The Weather Scientists Who Can Forecast a National Security Threat

The Federal Air Resources Lab Quietly Helps Prevent Plane Crashes and Chemical Attacks

You’ve probably never heard of the Air Resources Laboratory. I hadn’t until two years ago, when I was hired to preserve a trove of oral histories recorded in the early 1990s. Those audio cassettes held a history of hidden science, full of amazing stories about nuclear explosions, air pollution, and volcanoes. I encountered scientists whose research had strengthened national security, improved emergency response, and protected human health for almost 70 years—with barely any credit or acclaim.

And with the lab now under threat of budget cuts, it’s all the more …

More In: weather

America’s Coasts Can Already Taste the Danger of Rising Sea Levels

High Tides and Record Flooding Are Just the Rehearsal for a Troubling Future

In June 2009, the coming of summer brought beautiful sunny days up and down the eastern seaboard of the U.S. But then something weird, almost creepy, happened in the mid-Atlantic …

Can Rain Hold Us Hostage?

I Barely Made It Through England's Wettest Year. Now El Niño Looms Over My California Dream.

We’ve bought sand bags at Home Depot, installed new gutters, and patched up the roof of our house in Los Angeles. We’ve asked a plumber to check our industrial-grade sump …

The Magic of Squeezing Water Out of the Sky

A Hundred Years Ago, Charles Hatfield Cashed in on America’s Weakness for Quick Fixes—Even if They Seem Too Good to Be True

In the 1956 film The Rainmaker, a slick-talking stranger played by Burt Lancaster shows up in a drought-stricken town. Clad in a black cowboy hat and red neckerchief, he woos …

When Americans Understood That Weather Was Connected to Larger Forces

Two Hundred Years After New England's First Great Hurricane, We Ask Very Different Questions About the Nature of Storms

Two hundred years ago this week, the Great September Gale struck New England. The “gale” swamped the coastlines of five states with storm surges up to 15 feet. It reduced …

The Puritans Didn’t Have ‘Mudrooms’

The Modern Obsession With a Spotless Home Ignores Early Americans’ Dirtiest Traditions

It’s late at night, and I’m staring at seed catalogues while the scripted tones of a reality real estate show—my favorite soporific—drone on in the background. An earnest young couple …