Book Review: "Dr. Mel's Connecticut Climate Book"

Dr. Mel Goldstein was a much-loved Connecticut weather reporter and meteorologist whose humorous touch and insightful forecasting endeared him to state audiences. He passed away in January 2012, a year after I read this book, his last. If he's watching us from up above in his beloved clouds, he's probably less surprised than most at the megastorms that have visited in the past few years. That's because one thing "Dr. Mel's Connecticut Climate Book" (Wesleyan Press, 2009) makes abundantly clear is that Connecticut gets a lot of wild weather, a lot more than a moniker such as “the land of steady habits” would forecast.

Though one of the country's smallest states, CT sits in a surprisingly volatile location--making it the target of hurricanes, tornadoes, nor'easters, and hail storms--as well as beautiful fall weather and gorgeous beach days. Dr. Mel's exhaustive historical weather review calls on records going back as many as 400 years. You can't read this book without acknowledging just how wild our weather has been in the past--and is likely to be in the future.

As a longtime gardener and landscape designer, I take much interest in weather—defined by day-to-day atmospheric events--and the climate, which is generally regarded in time frames of at least 30 years.

The book combines Dr. Mel’s good humor and easy style with some very deep recall. He describes the sunny days and stormy weather that are tied forever in my memory to some of the most interesting days of my life. There was, for instance, the December 1992 storm when our friends bundled into our home with their new baby to escape the water rising around their neighborhood. There was that June day in 1993 when my son decided to make his appearance in this world. And I never understood why Old Saybrook and Connecticut’s eastern shoreline areas have drier summers than the rest of the state, a fact documented by Agricultural Experiment Station weather records. Dr. Mel shows how the location of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound conspire to make this so.

Towards the end of the book, Dr. Mel offered some thoughtful words on local warming trends. Though avoiding a political stance on the matter or any sweeping conclusions, like so many other experts he couldn't help but observe the rise in average temperatures and increasing frequency of extreme weather. The overall result of Dr. Mel’s devotion to facts and wry observation is both entertaining and readable--quite an achievement for a topic that could be as dry as Connecticut in July (most years).