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Instant Weather Forecasting

By Alan Watts
Words - Jim Gaunt

The title is an instant attention grabber. For those of us who kite in frontal conditions, this book could be a vital part of your nightly reading. Alan Watts wrote the first edition of Instant Weather Forecasting in 1968 shortly after completing his first two related books; Wind and Sailing Boats and Weather Forecasting Ashore and Afloat. His vast experience that provided the content of all these titles came as a result of serving in the Second World War in the coastal forces and on minesweepers in the Far East and Southern Island. He later joined the Met Office as a forecaster. At one time, he was also an advisor to the British Olympic Team.
Now after all that you'd expect this book to be an exhaustively long winded foray into the science and physics (Alan also taught physics, maths and electronics at a college in Colchester) behind the patterns that make up our weather systems. But it seems his training in the coastal forces must have had an equal influence on his writing style as the information in this book is delivered in very clear and concise manner where relevant information is key, revolving around full page photos of each cloud formation or weather system that is being referred to.
Over the forty years this book has been in circulation there must be thousands of dog eared copies sat next to the helm of many a yacht. Alan manages to tackle the difficult topic of meteorology and make it easy to relate to. There are 24 colour cloud pictures used to guide you towards being able to predict the weather in the hours ahead via chapters that include 'Skies which mean...': 'deterioration'; 'bad weather'; 'sudden change'; 'no immediate change'; 'sudden local change'; 'temporary deterioration'; 'no immediate change'; 'improvement'; and 'general change'. The pictures may not be the best sky shots you've ever seen, but they are included for their practical value rather than for this book to be used as a coffee table accessory. Although the pictures are practically relevant, when reading the book and looking at them I wasn't immediately sure I'd be able to tell one system from the other, but then again I'm no sky gazer and that's also why you could fit this book in your pocket, or at least in the glove locker of your car. Each double page includes a full page shot of a sky system, half a page of text and an easy to read table explaining everything from the signs to look out for, how long before a change occurs and importantly for us, what the change in the wind will be. There's a lot more in the table, including temperature and pressure changes, but you get the idea. It's like painting by numbers...and is just right for those of us who want the information quickly.
A guide on how to use the book at the beginning explains that it can't be used everywhere in the world as it's directed at countries in the temperate latitudes where depressions and anticyclones chase one another around the hemisphere. As Alan himself says, 'It tends to lose its grip when we get into the tropics particularly Africa and the Caribbean.
If you're a kiteboarder that relies on immediate web cam information like me to tell you if it's windy, then you could probably do with a quick browse over this book. You'd probably be on the ball for more sessions, or at the other end of the spectrum know when to come in off the water as the wind is about to turn off! If you don't understand what an inversion, pannus or nebulosis is or whether you're getting orographically rained on then you'll not be left baffled; there are handy explanations for all the terms used in the text.
750,000 copies of this book have been sold, because everyone wants to be a weather forecaster!

Instant Weather Forecasting was featured in Issue #29.

Added: 2008-09-22

Category: Gear

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