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Understanding The Sky

A Book Review By Bob Holiday

I recently acquired a book titled "Understanding The Sky" by Dennis Pagen. The primary intent of the book is to present the recreational pilot with information to help him understand local weather. The author is a glider pilot with over twenty years experience and a gift for writing and conveying ideas in a systematic and well organized fashion. Each chapter builds on the previous information with many references to diagrams and illustrations. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to this work and to encourage you to read it.

Chapter one is a discussion of the composition and mechanics of the atmosphere and the interaction of humidity, temperature, pressure, solar heating, and gravity. Chapter two is a discussion of the physical properties of the atmosphere. Items covered in this chapter include: pressure imbalances, stability, and the Coriolis effect. There are some good illustrations to help with understanding these principles which create the type of weather we hope to use for soaring. Chapter three covers the various types of clouds along with illustrations discussing weather and thermal H. Chapter four discusses general meteorology, the interpretation of weather maps and weather prediction. The author always includes information that would be useful for pilots in both hemispheres in case you get lucky and spend time soaring New Zealand. Chapter five covers wind patterns, pressure systems, high and low level jets, and types of winds such as Chinook, Santa Ana winds, etc.

Chapters six through twelve were the most interesting for me because the author begins discussions directly related to soaring. The final chapters cover turbulence, local winds, soaring conditions, instability and thermals, thermal lore, thunderstorms, etc.

I found the author's explanations and diagrams of dust devils, thermals, and light avoidance worth the price of the book. I feel that this book should be a part of any recreational pilot's book collection.


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