Jeff Masters Hurricane Blog

12 titles on extreme weather


With parts of Asia, Europe, and the United States still suffering or recovering from withering heat waves, and with the peak of hurricane season approaching, titles about extreme weather and how to handle it seem timely. 

The list starts off with what is still the best popular overview of the topic Friederike Otto’s Angry Weather. It’s followed by a children’s-level introduction and then a new survey of how designers and planners might best prepare for different forms of extreme weather. 

The next three offerings focus specifically on hurricanes: the new paperback edition of a retrospective study of Hurricane Katrina, a multidisciplinary response to Hurricane Harvey’s “rain bombing” of Houston, and an historical review of 15 hurricanes that shaped the Carolinas. 

From angry winds and flooding waters, the list turns next to heat and fire. 

Although the still lingering 2022 heat wave in Europe may ultimately prove more severe, meteorologically, than the 2003 heat wave, it will likely kill fewer people. The reason: The experience of losing more than 70,000 people taught public health systems important lessons about heat waves. Historian Richard C. Keller’s 2015 title, Fatal Isolation, remains the best account of what happened in France during those suffocatingly hot weeks of August 2003. It deserves a second look. (YCC’s full-length review of Keller’s account is here.) 

Boiling Point, the new report from Public Citizen, makes the case that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration must take deadly heat waves more seriously. Just since the report’s release at the end of June, at least 28 states have issued extreme heat alerts

High, dry heat can lead to raging fires, especially when authorities fail to maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure. California Burning details the complicity of Pacific Gas & Electric in the fire that ravaged Paradise and other unsuspecting communities in northern California. 

The last three titles in this aggregation offer advice on how best to prepare for heatwaves, natural disasters, and their aftermaths. Individuals and families can do a lot to reduce their vulnerability to heatstroke, to fortify their homes against destructive storms, and to prepare for disruptions in power and other services. But losses will still occur, so successful recovery from extreme weather may depend on knowing how to seek help.

As always, the descriptions of the titles are drawn from copy provided by the organizations or presses that published them. When two dates of publication are provided, the second is for the release of the paperback edition.


Angry Weather: Heat Waves, Floods, Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change, by Friederike Otto (Greystone Books 2020, 256 pages, $32.95)

Weather disasters are becoming more frequent each year, but not everyone agrees on what causes them. Renowned University of Oxford researcher Friederike Otto provides an answer with attribution science, a revolutionary method for pinpointing the role of climate change in extreme weather events. Anchoring her book with the gripping, day-by-day story of Hurricane Harvey, which caused over a hundred deaths and $125 billion in damage in 2017, Otto reveals how attribution science works in real time, and determines that Harvey’s terrifying floods were three times more likely to occur due to human-induced climate change. The research laid out in this groundbreaking book will have profound impacts, both today and in the future.   

Climate Change and Extreme Weather, by Isaac Kerry (Lerner Books 2022, 30 pages, $9.99 paperback)

Why are some places flooding more than they used to? Why do hurricanes seem to get stronger every year? With engaging diagrams and photos, this book explores how climate change affects weather across the globe. An updated edition of Climate Change and Extreme Storms, this title is part of the Searchlight Books – Spotlight on Climate Change collection and is written for Grade 3 level readers. Other titles in the series include Climate Change and Air Quality, Climate Change and Energy Technology, Climate Change and Rising Sea Level, Climate Change and Rising Temperatures, and Climate Change and Life on Earth. 

Managing the Climate Crisis: Designing and Building for Floods, Heat, Drought, and Wildfire, by Jonathan Barret and Matthijs Bouw (Island Press 2022, 296 pages, $35.00 paperback)

In Managing the Climate Crisis, design and planning experts Jonathan Barnett and Matthijs Bouw take a practical approach to addressing seven climate-related threats: flooding along coastlines, river flooding, flash floods from extreme rain events, drought, wildfire, long periods of high heat, and food shortages. The policies and investments needed to protect lives and property are affordable if they begin now, and are planned and budgeted over the next 30 years. Preventive actions also offer opportunities, not only to create jobs, but also to remake cities and landscapes to be better for everyone. Managing the Climate Crisis is a practical guide to managing the immediate threats from a changing climate while improving the way we live.

Katrina: A History, 1915-2015, by Andy Horowitz (Harvard University Press 2020 / 2022, 296 pages, $17.95 paperback)

Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, but the decisions that caused the disaster extend across the twentieth century. After the city weathered a major hurricane in 1915, its Board believed that developers could safely build housing in lowlands. When the flawed levee system surrounding the city and its suburbs failed, these were the neighborhoods that were devastated. Andy Horowitz investigates the response to the flood, and he explores how the profits and liabilities created by Louisiana’s oil industry have been distributed unequally. Laying bare the relationship between structural inequality and physical infrastructure Katrina offers a chilling glimpse of the future disasters we are already creating. 

More City Than Water: A Houston Flood Atlas, edited by Lucy M. Johnson & Cheryl Beckett (University of Texas Press 2022, 264 pages, $39.95) 

Shortly after Hurricane Harvey dumped a record 61 inches of rain on Houston in 2017, celebrated writer and Bayou City resident Lacy M. Johnson began collecting flood stories. Thus began More City Than Water, which brings together essays, conversations, and personal narratives from climate scientists, marine ecologists, housing activists, urban planners, artists, poets, and historians as they reflect on the human geography of a region increasingly defined by flooding. More City Than Water features striking maps of Houston’s floodplains, waterways, drainage systems, reservoirs, and inundated neighborhoods. each map, imaginative and precise, shifts our understanding of the flooding, the public’s relationship to it, and the fraught reality of rebuilding. 

Fifteen Hurricanes That Changed the Carolinas: Powerful Storms, Climate Change, and What We Do Next, by Jay Barnes (University of North Carolina Press 2022, 384 pages, $27.00 paperback)

Historian Jay Barnes offers an illuminating and compelling account of the Carolinas’ most recent storm disasters, Matthew and Florence, as well as thirteen other memorable hurricanes in the Tar Heel and Palmetto States, including Hazel, Hugo, Fran, and Floyd. In Barnes’s hands, the examination of these powerful tropical cyclones leads to a broader view of the history of the Carolinas, revealing not only their terrifying and deadly consequences but also the perseverance of the region’s people in the face of such devastation. In recounting the rich hurricane history of the Carolinas, from the mountains to the coast, Barnes urges readers to consider the storms to come and profiles how a warming planet and rising seas will affect future Carolina hurricanes.

Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003, by Richard C. Keller (University of Chicago Press 2015, 240 pages, $35.00)

In a cemetery on the southern outskirts of Paris lie the bodies of nearly a hundred abandoned victims of the worst natural disaster in French history, the devastating heat wave that struck in August 2003, leaving 15,000 dead. Fatal Isolation tells the stories of these victims and the catastrophe that took their lives. It explores the multiple narratives of disaster – the official story of the crisis and its aftermath, as presented by the media and the state; the life stories of the individual victims; and the scientific understandings of disaster and its management. Fatal Isolation is both a social history of risk and vulnerability in the urban landscape and a story of how a city copes with emerging threats and sudden, dramatic change.

Boiling Point: OSHA Must Act Immediately to Protect Workers from Deadly Temperatures by Juley Fulcher (Public Citizen 2022, 38 pages, free download available here)

Fifty years ago, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) called for rules to protect workers from unsafe heat. Five decades later, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has still failed to put such rules in place. With the climate crisis shattering heat records each summer, heat stress is a rapidly worsening threat for workers across the country. Environmental heat is likely responsible for 170,000 work-related injuries every year, making it the third ranking risk. In light of the severity of the environmental heat crisis and the known efficacy of protective measures, OSHA should issue an Emergency Temporary Standard while it continues the slow process of proposing and finalizing a permanent standard.

California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric – and What It Means for America’s Power Grid, by Katherine Blunt (Penguin Random House / Portfolio 2022, 368 pages, $29.00)

Pacific Gas and Electric was a legacy company built by innovators and visionaries, establishing California as a desirable home and economic powerhouse. In California Burning, Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer finalist Katherine Blunt examines how that legacy fell apart. As PG&E prioritized profits and politics, power lines went unchecked – until a rusted hook purchased for 56 cents in 1921 split in two, sparking the deadliest wildfire in California history. California Burning is a deeply reported, character-driven narrative. It’s the story of an American tragedy that serves as a cautionary tale for utilities across the nation – especially as climate change makes aging infrastructure more vulnerable, with potentially fatal consequences.

Climate Change and Extreme Heat: What You Can Do to Prepare, by Outreach Staff (US EPA & CDC 2016, 20 pages, free download available here)

Climate change affects human health by making extreme heat more common, more severe, and last longer. That is expected to continue into the future. This handbook explains the connection between climate change and extreme heat events, and outlines actions citizens can take to protect their health during extreme heat. This resource builds on the 2006 Excessive Heat Events Guidebook from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and includes up-to-date climate information from recent climate assessment reports, such as the 2014 Third National Climate Assessment, the 2016 Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States, and EPA’s 2016 Climate Change Indicators in the United States.

The Disaster-Ready Home: A Step-by-Step Emergency Preparedness Manual for Sheltering in Place, by Creek Stewart (Simon & Schuster / Adams Media 2022, 224 pages, $18.99 paperback) 

If a disaster forces you to shelter in place, do you think you have everything you need to safely and comfortably stay put in your home? If the answer is no, The Disaster-Ready Home will help you create a safe, well-stocked place to weather out any emergency. Survival expert and bestselling author Creek Stewart gives you a step-by-step emergency preparedness plan to meet your food, water, heat, and sanitation needs during any disaster, including detailed lists, photo-graphs, and complete instructions to make the plan easy to follow. With headlines dominated by disease and disasters, the need to be prepared has never been more evident. This practical, field-tested guide will help you protect and provide for your family when any situation arises.

Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series, by A. Nicholson et al (National Academies Press 2022, 137 pages, $35.00 paperback, free download w/registration)

To explore issues related to the effects of disasters on children and youth, the virtual workshop From Hurricane Katrina to Paradise Wildfires, was convened on July 22 and 23, 2020, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The workshop focused on families engaged with federal, state or local supportive programs prior to disasters. Additional areas of focus were the coordination of disaster response efforts and reestablishing routine service post-disaster. The workshop also highlighted promising practices, ongoing challenges, and potential opportunities for coordinated delivery and restoration of social and human services programs. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussion of the workshop.



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