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“Fifteen Shades of Climate” by Dr. John Maunder

During the past few months, the aptly named Dr. John Maunder has been writing his fifth book, the idea for which came to him when visiting family in Adelaide in January, 2020 during Australia’s much-documented heatwave.

The book, entitled “Fifteen Shades of Climate: The fall of the weather dice and the butterfly effect”, attacks the media’s lack of appreciation of the complexity of the climate system, with the noble aim of “correcting” this anomaly.

Released on Nov. 15, 2020, “Fifteen Shades of Climate” is available on Amazon [note, Electroverse receives no affiliate revenue from this article].

From the Cover of the Book

The explosive nature of the subject climate change during the last three decades, and especially the last few years, when daily and sometimes hourly the words “climate”, “climate change” or “global warming” are mentioned, is well recognised. It has brought about a significant challenge for those of us who are climate scientists to provide details of what is currently happening, why is it happening, and what is going to happen in the next month, year, and decade.

An equal challenge is for media, including the social media, to present this information in a coherent manner, so that society, and political leaders at all levels – from the UN down to the local level – make appropriate decisions. The media and the education institutes are full (probably overfull) of the “climate story”, but the information portrayed in many cases lacks a full appreciation of the complexity of the climate system. The aim of this book is to “correct” this anomaly.

The author, Dr John Maunder, was President of the Commission for Climatology of the World Meteorological Organization from 1989 to 1997, and has over the last 70 years been involved in the “weather business” in various countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the USA, Ireland, Switzerland and England, through activities in national weather services, universities and international organizations.

FOREWORD by John Zillman AO FAA FTSE  President (1995-2003) of the World Meteorological Organization

There are probably few people in the world who have originated and accumulated as much detailed knowledge of as many different shades of climate as John Maunder. He is a font of wisdom on climate matters and I believe he has served the world extremely well over the past 50 years through the way he has shared that knowledge and wisdom with the global community.

I first met Dr Maunder, when he was Chief of the Agricultural Branch of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), at the May 1975 WMO Congress in Geneva, and again through his contribution to the proceedings of the December 1975 Monash (Melbourne) Conference on climate change and variability. The WMO Congress commissioned one of the first high-level international expert assessments of climate change and Dr Maunder’s Monash Conference contribution was among the first on the international scene to preview the emerging political and economic dimensions of climate variability and change.

For the next 40 years, Dr Maunder was at the centre of the rapidly advancing international scene on climate data, research, applications and impact studies. This included academic appointments in New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Ireland. When the 1979 WMO Congress established the World Climate Programme (WCP) as an international interdisciplinary framework for understanding and managing climate variability and change, it assigned much of the responsibility for WCP implementation to the WMO Commission for Climatology of which John Maunder was a respected member and future leader.

Through the sixteen years of his Vice Presidency (1981-89) and Presidency (1989-96) of the WMO Commission for Climatology, Dr Maunder guided the international implementation of the ‘data’ and ‘applications’ components of the WCP. As a member of the WMO Executive Committee (now Council) through that period and President of WMO for Dr Maunder’s final two years as President of the Commission, I saw the benefit of his wise and balanced advice to all WMO Member countries across the full range of climate matters. And, as Director of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology at the time, I was particularly pleased when he crossed the Tasman and joined the Bureau as a resident climate expert in 1990-92.

Dr Maunder has always been ahead of the game on climate matters. Before the costs and benefits of the impacts of weather became an issue, he had written a book on ‘The Value of the Weather’. Before the rest of the world had worked out how to use weather and climate information to manage the risks and opportunities of weather and climate variability and extremes, he had captured the essence of the problem with a book on ‘The Uncertainty Business.’ And before the First Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the 1990 Second World Climate Conference had set in train the negotiation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), he had produced a climate lexicon that became, for many years, the definitive international ‘Dictionary of Global Climate Change.’

While Dr Maunder comes from a meteorological generation for whom the study of climate embraced much more than concern with greenhouse warming and before the venerable scientific field of climatology had been repackaged and narrowed to ‘climate science’, he also became deeply involved in the early study of human-induced climate change. His extensive background in traditional climatology and his participation in the 1985 Villach Conference on the climatic effects of increasing carbon dioxide made him a respected source of wise advice to WMO Member countries when concern with ‘greenhouse warming’ burst upon the world in the 1980s. No-one can keep up with it all but I know of few traditional climatologists who have kept such a careful watch on all aspects of the growing global concern with climate change over the 35 years since Villach. This book is the result and the repository of the accumulated Maunder wisdom of those years.

Dr Maunder sees himself as a ‘realist’ on human-induced climate change. He is troubled by the over-simplification of the climate story and sets out to foster a better public appreciation of the complexity of the climate system. But, while he goes to great lengths to present a wide range of perspectives, including many he disagrees with, he does not refrain from making clear his own views on greenhouse warming or on the many other contentious issues captured in the fifteen shades of climate covered in the fifteen chapters of this book. The issues covered, some quite succinctly but others in great detail, represent almost a complete climate lexicon in their own right and I would be surprised if any reader failed to find at least a few new and illuminating slants on some of the many fascinating different aspects of climate.

This is not a book for those looking for unambiguous scientific support for greenhouse action. But it is, in my view, among the best you could hope to find by way of highly readable and authoritative answers to many of the everyday puzzles of climate. And, for those who have come to the frontiers of climate science without a background in traditional climatology, it contains much distilled wisdom from a generation of progress in a field of study that was once described by the great mathematician John von Neumann, as the most difficult unsolved problem still to confront the scientific intellect of man.

This book also provides a few sobering reminders that, despite the enormous progress of the past fifty years, the von Neumann characterisation may still be close to the mark. I have not always agreed with everything I have found in Dr Maunder’s writing but I have always regarded his books as the epitome of scientific honesty and practical wisdom on climate issues. This book brings it all together. Read any or all of its chapters and you will be wiser on the many fascinating twists of the climate story.

John W Zillman AO FAA FTSE Former Director (1978-2003) of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Former President (1995-2003) of the World Meteorological Organization


Essentially, my book is a collection of specific activities and writings on the questions of climate, climate change, climate’s variability (natural or otherwise) and climate politics over the years. In this regard I am reminded of the physicist Leo Szilard (1898-1964) who once announced to his friend Hans Bethe that he was thinking of keeping a diary: ‘I don’t intend to publish, I am merely going to record the facts for the information of God.’ ‘Don’t you think God knows the facts?’ Bethe asked. ‘Yes’ said Szilard. ‘He knows the facts, but he does not know this version of the facts.’

Dr. John Maunder

Fifteen Shades of Climate: The fall of the weather dice and the butterfly effect” is available to buy on Amazon.

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