Non-Fiction Reviews

Jet Stream
A journey through our changing climate

(2020) Tim Woolings, Oxford University Press, £25, hrdbk, ix + 230pp, ISBN 978-0-198-82851-8


The jet stream has long been familiar to N. Americans as it has regularly featured on their daily television weather forecasts for decades; only recently have we in Britain begun to see it on ours.  Nonetheless, those with an interest in science and popular science (BBC Horizon viewers and so forth) will have a basic understanding of this atmospheric phenomena.  But how exactly does it affect our weather and, indeed, interact with our planet's warming climate? Meteorologist, Tim Woolings, sets out to explain this to us in this slim book.

Well, the above is this title's stated aim.  Actually it is a little different.  True, the jet stream is the book's principal focus but what we really get is a little more the development of meteorology as a science through the prism of the jet stream.

The book's narrative thread holding the discussion together is the hypothetical launch of a Grantley Adams meteorological balloon and its journey.  Along the way we learn: how mountains affect the jet stream; about Rossby waves (the wave-like deviation of the jet stream from a more straighter trajectory); of a historic manned, high-altitude balloon flight; cyclones and storms; and many other meteorological phenomena from the North Atlantic Oscillation to the Polar Vortex.

The author's honesty comes to the fore towards the book's end with the confession that there is much uncertainty as to what will happen with the jet stream with global warming. However, it is clear—from the ground already covered – that there will be some changes with global warming and that these in turn will have a profound impact on the weather.

This book is ideal for lay folk with basic school-level science who have an interest the weather and wish to learn a little more.  It would also be a valuable summer holiday read for school leavers anticipating embarking on a meteorology or climate change related course.  For the rest of us Brits, it helps explain why television weather forecasters are now increasingly mentioning the jet stream in their presentations.

Jonathan Cowie


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