Part I Four Centuries Of Surprises

We talk about it constantly and we arrange our lives around it. So did our parents; and so did the very first colonists. But it took Americans a long time to understand their weather—and we still have trouble getting it right.

Weather makes news headlines almost every day in some community in the United States. “The weather is always doing something,” said Mark Twain, “always getting up new designs and trying them on people to see how they will go.” On any day of the year, two or three weather systems are in action, dividing the country into distinct weather zones and producing what Twain called a “sumptuous variety” of conditions. A northeaster may be racing up along the Atlantic seaboard with gales and drenching rains, menacing ships and planes.Read more »

Part Iii What Can We Do About It?

For more than two hundred years, Americans have tried to change the weather by starting fires, setting off explosions, cutting trees, even planning to divert the Gulf Stream. The question now is not how to do it, but whether to do it at all.

RAIN MADE TO ORDER: PRELIMINARY EXPERIMENTS IN TEXAS PROVE SUCCESSFUL . The headline might be yesterday’s, but in fact it appeared in August 1891. At that time, an expedition funded by Congress was traveling through the drought-stricken Southwest trying to make rain by aerial explosions. Its early reports exuded optimism, as though the United States, its land frontier erased, had now begun the taming of the weather. Read more »