Eye of the storm

Book review: Forecasting is a vital bastion of international co-operation

IN 1943 A German U-boat surreptitiously landed on the coast of Labrador, Canada’s frigid north-eastern peninsula. Under cover of fog, the crew quickly deposited ten large canisters, each labelled “Canadian Meteor Service”, on a nearby hill. Inside were nickel-cadmium batteries and ten-metre antennae—components of a clandestine weather station.

The landing by U-537 was the only known Nazi military operation on North American soil. It was an urgent, if risky, mission. Germany had been cut off from Allied-controlled weather-observation net- works, leaving its U-boats vulnerable to eastern-moving storms. The German weather service scrambled to develop new kit that could automatically transmit vital weather reports back to Berlin.

As Andrew Blum explains in “The Weather Machine”, his vivid account of the history and evolution of the modern daily forecast, conflict has always spurred innovation in…