Weather-Related Book Recommendations
Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gift giving season is just around the corner. Here are two weather-related books which might be just right for yourself, your child, or a favorite weather fanatic friend.

"Ken Libbrecht's Field Guide to Snowflakes" is a wonderful 112-page book "about snowflake watching" published in 2006 by Voyageur Press. Mr. Libbrecht captures both the beauty and variety of our favorite frozen precipitation. The book is organized into three sections: Part I: Understanding Snowflakes, Part II: Field Guide (this is like an Audobon Field Guide for snowflakes), and Part III: Observing Snowflakes.

Did you know that snowflakes "... are not frozen raindrops, nor do they form from liquid water; (instead) snowflakes are created when ice condenses directly from water vapor in the air"?

Did you know that snowflakes are actually clear (like clear ice), but appear white because of light refraction around the edges?

No two snowflakes are alike, but they do share common growth patterns and features. In Part II the author classifies snowflakes according to their growth patterns, a reasonable method based on his personal observations. You will find out about Simple Prisms, Stellar Plates, Radiating Dendrites, Arrowhead Twins and Graupel among the thirty-five different types he identifies.

In Part III: Observing Snowflakes, the author points out that snowflake "watching" is easy and inexpensive; all you need is a low-cost fold-up magnifier, falling snow and a good field guide. "Looking at snowflakes is a much underappreciated recreation, in my opinion. Personally, I find that the endless variety of forms and patterns is always fascinating to observe, and pulling out your magnifier is definitely a conversation-starter on the chairlift." He also provides tips for snowflake photography, and while we haven't yet taken that step, surely you photogs will enjoy learning this skill.

This is no dry tome: we were amazed at the gorgeous rich detail captured in photos of such ephemeral objects and presented on nearly every page. Recommended for readers of all ages.


Our next recommendation is "The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds" by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, published in 2006 by The Penguin Group.

From the blurb:

"Where do clouds come from? Why do they look the way they do? And why have they captured the imagination of timeless artists, Romantic poets, and every kid who's ever held a crayon? Journalist and lifelong sky watcher Gavin Pretor-Pinney reveals everything there is to know about clouds, from history and science to art and pop culture. Cumulus, Cirrus, and the dramatic and surfable Morning Glory clouds are just a few of the varieties explored in this smart, witty, and eclectic tour through the skies."

During private pilot flight training I learned a lot about weather. Despite all that study, I will admit that most cloud classification escaped me until I picked up this book. Now we have fun naming cloud formations and guessing how high they must be. (By "we" of course I mean myself and Duke, usually during a long summer bike ride.) Mr. Pretor-Pinney has written a fascinating book about condensed water vapor, found above us (and sometimes amongst or below us) nearly every day.

If ever solicits a cloud photo database you can bet we'll be using this book for reference.


Where to buy both books:

We always recommend you first look for books in your local book shop. In Crested Butte try Blue Moon Books. In Gunnison check with The Bookworm.

Happy reading!