Sunday, July 27, 2014

James Spann's Review of "Warnings"

James Spann is one of the nation's very best broadcast meteorologists and has saved innumerable lives with his outstanding coverage of severe storms. He is a man I admire and am proud to call him a friend.
He has read and reviewed Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. Here are some excerpts:

For those that love weather, this is one of those books that is hard to put down. Not only is it a history of the severe weather warning system in the United States, it also weaves in the personal story of Mike’s long career...
Mike also look at the warning process for Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina in deep detail… what went right, and what went wrong. It is especially interesting to read the chapter “Murder by Bureaucracy” concerning Katrina.
I do believe you need to know where you have been to have a better understanding of where you are going. This history of severe weather warnings in this nation is a very important story for all of us, and Mike did a masterful job of telling it. I encourage all in the weather enterprise, and those interested in weather, to get a copy. It is a very good read.
You can read the review in its entirety here. You can read additional reviews or order a copy of Warnings here. If you enjoy reading this blog, you'll love Warnings

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike,

    Reading this review (in full from the AlabamaWx site), in light of a recent book I've just finished reading brought together some interesting connections. (And it also is prompting me to grab it off the shelf and reread Warnings!!)

    The book I have just read is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.

    His theology aside, one of the illustrative stories that Gladwell tells is the story of the bombings during the Battle of Britain. Prior to the bombings, the British government believed that the bombings would unleash a panic and cause more death and destruction.

    This reminded me of the NWS's initial reluctance to provide tornado warnings.

    In the Battle of Britain, there were three outcomes. First, if a house was hit, it had (obvious) disastrous effects on the family (usually death) much in the same way that a direct hit by a severe tornado (F4-5) has the potential to cause death and total destruction in the case of a direct hit as well.

    The second case was the near-miss. This had more lasting effects similar to what the British government was projecting for the populace at large (PTSD-type reactions).

    The third case, and the most interesting in our current context is the group dubbed the "remote miss" group. This encompassed the majority of the British population and instead of causing panic, it emboldened them.

    This, in part, created the mystique of the British resolve... but I think that there is a potential transference to a "remote miss" or even a false alarm situation with tornado warnings. While a direct hit or a "near miss" will have lasting and direct consequences, those who are more remote could begin to turn a blind eye to the warnings.

    As you have mentioned previously and I have read on other blogs, there needs to be consistency between warnings to try to eliminate this "emboldening" while still alerting the people who are in the path of a storm to the potential danger.

    Gladwell's book isn't a rock-solid case throughout (I think he takes some unnecessary leaps in logic at times) but this particular case study could help to shed light on the general population's responses to severe storm warnings.


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