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Distributed for American Meteorological Society

Weather in the Courtroom

Memoirs from a Career in Forensic Meteorology

As director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in the late 1960s and early ’70s, William H. Haggard witnessed an explosion in the number of requests from attorneys needing weather data for their cases. But while the Center offered data certified by the Department of Commerce that could be submitted as evidence in a court of law, government meteorologists could not be released from work to interpret this data in the courtroom. In their place, pioneering forensic meteorologists stepped in to serve as expert witnesses.

For a society enthralled by courtroom drama, forensics, and natural disasters, Weather in the Courtroom is a perfect storm: an exciting inside scoop on legendary court cases where the weather may—or may not—have played a crucial role. Haggard explores both the meteorological facts and human stories of a variety of high-profile cases among the hundreds in which, after retiring from the government, he served as an expert witness. Were the disappearance of Alaskan Congressman Nick Begich’s plane on October 16, 1972; the collapse of Tampa Bay’s Skyway Bridge on May 9, 1980; and the crash of Delta Flight 191 in Dallas/Fort Worth on August 2, 1985, natural or human-caused disasters? Haggard’s recounting of these and other litigations reveals just how critical the interpretation of weather and climate data in the courtroom is to our understanding of what happened—and who, if anyone, is at fault.

224 pages | 12 halftones, 12 line drawings, 12 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Earth Sciences: Meteorology

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"Asheville's 96-year-old first-time author goes to court. . . . Haggard discusses his rich, colorful, and dynamic experiences as a forensic meteorologist. His expertise as a courtroom meteorologist draws the reader into fascinating cases of related accidents ranging from commercial aviation to ‘slips and falls.’"


"Pick of the week."

Bill Murray | WeatherBrains

“For fans of the television series Law and Order, this is the weather book for you. Start with a weather-related crime (or accident), follow it with the gathering of evidence, a jury trial—often with combative lawyers and breath-holding evidence, and then wrap it all up with a verdict. Add in the twist that the gumshoe detective collecting evidence isn’t a brash badge-wearing Sergeant Friday, but instead a conscientious details-orient meteorologist, often helicoptering into the scene months later, sniffing the wind and then tunneling through tomes of weather data. All together you get a very different take on classic courtroom drama. Here the weather is brought inside and put on the stand.”

Canadian Meteorological Oceanographic Society

Table of Contents

1 Brown v. Jonz: The Mysterious Loss of Two Congressmen
2 Nevin v. USA: The Secret Test That Killed
3 The Day the Skyway Fell: Failure to Stop and Anchor
4 Alicia and Tank 089: Revealing Oil Stains
5 Delta 191: “Lightning Out of That One”
6 Lake Coamo Flood: An Act of God?
7 White Mountain Apache Tribe v. USA: Mismanagement
8 Webb, Riding, and Charlesworth v. USA: Whiteout at Roswell
9 New England Storm of July 10, 1989: Mohawk and Black Rock
10 Downing v. Bowater: Like Driving Into a Marshmallow
11 Palatka Paper Mill: The Other Side of the Coin
12 McNair v. USA: Obstructing Clouds
13 APL China: Christmas Overboard
14 State of North Carolina v. Michael Peterson: Cool by the Pool
15 Looking Back over the Years
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