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Reviewed by:
  • Weather in Texas: The Essential Handbook by George W. Bomar
  • John W. Nielsen-Gammon
Weather in Texas: The Essential Handbook. By George W. Bomar. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017. ix + 290 pp. Illustrations, figures, tables, suggested readings, index. $24.95 paper.

No matter where you go, you can find people talking about the bad weather in their states: cold in Montana, humidity in Alabama, hurricanes in Florida, tornadoes in Kansas, rain in Washington, blizzards in Minnesota, drought in Oklahoma, ice in West Virginia, floods in Pennsylvania . . . the list goes on and on. Or, rather than touring the country, you can just visit Texas and experience all of it, often in the same year! So even though George Bomar's new book, Weather in Texas, is about Texas weather, it's really about weather throughout the Great Plains and the rest of the United States, with examples from Texas.

If the title and author sound familiar, it's because Bomar has been writing about weather in Texas for 35 years. His first book on the subject, Texas Weather, was published in 1983, and a second edition appeared in 1995. The current book draws extensively on material from the previous two, and like the first two it features an extensive compendium of historic weather data from every corner of the state.

This means the book will appeal to those of us who are "weather weenies," who don't mind getting wet just to watch a thunderstorm blow through. The book features extensive descriptions of extreme weather phenomena, why they happen, and what makes them dangerous. Many weather events from Texas's recent and not-so-recent history are recounted.

In the first two books, the last chapter was devoted to what to do about the weather: what precautions to take and how to stay safe when extreme weather does occur. The current book, Weather in Texas, is subtitled The Essential Handbook, and it lives up to its name with an expanded set of weather-specific advice that is integrated throughout the book. This is especially useful for Texas newbies. If you hear of a tornado watch, you can go to the tornado chapter and read about what causes tornadoes, the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning, what to do before and during a tornado, and why you wouldn't want to have been in Goliad, Texas, on May 18, 1902.

Bomar's writing style is a bit florid. The reading might be heavy going for a middle-schooler, but adults [End Page 43] will appreciate how otherwise dry scientific information is transformed by Bomar into colorful word paintings. This makes it easy to read the book as a narrative, not just as reference material. Compared to his previous books, this one is much easier on the eye, with an appealing, readable font and colorful figures.

My only serious criticism of the book regards its occasional scientific inaccuracies. For example, a quart of water contains far more than 1,000 molecules. Different parts of the book sometimes disagree on the same weather records. Hurricanes typically form at least several hundred miles from the equator, not within a few hundred miles of the equator. Along a dry line, the moist air undercuts the dry air, not the other way around. There are dozens of these scattered through the book.

Also, the book was written before Hurricane Harvey, so just a few tables include statistics from that historic event. But you've got to draw the line somewhere. In Texas, extreme weather is just going to keep happening, and I'm glad George Bomar decided to say "enough is enough" and give us something to read.

John W. Nielsen-Gammon
Texas State Climatologist Department of Atmospheric Sciences Texas A&M University


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