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Meteorology

METEOROLOGY

METEOROLOGY, the study of the atmosphere and, especially, of weather.

Colonial and Early America

Early settlers in the New World found the climate harsher and the storms more violent than in the Old World. Many colonial Americans kept weather journals but, compared to European standards, few had adequate instruments. The first prolonged instrumental meteorological observations, initiated by Dr. John Lining in Charleston in 1738, were related to his medical concerns.

In 1750 Benjamin Franklin hypothesized that grounded metal rods would protect buildings from lightning damage. Two years later he conducted his famous kite experiment. Franklin's investigations demonstrated that lightning is an electrical discharge and that most flashes originate in clouds. Franklin coined much of the vocabulary of modern electricity, including such terms as positive and negative charge. He was able to simulate many types of lightning damage and demonstrated that lightning rods would protect most structures from such effects. Franklin also suggested that the aurora borealis is of electrical origin and closely associated with terrestrial magnetism, that storms are progressive wind systems, and, on a practical note, that the government should set up an office to administer aid to citizens whose crops or property had been destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes, blights, or pestilence. During several Atlantic crossings between 1746 and 1775, Franklin made observations of the warm current called the Gulf Stream and was able to chart its boundaries fairly accurately.

Thomas Jefferson and the Reverend James Madison made the first simultaneous meteorological measurements in America in 1778. Jefferson also exchanged observations regularly with his other numerous correspondents. He was a strong advocate for a national meteorological system, and encouraged the federal government to supply observers in each county of each state with accurate instruments. Although these plans did not materialize in his lifetime, within several decades voluntary observing systems were replaced by government-run meteorological services around the world.

The Nineteenth Century

Early in the nineteenth century the Army Medical Department, the General Land Office, and the academies of the State of New York established large-scale climatological observing programs. The information was used in a variety of ways: physicians studied the relationship between weather and health, farmers and settlers used the temperature and rainfall statistics, and educators brought meteorological observations into the classroom.

Between 1834 and 1859 the "American storm controversy" stimulated a meteorological crusade that transformed theory and practice. William Redfield, James Pollard Espy, and Robert Hare argued over the nature and causes of storms and the proper way to investigate them. Redfield focused on hurricanes as circular whirlwinds; Espy on the release of latent "caloric" in updrafts; and Hare on the role of electricity in storms. Espy also prepared the first long series of daily-analyzed weather charts and was the first official government meteorologist of the United States. While it came to no clear intellectual resolution, the controversy of the 1830s and 1840s stimulated the development of observational projects at the American Philosophical Society, Franklin Institute, and Smithsonian Institution. In the 1840s Matthew Fontaine Maury, superintendent of the U.S. Navy's Depot of Charts and Instruments prepared "pilot charts" of ocean winds and currents. The charts, compiled from navy logbooks and reports from ship captains, included sailing directions for mariners on all the world's oceans.

The Smithsonian meteorological project under the direction of Joseph Henry provided a uniform set of procedures and some standardized instruments to observers across the continent. Up to 600 volunteer observers filed reports monthly. In 1849 Henry began compiling weather reports collected from telegraph operators and displayed the results on a large map of the nation. In addition the Smithsonian established cooperative observing programs with the Navy Department, the states of New York and Massachusetts, the Canadian Government, the Coast Survey, the Army Engineers, the Patent Office, and the Department of Agriculture. The Smithsonian sponsored original research on storms, climatic change, and phenology (the study of recurring natural phenomena, especially in relation to climatic conditions); it also published and distributed meteorological reports, maps, and translations. James Coffin mapped the winds of the Northern Hemisphere and the winds of the globe using data collected through Smithsonian exchanges. William Ferrel used this information to develop his theory of the general circulation of the atmosphere. Elias Loomis improved weather-plotting methods and developed synoptic charts depicting winds, precipitation, isotherms, and lines of minimum pressure.

In 1870 Congress provided funds for a national weather service. Assigned to the Signal Service Corps within the War Department, the new service was called the Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce. General Albert J. Myer served as the first director of the service, which provided daily reports of current conditions and "probabilities" for the next day's weather. It employed civilian scientists Increase A. Lapham and Cleveland Abbe and more than 500 college-educated observer-sergeants. Its budget increased one hundredfold from 1869 to 1875. The Monthly Weather Review, begun in 1872, was still published in the early 2000s. Beginning in 1875, in cooperation with the weather services of other nations, the weather service issued a Bulletin of International Simultaneous Observations, which contained worldwide synoptic charts and weather observations. In 1891 the U.S. Weather Bureau moved to the Department of Agriculture.

The Twentieth Century

During World War I the bureau instituted the daily launching of upper-air sounding balloons, applied twoway radio communication to meteorological purposes, and developed marine and aviation weather services. The "disciplinary" period in meteorology began rather late compared with parallel developments in other sciences. University and graduate education, well-defined career paths, and specialized societies and journals began in the second decade of the twentieth century. The American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union were both established in 1919.

In the 1930s a number of visiting scientists from Scandinavia, including Vilhelm Bjerknes, Jacob Bjerknes, C. G. Rossby, and Sverre Petterssen brought the new Bergen School methods of air-mass and frontal analysis to the United States. In 1940, to serve the growing needs of aviation, the Weather Bureau was transferred to the Department of Commerce. By this time the use of Bergen School methods and the acquisition of upper-air data by the use of balloon-borne radio-meteorographs had become routine.

During World War II meteorologists instituted crash education programs to train weather officers. Forecasters were needed for bombing raids, naval task forces, and other special operations. Many university departments of meteorology were established at this time. Testing and use of nuclear explosives also raised new issues for meteorologists. Scientists learned that radioactive fallout spreads in an ominous plume downwind and circles the globe at high altitudes in the jet stream. Atmospheric scientists played leading roles in promoting the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned atmospheric nuclear testing. That year, the original Clean Air Act was passed. It was substantially revised in 1970 and in 1990.

Following the war, surplus radar equipment and airplanes were employed in storm studies. At the Research Laboratory of the General Electric Company, Irving Langmuir, a Nobel Prize–winning chemist, and his associates Vincent Schaefer and Bernard Vonnegut experimented with weather modification using dry ice, silver iodide, and other cloud-seeding agents. Although these techniques did not result in their originally intended goal—large-scale weather control—they did provide impetus to the new field of cloud physics. Meanwhile, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, John von Neumann began experiments using digital computers to model and predict the weather. With the support of the weather bureau and the military weather services, operational numerical weather prediction became a reality by the mid-1950s. Viewing the earth from space had also become a reality. In 1947 cloud formations were photographed from high altitude using a V2 rocket. Explorer 6 took the first photograph of the earth from space in 1959, while in the same year Explorer 7 measured the radiation budget of the earth with a pair of infrared radiometers with spin-scan stabilization designed and built by Verner Suomi. Tiros 1 (Tele-vision Infra-Red Observation Satellite), the world's first all-weather satellite, was launched into polar orbit by NASA in 1960.

Radio weather forecasts date to 1923, when E. B. Rideout began broadcasting in Boston. Televised weathercasts were first aired on the Weather Bureau Dumont Network in 1947 by James M. "Jimmie" Fidler. In 1982 the Weather Channel started round-the-clock cable operations. In 1965 the Weather Bureau became part of the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA); it was renamed the National Weather Service in 1970 as part of the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Conclusion

New interdisciplinary problems, approaches, and techniques characterize the modern subdisciplines of the atmospheric sciences. Specialties in cloud physics, atmospheric chemistry, satellite meteorology, and climate dynamics have developed along with more traditional programs in weather analysis and prediction. The U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and many new departments of atmospheric science date from the 1960s. Fundamental contributions have been made by Edward Lorenz on the chaotic behavior of the atmosphere, by F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina on potential damage to stratospheric ozone by chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) compounds, and by Charles David Keeling on background measurements of carbon dioxide, to name but a few.

Meteorology has advanced through theoretical understanding and through new technologies such as aviation, computers, and satellites, which have enhanced data collection and observation of the weather. Economic and social aspects of meteorology now include practical fore-casting, severe weather warnings, and governmental and diplomatic initiatives regarding the health and future of the planet.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bates, Charles C., and John F. Fuller. America's Weather Warriors, 1814–1985. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986.

Fleming, James Rodger. Meteorology in America, 1800–1870. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

Fleming, James Rodger, ed. Historical Essays on Meteorology, 1919–1995. Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1996.

Nebeker, Frederik. Calculating the Weather: Meteorology in the Twentieth Century. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 1995.

Whitnah, Donald R. A History of the United States Weather Bureau. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1961.

James RpdgerFleming

MalcolmRigby

See alsoWeather Satellites ; Weather Service, National .

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Meteorology

Meteorology

Meteorology, the study of the atmosphere, is a related field of geology used by forensic investigators, lawyers, and prosecutors to look for specific information to be used in court when climate conditions are of relevance in explaining an event. The term meteorology originates from the Greek, meteoros, for airborne, and logos, for discourse or study.

Meteorologists may be requested by courts or by companies to give information necessary for reconstructing ship or airplane accidents, or on wind chills affecting outdoor workers, or to present a detailed weather reconstruction for a given area on a particular day. Meteorologists are sometimes requested to explain events associated with air pollution and airborne spread of dangerous substances, or to clarify whether a given meteorological event is abnormal or expected in a certain region and period of the year.

Forensic meteorologists may also help in crime investigations. For instance, they can calculate the wind and ocean currents in a particular body of water and thus indicate the most probable area where a disabled boat or even a corpse could be washed onshore.

Mankind has been intrigued since antiquity by meteorological phenomena such as sudden climate changes, the cycle of seasons, and the origins of winds, lightning bolts, storms, and tides. However, meteorology is a relatively young science whose importance and impact on the economic activities and military strategic planning became increasingly evident in the industrial era. Agricultural communities have regulated their activities for thousands of years through the empirical observation of local climatologic cycles. But weather prediction was a very imprecise and challenging task until the end of World War II (19391945). The date for the invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces, the famous D day, had to be changed several times because of such limitations. The field was able to remarkably advance after satellites, Doppler radar, and computer technologies allowed the development of more efficient research methods for the understanding and prediction of meteorological phenomena.

Climate variations are determined by the interchange between the atmosphere and terrestrial topography, with noticeable differences in temperature, moisture, and pressure between two localities of a given area due to such features. A large body of water, or the presence or absence of forests and mountains are topographic factors responsible for climate variations, known as local effects. For instance, a mountain chain running parallel to a coastal seashore functions as a dividing barrier, with different local effects on opposite sides of the mountains. Big cities also function as topographic factors, with their industrial and automotive emissions of carbon dioxide increasing the local temperature and changing the patterns of rain and snow precipitation compared with the surrounding countryside. Differences in air temperatures over the sea and coastal lands give rise to breezes and winds that circulate between the two surfaces. Breezes usually start blowing from the sea to the land in the morning, increasing speed until mid afternoon, and then reversing direction in late afternoon and during the night. The main reason for this event is that the air over land heats faster than over the ocean. Water absorbs a great amount of solar radiation and slows down the heating process of the air, whereas land surfaces reflect most of the radiation to the atmosphere. As air temperature rises, atmospheric pressure lowers over the land, allowing the air to move from the sea to land. At night, however, land surfaces loose heat faster than water, causing the wind direction to reverse.

The presence of a maritime current of cold or warm water flowing along a coastline also will interfere with wind patterns as well as the presence of a mountain chain nearby the coastline. Mountains create their own thermal circulations, even when atmospheric pressures are weak, because of the heating variations among different altitude gradients. Air over the valleys heats faster than over the mountain slopes, creating the anabatic air currents that move toward the mountaintop. At evening, the current reverses, and the katabatic winds move down from the mountaintops to the valleys. Anabatic winds are more frequent and stronger in summer and in tropical regions, whereas katabatic winds are more frequent in wintertime and in temperate latitudes. Mountain chains along the coastal line have anabatic, or upwardly moving, winds increased by the breeze blowing from the ocean. They also act as a partial barrier against sea wind propagation toward inland, and promote the formation of cumulus clouds on mountaintops because air is gradually cooled and water vapor condenses as it ascends. Late afternoon or evening precipitation is common in tropical coastlines with these topographic features.

Winds blowing perpendicular to mountain slopes create phenomena known as convergence, by forcing the air around the slopes to move upward, being continuously deflected by the wind as they rise. When the air reaches the top, a strong current is released and sinks on the other side, except when a temperature inversion is present near the mountain summits. Temperature inversion refers to a descending air mass that is warmer than the ascending air. When the ascending air encounters the warmer, less-dense air, it loses pressure and a wavelike turbulence pattern is formed, known as lee waves or orographic waves, which are felt as a "bumpy road" when airplanes fly through them. When a large front of cool high-pressure air descends from higher altitudes and encounters a large warm low-pressure front, complex interactions take place. These may lead to the onset of tropical storms, gusty winds, thunderstorms, or tornadoes, depending on the particular conditions of the resulting super cell.

see also Accident investigations at sea; Accident reconstruction; Aircraft accident investigations; Careers in forensic science; Crime scene reconstruction; Geology; Satellites, non-governmental high resolution.

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Meteorology

Meteorology

Meteorology is a science that studies the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere. Accordingly, a person who studies the atmosphere is called a meteorologist. Meteorology consists of many areas: physical meteorology, dealing with physical aspects of the atmosphere such as rain or cloud formation, or rainbows and mirages; synoptic meteorology, the analysis and forecast of large-scale weather systems; dynamic meteorology, which is based on the laws of theoretical physics ; climatology, the study of the climate of an area ; aviation meteorology, researching weather information for aviation; atmospheric chemistry , examining the chemical composition and processes in the atmosphere; atmospheric optics, analyzing the optical phenomena of the atmosphere such as halos or rainbows; or agricultural meteorology, studying the relationship between weather and vegetation. While meteorology usually refers to the study of the earth's atmosphere, atmospheric science includes the study of the atmospheres of all the planets in the solar system .

Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384322 b.c..) is considered the father of meteorology, because he was the first one to use the word meteorology in his book Meteorologica around 340 b.c., summarizing the knowledge of that time about atmospheric phenomena. He speculatively wrote about clouds, rain, snow, wind , and climatic changes, and although many of his findings later proved to be incorrect, many of them were insightful. The title of the book refers to all the things being in the sky or falling from there, which at that time was called a meteor.

Although systematic weather data recording began about the fourteenth century, the lack of weather measuring instruments made only some visual observations possible at that time. The real scientific study of atmospheric phenomena started later with the invention of devices to measure weather data: the thermometer in about 1600 for measuring temperature , the barometer for measuring atmospheric pressure in 1643, the anemometer for measuring wind speed in 1667, and the hair hygrometer for measuring humidity in 1780. In 1802, the first cloud classification system was formulated, and in 1805, a wind scale was first introduced. These measuring instruments and new ideas made possible gathering of actual data from the atmosphere giving the basis for scientific theories for properties of the atmosphere (pressure, temperature, humidity, etc.) and its governing physical laws.

In the early 1840s, the first weather forecasting services started with the invention of the telegraph transporting meteorological information. At that time, meteorology was still in the descriptive phase, still on an empirical basis with little scientific theories and calculations involved, although weather maps could be drawn, and storm systems and surface wind patterns were being recognized.

Meteorology became more scientific only around World War One, when Norwegian physicist Vilhelm Bjerknes (18621951) introduced a modern meteorological theory stating that weather patterns in the temperate middle latitudes are the results of the interaction between warm and cold air masses. His description of atmospheric phenomena and fore-casting techniques were based on the laws of physics, exploring the science of dynamic meteorology, assuming that knowing about the atmospheric conditions now, and knowing the governing physical laws for its movements, predictions for the future are possible.

By the 1940s, upper-level measurements of pressure, temperature, wind, and humidity clarified more about the vertical properties of the atmosphere. In 1946, the process of cloud seeding was invented which made possible some weather modification experiments. In the 1950s, radar became important for detecting precipitation of a remote area. Also in the 1950s, with the invention of the computer, weather forecasting became not only quicker but also more reliable, because the computers could solve the mathematical equations of the atmospheric models much faster than manually before. In 1960, the first meteorological satellite was launched to provide 24-hour monitoring of weather events worldwide.

These satellites now give three-dimensional data to high-speed computers for faster and more precise weather predictions. These days the computers are capable of plotting the observation data, and solving huge models not only for short-time weather forecasting, but also climatic models on time scales of centuries, for climate change studies. Meteorology has come a long way since Aristotle. Even so, the computers still have their capacity limits, the models are still with many uncertainties, and the effects of the atmosphere on our complex society and environment can be serious. Many complicated issues remain at the forefront of meteorologyincluding air pollution, global warming , El Niño events, climate change, the ozone hole, acid rainmaking meteorology today a scientific area still riddled with many challenges and unanswered questions.

See also Air masses and fronts; Atmospheric circulation; Atmospheric composition and structure; Atmospheric inversion layers; Atmospheric lapse rate; Atmospheric pollution; Clouds and cloud types; El Niño and La Niña phenomena; Greenhouse gases and greenhouse effect; Isobars; Scientific data management in Earth Sciences; Weather balloon; Weather forecasting methods; Weather radar; Weather satellite; Weathering and weathering series; Wind chill; Wind shear

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meteorology

meteorology, branch of science that deals with the atmosphere of a planet, particularly that of the earth, the most important application of which is the analysis and prediction of weather. Individual studies within meteorology include aeronomy, the study of the physics of the upper atmosphere; aerology, the study of free air not adjacent to the earth's surface; applied meteorology, the application of weather data for specific practical problems; dynamic meteorology, the study of atmospheric motions (which also includes the meteorology of other planets and satellites in the solar system); and physical meteorology, which focuses on the physical properties of the atmosphere.

Development of Meteorology

Aristotle's Meteorologica (c.340 BC) is the oldest comprehensive treatise on meteorological subjects. Although most of the discussion is inaccurate in the light of modern understanding, Aristotle's work was respected as the authority in meteorology for some 2,000 years. In addition to further commentary on the Meteorologica, this period also saw attempts to forecast the weather according to astrological events, using techniques introduced by Ptolemy.

As speculation gave way to experimentation following the scientific revolution, advances in the physical sciences made contributions to meteorology, most notably through the invention of instruments for measuring atmospheric conditions, e.g., Leonardo da Vinci's wind vane (1500), Galileo's thermometer (c.1593), and Torricelli's mercury barometer (1643). Further developments included Halley's account of the trade winds and monsoons (1686) and Ferrel's theory of the general circulation of the atmosphere (1856). The invention of the telegraph made possible the rapid collection of nearly simultaneous weather observations for large continental and marine regions, thus providing a view of the large-scale pressure and circulation patterns that determine the weather.

Modern Meteorological Science and Technology

In 1917 the Norwegian physicist Vilhelm Bjerknes introduced his theory describing the formation of wave cyclones on the polar front and laid the foundation for modern methods of weather forecasting. In 1922, L. F. Richardson perceived the basis for the mathematical prediction of the atmospheric circulation, and in 1938 C. G. Rossby made additional mathematical contributions. Application of this treatment by Richardson and Rossby awaited the introduction of high-speed electronic computers, which were first used for weather forecasting in the late 1940s by J. G. Charney and John Von Neumann. By 1955 computer forecasts were being made operationally and computer forecasting models have been improved steadily since then.

Since 1959 meteorological satellites have provided an overview of the atmosphere's cloud patterns, serving among other things as an early warning and detection system for hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones. Infrared sensors mounted on meteorological satellites now provide observations of the vertical temperature structure of the atmosphere, and research efforts continue the development of computer forecasting models capable of utilizing these and other satellite data to improve current weather-predicting skills. Meteorological studies have been aided by the use of large computers for atmospheric modeling. Information gathered by weather balloons and earth-orbiting satellites have been used in computer models to predict long-term and short-term meteorological events such as changes in ozone levels and daily movements of storms, respectively.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has the major governmental responsibility in the United States for monitoring and forecasting the weather and conducting meteorological research. The Air Force Weather Agency and the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center have similar responsibilities within the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, respectively; space applications to meteorology are researched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as by the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, which is under the auspices of NOAA. In addition to a host of universities conducting meteorological research, there is the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is operated by an affiliation of universities and sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The World Weather Watch, organized by the World Meteorological Organization, collects and disseminates information on a global basis. A number of private companies also engage in operational and research meteorological activities.

Bibliography

See C. D. Ahrens, Meteorology Today (1988); J. M. Moran, Meteorology (1991).

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meteorology

me·te·or·ol·o·gy / ˌmētēəˈräləjē/ • n. the branch of science concerned with the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere, esp. as a means of forecasting the weather. ∎  the climate and weather of a region. DERIVATIVES: me·te·or·o·log·i·cal / -rəˈläjikəl/ adj. me·te·or·o·log·i·cal·ly / -rəˈläjik(ə)lē/ adv. me·te·or·ol·o·gist / -rəˈläjist/ n.

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meteorology

meteorology Study of weather conditions, a branch of climatology. Meteorologists study and analyse data from a network of weather ships, aircraft and satellites in order to compile maps showing the state of the high- and low-pressure regions in the Earth's atmosphere. They also anticipate changes in the distribution of the regions and forecast the future weather.

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meteorology

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