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Blowin' in the Wind, Issue #030 Meteorology history - a meteorology time line - May 2, 2006
May 01, 2006
Hello ,

Meteorology time line

Have you ever wondered how the science of meteorology evolved? This meteorology time line will give you the nuts and bolts in a nutshell.

The first guy normally credited with writing about weather and forming meteorology as we know it was Aristotle. People had depended on folklore and well-known patterns, a hit-and-miss approach, to make coarse predictions, but Aristotle's Meteorologica was the permanent document that started it all, more than 300 years BC.

Through the centuries that followed, developments occurred such as the isolating of climatic zones and other global climate features. Edmund Halley studied large scale winds and corelated elevation with pressure in 1686 for instance.

Two guys, named Fahrenheit and Celsius, created their eponymous temperature scales in the early 1700's. Hadley invented his cells and Bernoulli came up with his famous principle around the same time. After that Daniel Rutherford and Antoine Lavoisier discovered nitrogen and oxygen, key component gases of the atmosphere. All of this research made meaningful contributions to meteorology as we know it.

the 1800's

Weather systems are large, moving faster than people and information could and spanning distances farther than our ancestors could in a day. When something faster came along, the telegraph in 1837, we could now co-ordinate weather data from different places at once. This came from Robert FitzRoy in 1860, actually. Soon after extensive and detailed weather maps were developed and systematized.

Also, Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis did some mechanical research in 1835 into what became known as the Coriolis effect. Early research into thermodynamics was then carried out by James Joule, William John Macquorn Rankine and Hermann von Helmholtz. In the 1890's, the US Weather Bureau was born, and started warning of hurricanes.

The 20th Century

In 1920, Milutin Milankovic proposed the famous cycles named after him. The next great thing was numerical weather prediction, a mathematical process put forth by Lewis Fry Richardson in 1922, which lent itself to our present use of computers in forecasting. The idea is to increment a set of observed conditions through time to make a forecast.

Radar came along in the 1930's and hurricanes took on alphabetic girls' names in 1953.

Weather prediction will never be exact, because of uncertainties and Edward Norton Lorenz' butterfly effect, starting in 1963. One thing that helps with this is ensemble forecasting. It takes a statistical approach and gives us various outcomes from which to choose the most likely scenario.

Later inventions such as satellite and doppler radar helped complete the picture, quite literally. Sputnik had done its thing a couple of decades earlier, but the great GEOS (satellites) started up in the mid 1970's. From this we developed much more precise "nowcasting". Detailed forecasts for the next few hours, which are very important for short-term human activity, such as the transportation industry.

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