June 22, 2006


Storm Watch: Book & Air Balance Forecasting Station. Book written by Patrick Smith Kelly; illustrated by Brian Larson.  Accord Publishing.  $17.95.

     Mark Twain gets the credit for saying, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”  Actually, Twain was quoting his friend, Charles Dudley Warner.  And the amusing statement is, in any case, no longer true: everything from deliberate cloud seeding to inadvertent (or at least unthinking) release of industrial byproducts into the atmosphere does indeed do something about the weather.

     Kids ages eight and up need not take the grand and grandiose view, however.  What they can do is learn to use the same basic forecasting tools that professional meteorologists rely on when making their weather forecasts.  (And if the tools help kids forecast accurately only a little more than 50% of the time…well, that’s about as good as the pros get, too.)

     Storm Watch is a very cleverly designed, but very simple, weather station, and it includes an easy-to-understand book about the weather and the various instruments that measure it.  What you get is a rectangular plastic box, taller than it is wide, with the words “Air Balance Forecaster” at the bottom and with built-in devices to measure temperature, barometric pressure and humidity.  The book – at 56 pages, more of a booklet, really – fits neatly into a cutout on back of the box.  After you mount the box on a wall, you can keep the book in its slot for consultation anytime.

     Measuring temperature and humidity is simple and requires no setup.  The barometer, however, is a bit more complicated.  A plunger – sort of a syringe without needle – is included; you use it to get air bubbles out of the sealed U-shaped tube and to set the pressure to whatever a local weather report tells you it currently is.  After setup, the device needs no further attention – kids can simply hang it on a wall and look at what it tells them about weather.  But the barometer setup can be a bit tricky, and should really be done by an adult or older sibling.

     The Storm Watch book is done in a storybook style that will likely appeal more to younger kids than to older ones.  The information in it is solid, explaining what weather is, how and why it changes, and what the various measuring devices tell you.  The entire package is part of a series called “I Can’t Believe It’s Science” – other entries let kids measure precipitation, learn about different types of rocks, even test for acid rain.  The whole approach is hands-on and friendly, and goes a long way toward making science both comprehensible and unintimidating.  Storm Watch won’t help kids do more about the weather, but it will certainly help them learn more about what the weather is doing to them.

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