists.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Thorough Introduction to Mathematical Meteorology 12 April 2013
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Weather has always been one of the most consequential and most unpredictable aspects of our World. The importance of weather on all facets of human life cannot be underestimated. Storms and hurricanes can have a huge impact, and even less dramatic weather patterns (such as droughts) are of enormous significance. It is no surprise that people have been trying to predict weather for as long as there are any records of civilization, and perhaps for much longer. However, aside from some folk wisdom and very rough rules of thumb, until very recently predicting weather has been little more than guesswork. Things started changing towards the end of the nineteenth century, when a combination of better understanding of the laws of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and overall weather patters convinced many scientists that weather forecasting is, in principle, within the reach of the scientific method. Implementing that vision has been far from easy though, and that program has had many obstacles that it needed to overcome.

"Invisible in the Storm" is the story of the development of modern scientific meteorology. In particular, it tells the story about the importance of mathematics and its use in solving the problem of weather. It turns out that the equations that we use to model the weather are very complicated and complex, and at best we can hope to have very approximate solutions. Early advances in the mathematical weather modeling had to rely more on some shorthand and general principles that could be judiciously applied to some already observed situations. The full exact solution of the weather equations will probably elude us forever, and even approximate solutions are almost impossible to construct. This is partly due to the phenomenon of "chaos" that has in fact first been widely studied and appreciated exactly in the context of the weather.

The alternative to the exact solutions was to use the numerical methods in which smooth functions are replaced by their "pixelated" equivalents. Numerical methods reduce the extremely complicated differential equations with somewhat less complicated and manageable sets of algebraic equations. However, even the simplest numerical methods involve thousands of variables and equations, and early attempts to solve those were nothing short of heroic. Furthermore, the solutions of those early numerical attempts were disastrous in terms of their accuracy. Numerical methods only gained traction with the advent of computers, and only within the last couple of decades were we able to make reasonably accurate predictions that go beyond a single day.

This is a thoroughly well written and researched book. If you were unfamiliar with the content of mathematical research in meteorology it would be an incredibly valuable resource and an introduction to this subject. The authors clearly understand their subject, both in terms of its content as well as the rich and interesting history. All of the more mathematically advanced topics are covered in separate boxes throughout the main text, and if higher math is not something that you are familiar with you can safely skip those. Nonetheless, you should be fairly well educated and versed in the scientific method in order to fully appreciate this book.
I had been looking for a book like this for years 8 Dec. 2014
By Nathan Wailes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had been looking for a book like this for years. I am interested in finance / hedge funds, and the big task for hedge funds is predicting the future, so I'm very interested in any other fields that also try to predict the future (meteorology, science fiction, military strategy, etc.). I bought some textbooks on meteorology but got bogged down in the formulas and the length of the books, so I hoped that there might exist a more readable overview of how it all worked. This book came to the rescue.

I guess a key thing to know about it that isn't obvious from the cover is that the bulk of the book is a history of how math came to be used in meteorology. It walks you step-by-step through each new innovation. It's just brilliant, in my opinion. I haven't yet finished reading it, though. I'm going through very slowly, underlining the main ideas it as I read so I can refer back to it later and get an overview of the flow of ideas in each chapter.

This book would make a great gift for anyone with a serious interest in finance.
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