18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather

This book was a joy to read. Christopher Dewdney whips up an exciting tale filled with allegory and literary references to ground the reader in the mysteries of our atmosphere. Whether it’s the numerous names for clouds, or the way storms change the course of history, Dewdney spins a wonderful narrative interwoven with science.

One thing I always appreciate is the geologic history of things, and Dewdney doesn’t disappoint with the origin of the atmosphere and its layers, and what happens when neutron lasagna (Kurzgesagt) falls to the center of the earth (assuming it doesn’t instantly expend to enormous size one freed from the gravitational pull of a neutron star). And speaking of stars, the tantalizing layers of the atmosphere inspire this failed pilot, as well as a fascinating theory on contrails.

For excitement there are stories of the storm, hurricane, typhoons, and the thunderous squall. From a gentle rain to the most deadly twister, it’s all there. How the Atmosphere is split into 3 northern layers and 3 southern layers is also explained, giving us our Jet Streams. I loved reading about the north and south, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Gyres which drive the oceans and the effects of El Niño and La Niña on those currents. The names of the winds and the 6 seasons also fascinated me. I like the idea of 6 even though they don’t seems equal in length from the reading.

Finally, no book about weather would be complete without mentioning global climate disruption. Though not much time is spent on this important issue, it is covered in one chapter and pushed further with the Gaia hypothesis in the final chapter.

If I was to ding this book in any way, I would only have to comment that Îsl Réunion is in the middle of the Indian ocean, not the Pacific. Indeed, there’s no way it could have affected the movement of India across the Tethys Sea if it was all the way over in the Panthalassic Ocean, which became the Pacific.

18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather
18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather

Other than that, though, great book! Now, on to The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities.

See you later, my friendly fellow sapiosexuals!

3 Replies to “18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather”

  1. With over 40 years of experience in atmospheric sciences, I found 18 miles an enjoyable book to read. It provides a wealth of historical information as well as good explanations of our current understanding of the atmosphere. The book gets most of the fact correct, but missing a few. For example, research aircraft have flown directly into the worst thunder storms many time (when at the National Science Foundation I funded the to do just that!). The one thing I found disconcerting is the mix of English and Metric units. The Gaia hypothesis, mentioned in the final chapter, is not well excepted by most of the geoscience community. Dewdney acknowledges this, but in a very off-handed way. I don’t think it should have been mentioned.

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