Weather by the numbers: the genesis of modern meteorology by Kristine C. Harper

By Kristine C. Harper

Winning access, expert Cover/Jacket class, within the 2009 New England e-book convey subsidized via Bookbuilders of Boston. and Winner, background class, 2008 ASLI's selection Award given through the Atmospheric technology Librarians foreign. for far of the 1st 1/2 the 20th century, meteorology was once extra paintings than technological know-how, depending on somebody forecaster's life of neighborhood event. In climate via the Numbers, Kristine Harper tells the tale of the transformation of meteorology from a "guessing technological know-how" right into a subtle clinical self-discipline according to physics and arithmetic. What made this attainable used to be the improvement of the digital electronic computing device; past makes an attempt at numerical climate prediction had foundered at the human lack of ability to resolve nonlinear equations fast sufficient for well timed forecasting. After global struggle II, the combo of an increased statement community built for army reasons, newly expert meteorologists, savvy approximately math and physics, and the nascent electronic machine created a brand new approach of forthcoming atmospheric conception and climate forecasting. Harper examines the efforts of meteorologists to professionalize their self-discipline throughout the interwar years and the swift enlargement of body of workers and observational resources in the course of global struggle II. She describes how, by means of the Nineteen Fifties, educational, climate Bureau, and army meteorologists had moved atmospheric modeling from examine topic to operational forecasting. tough past bills that supply sole credits for the advance of numerical climate prediction to electronic desktop inventor John von Neumann, Harper issues to the the most important contributions of Carl-Gustav Rossby (founder of MIT's meteorology application and a member of the "Scandinavian Tag crew" operating with von Neumann). this variation of a self-discipline, Harper writes, used to be crucial highbrow fulfillment of twentieth-century meteorology, and cleared the path for the expansion of computer-assisted modeling in all of the sciences.

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Utilities and businesses that used fresh water encouraged the bureau to expand river and flood services. Flood warning systems were adequate, but precipitationrelated streamflow measurements remained underfunded—a significant deficiency during the great drought of the early 1930s. 19 Although the latter task was eventually passed to the US Geological Survey, the Weather Bureau was apparently viewed as an all-purpose collector of earth science data, weather-related or not. The fastest-growing forecasting and data-collection effort during the interwar period supported aviation.

A Stagnant Atmosphere ■ 17 the weekly National Weather and Crop Bulletin presented the previous week’s meteorological data and the weather’s effect on vegetation, stock, and farm work. The bureau collected specialized data for corn, wheat, cotton, sugar, and rice states. ) It published data on fruit frost for tobacco, fruit, truck, and alfalfa seed districts. Fruit-frost warnings were important to citrus growers in California and to orchardists in Oregon and Washington—such warnings enabled them to heat their orchards by burning oil in smudge pots and thereby save their crops from a hard freeze.

Reichelderfer also visited weather offices all over Europe (including France and Germany), writing enthusiastically detailed accounts of their operations. He sent these reports (marked “Restricted”) via diplomatic pouch from the US Embassy in Paris under naval intelligence cover sheets. Upon Reichelderfer’s return, one of his new Norwegian colleagues traveled to the United States to lecture Navy aerologists.

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