Authors of the Storm
Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction
Whether it is used as an icebreaker in conversation or as the subject of serious inquiry, “the weather” is one of the few subjects that everyone talks about. And though we recognize the faces that bring us the weather on television, how government meteorologists and forecasters go about their jobs is rarely scrutinized. Given recent weather-related disasters, it’s time we find out more. In Authors of the Storm, Gary Alan Fine offers an inside look at how meteorologists and forecasters predict the weather.
Based on field observation and interviews at the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma, the National Weather Service in Washington, D.C., and a handful of midwestern outlets, Fine finds a supremely hard-working, insular clique of professionals who often refer to themselves as a “band of brothers.” In Fine’s skilled hands, we learn their lingo, how they “read” weather conditions, how forecasts are written, and, of course, how those messages are conveyed to the public. Weather forecasts, he shows, are often shaped as much by social and cultural factors inside local offices as they are by approaching cumulus clouds. By opening up this unique world to us, Authors of the Storm offers a valuable and fascinating glimpse of a crucial profession.
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“Weather has always been the source of small talk, but today the climate is a matter of life and death. It’s long past time to examine both the social significance of weather and the way meteorologists explain it in their daily reports, and in Authors of the Storm, Gary Alan Fine makes an important contribution to this urgent project. His rich ethnography takes us inside the mysterious world of forecasters at the National Weather Service, thoughtfully exploring the challenge of proffering expert knowledge on fundamentally uncertain future events. Fine’s book will not only change the way you think about weather reports, but the way you understand public science, too.”
“This is a major contribution to understanding the role of organizations in the production of scientific knowledge. A superior social analyst, Fine skillfully exposes the craft, technology, culture, risk, and ambiguity in the workplace as meteorologists convert scientific uncertainty into certainty. A fascinating read for scholars and everyone who has ever complained about the weather. His best book yet.”
“Authors of the Storm represents the work of a craftsman at the peak of his powers. Gary Alan Fine’s book conveys in often amazing detail the work life of weather forecasters, laying out the patterns of their days and nights, the range of dilemmas they face, and the underlying organizational and political structures and tensions that shape their forecasts. This is a completely original book.”--Daniel Chambliss, Hamilton College