Mesoscale meteorology in midlatitudes by Paul Markowski and Yvette Richardson. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. ISBN: 978-0470742136. 430 pp.


When asked to do a book review it is always best if the book that you are asked to review is one that you really want to have the excuse to spend time reading. This is certainly the case here.

Mesoscale meteorology in midlatitudes is one of a new series of books commissioned by the Royal Meteorological Society which aims to bring together both theory and the latest research in a format suitable for both students and researchers. The book is written by two research-active associate Professors from Pennsylvania State University, and grew out of undergraduate course notes. The resulting style, and blend of both fundamental and current research on mesoscale meteorology, easily satisfies the series aims.

The presentation of the material is enticing and will capture the attention of even the most reluctant student. The book is lavishly colour-illustrated with laboratory photographs, satellite and radar imagery, figures from numerical model output, and schematics. Careful consideration has been given to adapting material from research papers to textbook format, yielding a consistency in style. My favourites include satellite imagery of a soliton and of a midlevel mesocyclone, and a photograph of a density current in a laboratory tank. The text is readable with (what I consider to be) a relatively high text-to-equation ratio. Where the equations are more dense, for example in the chapter on mesoscale gravity waves, the lecture note origins of the book show, as reasonably complete derivations are given. A nice feature of the book is the inclusion of suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter in addition to the traditional references list at the end of the book. From a textbook perspective a section with a few problems at the end of each chapter would have been welcome (I am sure that the authors must have a ready supply from teaching this material). However, on reflection, other textbooks (for example the long-standing An introduction of dynamical Meteorology by Holton (2004)) contain excellent problems on the more mathematical aspects of the material covered by Markowski and Richardson's book, such as gravity waves and atmospheric boundary-layer properties.

Regarding the material included, the authors spend a paragraph of their preface lamenting and justifying the material that they chose not to include. Despite this, the 430 pages contain all of what most of us would consider core midlatitude mesoscale meteorology. The book is divided into ten chapters grouped into four parts. As seems typical with meteorology textbooks of this type, the first part introduces some basic dynamical concepts, equations and tools, including the not-so-straightforward definition of ‘mesoscale’ and a useful chapter on the different types of instabilities (static, centrifugal, inertial, symmetric and shear). The remaining three parts cover mesoscale phenomena: lower tropospheric phenomena, deep moist convection, and orographic phenomena. An appendix covers radar meteorology. The core of much of the material is covered in other textbooks but there are some nice additional touches. For example, I was unaware that there are symbols for ten different types of front (perhaps I am displaying my ignorance here). I also liked the section on ‘the insufficiency of CIN removal for convection initiation’.

If I had to criticise the choice of material I would say that it is rather US-centric. For example, the section on mesoscale convective systems does not mention the Spanish plume which is commonly associated with UK mesoscale convective systems. I would also have liked to have seen a chapter devoted to mesoscale processes in extratropical cyclones: some of the relevant processes are described within the book (for example frontal rainbands and gravity waves) but an appreciation of the rich complexity of mesoscale structure within extratropical cyclones, such as presented by Browning (2005), is missing.

The obvious recently published competitors to this book are, at least by title alone, Mid-Latitude Atmospheric Dynamics by Martin (2006) and Mesoscale Dynamics by Lin (2007). In fact, Martin's book focuses on extratropical cyclone dynamics yielding remarkably little overlap. There is more overlap with Lin's book but both the presentation style and some subject matter are somewhat distinct. For example, Markowski and Richardson's book includes sections on lake-effect convection and urban boundary layers (not covered by Lin), and an entire chapter on ‘Hazards associated with deep moist convection’ (covered in far less depth by Lin); by contrast, Lin's book includes three chapters on numerical modelling, a topic which is not covered at all by Markowski and Richardson, and tropical aspects of mesoscale meteorology, such as hurricanes, which are of course excluded from a book called Mesoscale meteorology in the midlatitudes. The grouping by phenomena in Markowski and Richardson's book will appeal to all of us who are, at some level, weather enthusiasts, whereas the grouping by dynamical processes in Lin's book will appeal to the more mathematically minded.

So, should this book make it into your personal or institutional library? Well, if your institution has people who are passionate about weather then I strongly suggest you encourage your librarian to buy a copy. This book also works well as a student textbook. My one reservation here is unfortunately the cost, it was £55 on the publisher's website when I looked (although members of the Royal Meteorological Society currently get a 25% discount) which will put students off buying their own copy for what is likely to be a single module course. Researchers will have to make up their own minds. Personally though, this book is already becoming a favourite and I am very happy to give it shelf space.