BOOK REVIEW

Collins Wildlife Trust Guide to the Weather of Britain and Europe
by David M Ludlum
pub. HarperCollins, 2001,
Paperback, 663 pages, 16.99
ISBN 0 00 220138 0

This book is billed as 'the first photographic field guide to the weather' and at some 660 pages and slim footprint it has more of the feel of a small brick than a book. However, it fits neatly in the palm of your hand for quick use and, like several other Collins publications reviewed on this website, has a nice visual feel and layout of information.

The book falls into three main sections: essays on weather, colour photographic guide, and explanatory text accounts to accompany the plates. There is also an Appendix which includes items on weather maps, amateur weather watching, instrumentation and a glossary.

You really do not have to be an expert to benefit or use this book, and it is almost simplicity itself. The weather watcher first goes to thumbnail symbols representing the current cloud or weather situation. This leads the user to a series of photographs showing a representative image plus a page reference for the text interpretation.

For example, you are looking at a corkscrew type cloud in an almost clear blue sky. Following the cirrus cloud thumbnail takes you to photographs which identify the culprit as Kelvin-Helmholz waves. Accompanying the photograph is a page reference for the explanatory text where we discover a cross-referenced detail about K-Hs which only last a few seconds or minutes. The context of the weather condition is explained in terms of the local environment, season, variations in the relevant weather condition, its significance, plus additional comments. While this process will not make you a professional weather forecaster it could well make planning of outdoor excursions easier. Walkers, climbers and the like could well find this helpful.

One nice thing about buying this guide is that 34p of every book bought goes to the Wildlife Trusts.

Bottom line...
At 17 this might seem a tad expensive for a paperback, albeit laminated for field use. But when you reflect on the vast sum of metreorological knowledge provided by the book's contributors the price really doesn't seem extraordinary. Anyone with a business, occupation, or recreational activity which may be seriously impacted by the weather, and without a degree in meteorology, should find this guide a useful tool in making decisions on the day. 'A' Level students and above may also find it useful to get to grips with the subject.

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