A furious sky The five-hundred-year history of America's hurricanes

Eric Jay Dolin

Book - 2020

"The best-selling author of Leviathan returns with the first major historical account of America's hurricanes, and reveals how they've shaped our nation. From the moment European colonists laid violent claim to this land, hurricanes have had a profound and visceral impact on American history-yet, no one has attempted to write the definitive account of America's entanglement with these meteorological behemoths. Now, best-selling historian Eric Jay Dolin presents the five-hundr...ed-year story of American hurricanes, from the nameless storms that threatened Columbus' New World voyages, to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the escalation of hurricane season as a result of global warming. Populating his narrative with unlikely heroes such as Benito Vines, the nineteenth-century Jesuit priest whose revelatory methods for predicting hurricanes saved countless lives, and journalist Dan Rather, whose coverage of a 1961 hurricane would change broadcasting history, Dolin uncovers the often surprising ways we respond to natural crises. A necessary work of environmental and cultural history, A Furious Sky will change the way we understand the storms on the horizon of America's future"--

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Subjects
Genres
History
Published
New York, NY : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company [2020]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xxvii, 392 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781631495274
1631495275
Main Author
Eric Jay Dolin (author)
  • A new and violent world
  • The law of storms
  • Seeing into the future
  • Obliterated
  • Death and destruction in the sunshine state
  • The great hurricane of 1938
  • Into, over, and under the Maelstrom
  • A rogues' gallery
  • Epilogue. Stormy weather ahead.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Dolin (Black Flags, Blue Waters, 2018) tackles the history of hurricanes and how they've impacted the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic regions of the U.S. Spanning the centuries from Columbus arriving in the Caribbean to the recent epic and politically charged disasters of Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, Dolin's weather drama reveals just how horrific these monster storms can be. But this compelling book is much more than a meteorological history, it is a remarkably human story of people struggling with nature at its fiercest and the myriad ways hurricanes have affected the course of human events. The damaging winds and surging water likely changed the outcome of wars and presidential elections. Many of those true tales of survival and loss will tug at the readers' heartstrings as Dolin makes them vivid and memorable. He also chronicles the intellectual history of individual meteorologists on quests to understand the dynamics, predict the patterns, and mitigate the damage of hurricanes. Dolin illuminates how much technology and careful scientific and civic organization and coordination have helped better prepare Americans for hurricane season. But, despite radar and satellites, the paths of these ferocious storms can never be fully predicted and Dolin presents the consensus view that global warming will only make hurricanes stronger in the future. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

This book is meticulously researched, yet it will be tremendously accessible to all readers. Best-selling author Dolin's gripping treatment of one of nature's most deadly recent events first takes readers back to earlier days of recorded storm history, recalling the close call experienced by Columbus in 1502, then returns to recent well-known storms: Katrina, Maria, and Sandy. In its 300 pages, his text provides in broad strokes a review of the recent history of hurricanes as told through interesting personal accounts. The scientific and policy details of the covered storms are left to other texts. Dolin has been a prolific popularizer of American whaling and westward expansion history, including the early US effort to profit from the China trade, having previously authored Leviathan (CH, Dec'07, 45-2211), Fur, Fortune, and Empire (CH, May'11, 48-5284), and When America First Met China (CH, Mar'13, 50-3991). The present book concludes with an ominous warning: climate change will bring us storms that are more deadly, costly, and destructive, more often than ever before. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers.--D. M. Braquet, University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleDonna Marie BraquetUniversity of Tennessee, Knoxville Donna Marie Braquet Choice Reviews 58:10 June 2021 Copyright 2021 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Dolin (Leviathan) continues his series of popular histories with nautical or coastal themes with this exploration of hurricanes in the United States, deftly weaving together tales of tragedy, heroism, and scientific progress from colonial times until the present. Focusing on major storms and their impacts on the history of the United States, he draws from contemporaneous accounts to evoke the drama and power of these destructive storms. Meteorological advancements in our understanding of how hurricane storm systems form, grow, and travel as well as improvements in tracking and predictions have resulted in lower fatality rates, but growing population centers along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts have also meant increases in economic devastation. Many of the historic storms have entire books dedicated to them, but Emanuel's High Winds is the only similar comprehensive recent work on this topic, though its approach to the meteorological aspects is much more equation- and graph-heavy. A final chapter discusses the possible ramifications of global warming on hurricane formation, intensity, and impact. VERDICT Weather watchers, science buffs, and social historians will enjoy this history of the hurricane both as a chronology and for the individual tales of surviving nature's fury.—Wade Lee-Smith, Univ. of Toledo Lib. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Historian Dolin (Black Flags, Blue Waters) delivers a fast-paced and informative history of American hurricanes from the 16th century through the 2017 season, when a record-setting three storms made landfall. Though Dolin's question of "how we can learn to survive and adapt" to hurricanes in the era of climate change doesn't receive deep analysis, the book successfully documents the impact of storms such as the 1900 Galveston Hurricane (in which an estimated 8,000–10,000 people died) and the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, which killed hundreds of WWI veterans building the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys. Milestones in the scientific understanding of hurricanes include Father Benito Viñes's observational studies in 19th-century Cuba and the U.S. military's "Hurricane Hunter" flights, which began in WWII and employed new radar technology to capture real-time data from inside storms; the information was eventually used to create computer models to predict hurricane behavior. Dolin also explains hurricane naming conventions and credits Dan Rather's 1961 Hurricane Carla broadcasts, which showed radar images of the storm, with changing how they're reported. Packed with intriguing miscellanea, this accessible chronicle serves as a worthy introduction to the subject. Readers will be awed by the power of these storms and the wherewithal of people to recover from them. Agent: Russell Galen, The Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (June) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"The best-selling author of Leviathan returns with the first major historical account of America's hurricanes, and reveals how they've shaped our nation. From the moment European colonists laid violent claim to this land, hurricanes have had a profound and visceral impact on American history-yet, no one has attempted to write the definitive account of America's entanglement with these meteorological behemoths. Now, best-selling historian Eric Jay Dolin presents the five-hundred-year story of American hurricanes, from the nameless storms that threatened Columbus' New World voyages, to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the escalation of hurricane season as a result of global warming. Populating his narrative with unlikely heroessuch as Benito Vines, the nineteenth-century Jesuit priest whose revelatory methods for predicting hurricanes saved countless lives, and journalist Dan Rather, whose coverage of a 1961 hurricane would change broadcasting history, Dolin uncovers the oftensurprising ways we respond to natural crises. A necessary work of environmental and cultural history, A Furious Sky will change the way we understand the storms on the horizon of America's future"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A best-selling author tells the history of America itself through its 500-year battle with the fury of hurricanes. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Washington PostNew York Times Book ReviewA Furious Sky

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Hurricanes menace North America from June through November every year, each as powerful as 10,000 nuclear bombs. These megastorms will likely become more intense as the planet continues to warm, yet we too often treat them as local disasters and TV spectacles, unaware of how far-ranging their impact can be. As best-selling historian Eric Jay Dolin contends, we must look to our nation’s past if we hope to comprehend the consequences of the hurricanes of the future.A Furious SkyDolin draws on a vast array of sources as he melds American history, as it is usually told, with the history of hurricanes, showing how these tempests frequently helped determine the nation’s course. Hurricanes, it turns out, prevented Spain from expanding its holdings in North America beyond Florida in the late 1500s, and they also played a key role in shifting the tide of the American Revolution against the British in the final stages of the conflict. As he moves through the centuries, following the rise of the United States despite the chaos caused by hurricanes, Dolin traces the corresponding development of hurricane science, from important discoveries made by Benjamin Franklin to the breakthroughs spurred by the necessities of the World War II and the Cold War.A Furious Sky