Few things in life are more ubiquitous than wind. And yet, despite eons of experience, humans still can’t predict how it will behave. That’s a problem not only for scientists but for the global economy, Bill Streever argues in his new book, And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind: A Natural History of Moving Air. Better long-term weather forecasting, he writes, could help optimize everything from planting crops to booking flights; it could also add as much as $30 billion to the economy each year in increased productivity (per estimates from the World Bank) and save some $2 billion in damages from storms. To be sure, humans have long been able to reap some benefits from wind, using it to power ancient sailboats and preindustrial windmills–and now turbines, Streever writes, that provide “enough electricity for 18 million American homes and jobs for 70,000 people.” But we’ve got a ways to go if we want to truly harness what Abraham Lincoln once called “an untamed … force.”
This appears in the August 01, 2016 issue of TIME.
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