From the acclaimed author of Tubes, a lively and surprising tour of the infrastructure behind the weather forecast, the people who built it, and what it reveals about our climate and our planet
The weather is the foundation of our daily lives. It’s a staple of small talk, the app on our smartphones, and often the first thing we check each morning. Yet behind these quotidian interactions is one of the most expansive machines human beings have ever constructed—a triumph of science, technology and global cooperation. But what is this ‘weather machine’ and who created it?
In The Weather Machine, Andrew Blum takes readers on a fascinating journey through an everyday miracle. In a quest to understand how the forecast works, he visits old weather stations and watches new satellites blast off. He 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. He discovers that we have quietly entered a golden age of meteorology—our tools allow us to predict weather more accurately than ever, and yet we haven’t learned to trust them, nor can we guarantee the fragile international alliances that allow our modern weather machine to exist.
Written with the sharp wit and infectious curiosity Andrew Blum is known for, The Weather Machine pulls back the curtain on a universal part of our everyday lives, illuminating our relationships with technology, the planet, and the global community.
Meteorology is "a wonder we treat as a banality," argues journalist Blum (Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet) in his deep dive into the field's evolution. While humanity had long struggled to predict weather with some degree of accuracy, it wasn't possible until the telegraph's mid-19th-century arrival. The ability to recognize and share timely information led to a better understanding of weather patterns, first on a continent-wide and eventually on a global scale. This, along with a few happy accidents and some really tough math, led to the development and refinement of the systems which people know and complain about today. Excursions to forecasting labs and weather stations around the world, along with interviews with behind-the-scenes scientists, fill in the blanks, while asides on the political ramifications of weather satellites and global forecasting and on Thomas Jefferson's early forays into forecasting add depth and intrigue. Thanks to Blum's immersive research, readers will come away with a greater appreciation for the hard work that goes into something often taken for granted.