A Review of Bob Henson’s Awesome Book: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change

November 28, 2019, 2:40 AM EST

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Above: The promo page from the American Meteorological Society for Bob Henson's newest book, ”The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change”, published on February 15, 2019.

If you're bewildered by the complexity of the climate change/global warming issue, and want a comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide that presents an unbiased view of the important issues, look no further than the second edition of Bob Henson's ”The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change”, published in February.

This is the fifth version of Bob’s comprehensive climate change book, which originally appeared as the "Rough Guide to Climate Change" back in 2006 (see my 2008 review). He organizes the new book into five sections:

The basics--global warming in a nutshell
The symptoms--what's happening now, and what might happen in the future
The science--how we know what we know about climate change
Debates & solutions--from spats and spin to saving the planet
What can you do?--reducing your footprint and working for action

Henson tornado
Figure 1. The author has a passion for observing and understanding severe weather, and the book includes this photo he took while tornado chasing. The caption reads, "A tornado arcs onto the plains of eastern Colorado on May 9, 2015. Thankfully, there is no sign that the most dangerous twisters are becoming any more frequent as the climate warms." Image credit: Bob Henson.

Nearly 150 colorful images and graphics pepper the book, and interesting sidebars are interspersed throughout the text. Some of the more interesting sidebars include:

Venus: A cautionary tale, discussing how our sister planet’s atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide creates a greenhouse effect hot enough to melt lead.
Gaia and global warming, an interview with James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Hypothesis that treats Earth as a living being.
Bright lights, big cities, bogus data?, discussing how the global warming indicated by global surface temperature observations is not a bogus artifact of the urban heat island effect due to urban growth.
The nights Chicago fried, an account of the deadly 1995 heat wave in Chicago.

My favorite sidebar is Climate change and the cinema, where we learn that the first movie to discuss artificial climate change was probably Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952), which featured a young Leonard Nimoy as part of a gang of Martians bent on exploding Earth from its orbit so Mars can move sunward and benefit from a warmer climate. The sidebar also discusses the impact of movies like The Day After Tomorrow and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

Antarctic warming
Figure 2. One of the many excellent graphics in the book, taken from Chapter 6, "The Big Melt." Caption: Red represents areas where temperatures increased the most from 1957 to 2006, particularly in West Antarctica, where some points warmed even more than shown here. Temperature changes are measured in degrees Celsius. (Trent Schindler, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

The new version has seven new sidebars that did not appear in the previous 2014 version of the book:

Hot droughts and the future of California
High-tide flooding: more than a nuisance
Triple whammy: Harvey, Irma, and Maria
The great pseudo-halt in global warming
Suing for climate justice
Pulling money out of fossil fuels
Storing the energy of tomorrow

I've thought so highly of this book that I've purchased over 200 copies over the years, giving them to students, TV meteorologists, politicians running for U.S. Congress, and the leadership of The Weather Channel. If I were teaching a course on climate change at the high school or introductory college level, this would be this text. Mr. Henson is one of the world's premier science writers in meteorology and climate change, and we are super-fortunate to have him here at Cat6 after his 25-year stint as a writer/editor/media relations specialist for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Bob is also the author of "Weather on the Air: A History of Broadcast Meteorology" (AMS Books, 2010) and coauthor with Don Ahrens of the textbooks "Meteorology Today" (12th edition, Cengage, 2018) and "Essentials of Meteorology" (8th edition, Cengage, 2017).

”The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change” is $28.50 from Amazon.com, or $25 for members or students at the American Meteorological Society website. I give it four stars out of four.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Dr. Jeff Masters

Dr. Jeff Masters co-founded Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. in air pollution meteorology at the University of Michigan. He worked for the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990 as a flight meteorologist.


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