WMO Chronology of Weather Science

This Museum of Weather Research celebrates the 20th anniversary of the World Meteorological Organization's World Weather Research Programme (WWRP). WWRP was established in 1998 to foster advances in weather prediction research that mitigate the impacts of high-impact weather events on society. WWRP coordinates scientific working groups as well as national and international research projects focused on specific high priority areas.

This online museum is intended to be a living museum where everyone can continue to contribute providing facts, comments and anecdotes. We welcome your contributions, please contact wmo@wmo.int, attention: World Weather Research Programme.

1901-12-01 19:29:30

The physical basis of long-range weather forecasts by Cleveland Abbe

1902-06-06 00:00:00

Sir Gilbert Walker (1868-1958)

1904-01-01 10:06:03

The problem of weather prediction, considered from the viewpoints of mechanics and physics

Norwegian physicist Vilhelm Bjerknes published his seminal paper "Das Problem der Wettervorhersage, betrachtet von Standpunkt der Mechanik und Physik" (the problem of weather prediction from the standpoint of mechanics and physics) in Meteorologische Zeitschrift. On only seven pages Bjerknes developed the idea of a mathematical model of atmospheric dynamics solely based on the laws and physics, particularly mechanics. Although his model was not practicable in those days, and that his concept was slow to find acceptance in the field of meteorology, we know today that his idea was revolutionary nonetheless.

1905-11-01 15:58:35

Vilhelm Bjerknes - Founder of Modern Meteorology Comment by Øystein Hov

1905-12-01 01:04:59

Vilhelm Bjerknes (1862-1951)

In 1905, Vilhelm Bjerknes visited the United States, described some of the fundamental steps he had already taken in the theory of air masses, and explained his plans to apply mathematics to weather forecasting. The Carnegie Foundation were impressed and they awarded him funds to pursue this research. He was to continue to receive this grant from the Carnegie Foundation for 36 years. (WikiPedia)

1910-05-20 02:36:11

Lewis Fry Richardson (1881-1953)

One of Richardson's most celebrated achievements is his retroactive attempt to forecast the weather during a single day - 20 May 1910 (Wikipedia)

1916-10-28 04:53:32

Cleveland Abbe (1838-1916)

American Cleveland Abbe founded the scientific journal Monthly Weather Review in 1872. The Monthly Weather Review began as a government publication under the United States Army Signal Corps. In 1891, the Signal Office's meteorological responsibilities were transferred to the Weather Bureau under the United States Department of Agriculture. The Weather Bureau published the review until 1970, when the bureau became part of the newly formed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA published the review until the end of 1973. Since 1974, this well-respected scientific journal has been published by the American Meteorological Society. (Wikipedia)

1917-01-01 22:07:35

Jule Charney (1917-1981)

"Jule Charney was one of the dominant figures in atmospheric science in the three decades following World War II. Much of the change in meteorology from an art to a science is due to his scientific vision and his thorough commitment to people and programs in this field" Norman A. Phillips

1917-05-23 22:07:35

Edward Lorenz (1917-2008)

"I decided to sign up for the meteorology course, which I thought was something that I could probably do fairly well and perhaps make a contribution to"

1917-10-19 04:53:32

"Charney was an intellectual giant..." Comment by Jagadish Shukla

1920-11-29 03:51:45

Video MIT Lorenz and Charney

Jule Charney (WMO IMO prize, 1971) and Edward Lorenz (WMO IMO prize, 2000) had a fundamental role on the foundation of weather and climate prediction problem.

1921-11-01 04:53:32

History of Weather Prediction Comment by Peter Lynch

From Abbe, Bjerkness and Richardson to the first Computers

1922-08-09 14:10:29

Richardson’s Fantastic Forecast Factory

"After so much hard reasoning, may one play with a fantasy? Imagine a large hall like a theatre, except that the circles and galleries go right round through the space usually occupied by the stage. The walls of this chamber are painted to form a map of the globe. The ceiling represents the north polar regions, England is in the gallery, the tropics in the upper circle, Australia on the dress circle and the Antarctic in the pit. A myriad computers are at work upon the weather of the part of the map where each sits, but each computer attends only to one equation or part of an equation. The work of each region is coordinated by an official of higher rank. Numerous little "night signs" display the instantaneous values so that neighbouring computers can read them. Each number is thus displayed in three adjacent zones so as to maintain communication to the North and South on the map. From the floor of the pit a tall pillar rises to half the height of the hall. It carries a large pulpit on its top. In this sits the man in charge of the whole theatre; he is surrounded by several assistants and messengers. One of his duties is to maintain a uniform speed of progress in all parts of the globe. In this respect he is like the conductor of an orchestra in which the instruments are slide-rules and calculating machines. But instead of waving a baton he turns a beam of rosy light upon any region that is running ahead of the rest, and a beam of blue light upon those who are behindhand. Four senior clerks in the central pulpit are collecting the future weather as fast as it is being computed, and despatching it by pneumatic carrier to a quiet room. There it will be coded and telephoned to the radio transmitting station. Messengers carry piles of used computing forms down to a storehouse in the cellar. In a neighbouring building there is a research department, where they invent improvements. But there is much experimenting on a small scale before any change is made in the complex routine of the computing theatre. In a basement an enthusiast is observing eddies in the liquid lining of a huge spinning bowl, but so far the arithmetic proves the better way. In another building are all the usual financial, correspondence and administrative offices. Outside are playing fields, houses, mountains and lakes, for it was thought that those who compute the weather should breathe of it freely."

1923-11-01 02:14:37

Commission for Synoptic Weather Information (CSWI)


1930-01-01 02:35:30

International Meteorological Organization (IMO) (1873–1951)

The International Meteorological Organization (IMO; 1873–1951) was the first organization formed with the purpose of exchanging weather information among the countries of the world. It came into existence from the realization that weather systems move across country boundaries; and that knowledge of pressure, temperature, precipitations, etc. upstream and downstream is needed for weather forecasting. It was superseded by the World Meteorological Organization.

1932-01-01 02:36:33

First International Cloud Atlas

published by the International Commission for the Study of clouds. This Atlas describes the classification system for clouds and meteorological phenomena used by all WMO Members. The classifications also describe meteorological meteors other than clouds – hydrometeors, lithometeors, photometeors, and electrometeors.

1932-11-28 04:53:32

Weather vs. Climate Comment by Jagadish Shukla

1932-11-28 04:53:32

Richardsons Fantastic Forecast Factory Comment by Peter Lynch

Image: Weather forecast factory by Steven Conlin 1986

1945-01-01 22:07:35

Jule Charney tells his students how he met Albert Einstein Comment by Jagadish Shukla

1945-12-10 02:36:11

ENIAC Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer

ENIAC was the first electronic computer. It was invented by John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army. Its construction began in 1943 and was not completed until 1946. Although it was not completed until the end of World War II, the ENIAC was created to help with the war effort against German forces. In 1953, the Burroughs Corporation built a 100-word magnetic-core memory, which was added to the ENIAC to provide it with memory capabilities. By 1956, the end of its operation, the ENIAC occupied about 170 m² and consisted of almost 20000 vacuum tubes, 1500 relays, 10000 capacitors, and 70000 resistors. It also used 200 kilowatts of electricity, weighed over 30 tons, and cost about US$ 487000. (Wikipedia)

1950-03-23 21:27:37

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

WMO emerged as a new intergovernmental organization and a specialized agency of the United Nations with a unique mandate to co-ordinate and provide an appropriate framework for international cooperation in the field of meteorology and related fields of environmental concern such as hydrology, geophysics, geochemistry and physical oceanography.

1950-11-01 21:33:07

First numerical weather prediction on an electronic computer

in Princeton, by introducing approximations that accurately describe the largest scales of motion in the atmosphere. Charney et al., 1950.

1950-12-01 14:11:05


1950-12-01 14:11:05

Improvement in Numerical Weather Prediction - Florence Rabier

What has improved since the 1950s-60s-70s?

1951-05-17 08:49:42

Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO)

The Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO) was established by the International Meteorological Organization. CIMO ensures the accuracy of weather observation by facilitating the creation of international standards and, thus, the compatibility of measurements.

1952-01-01 00:00:00

Numerical Weather Prediction...

Uses the latest weather observations alongside a mathematical computer model of the atmosphere to produce a weather forecast.

1953-09-01 21:28:08

J. Van Mieghem, First President of the Commission for Atmospheric Sciences (CAS)

1953-09-13 14:58:58

The Commission for Atmospheric Sciences (CAS)

Supports research in atmospheric science in order to reduce and mitigate disasters related to natural hazards, protect the environment and enhance understanding and response to environmental change.

1954-05-01 08:49:42

Guide to Meteorological Instruments and Methods of Observation, 1st edition

Since then, standardization has remained a key concern of the Commission for Instruments and Methods of observation (CIMO) activities.

1955-01-01 21:33:07

The first real-time forecasts were made in Stockholm

1957-07-01 09:52:35

International Geophysical Year (IGY)

Modelled on the International Polar Years of 1882-1883 and 1932-1933 and was intended to allow scientists from around the world to take part in a series of coordinated observations of various geophysical phenomena. Although representatives of 46 countries originally agreed to participate in the IGY, by the close of the activity, 67 countries had become involved.

1957-08-19 18:38:32

Carl-Gustaf Rossby Obituary

Both they who knew and followed him during his entire career, and those who had contact with him only in later years, saw in him the faithful, helpful, and always encouraging friend and colleague. No one could withstand his infectious enthusiasm and personal charm; as a leader he could get even the least follower to realize his own worth, and he always met objections with gentle persuasion Before him hardly any individual scientist's achievement and personality would seem to have had so strong an influence on the contemporary meteorology of his age. There may well have been more learned theoreticians in this science; there have also been prominent organizers and innovative persons with the same work capacity. But C.-G. Rossby combined great gifts in all of these areas, and he had the rare ability to use them wisely even to the benefit of practical meteorology. He was also the true pioneer, who plowed new land and built his own house, but when the neighborhood began to feel crowded, moved to virgin soil. Translation of the tribute written by Tor Bergeron for the Swedish Academy soon after Rossby's death (Bergeron 1958).

1957-09-01 10:00:04

Rossby Waves and Extreme Weather

Credit: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK and Climate Media Factory. This video was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

1957-10-04 00:00:00

Jule Charney - Top down Science for practical benefits vs. doing science out of curiosity - Comment by George Philander

“Charney appreciated the need for activities that support and encourage bright young people to tackle scientific problems with new ideas and fresh approaches.”

1957-10-04 01:34:28

Sputnik 1 - The first artificial Earth satellite

was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4th October 1957. It was orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died, then silently for two more months before falling back into the atmosphere.

1959-01-01 02:35:30

First computer at Met Office

In January 1959, a Ferranti Mercury computer, known as ‘Meteor’, was installed at the Met Office in Dunstable. This was a significant milestone due to it being the first computer dedicated to research in Numerical Weather Prediction.

1960-11-07 03:56:09

1st International Symposium on Numerical Weather Prediction, Tokyo

7th to 13th November 1960 The impact of the outcome from the Symposium, given not only to the NWP community in Japan but also to the world meteorological community, was bigger than that could be imagined at the beginning. The Symposium was planned under the leadership of S. Syono and supported by those concerned with universities, Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and research community. In particular, the contribution of M. Yoshitake, then one of the executives of JMA and a good friend of Syono, should be remembered. The Symposium also implicitly celebrated the introduction of the “super” computer IBM 704 and the start of the NWP operation at JMA. The meeting was successful in that participants covered a wide range of nationalities and specialties in the modern meteorology such as synoptic and dynamic meteorology as well as NWP. Also, participation of world prominent researchers and experts provided young Japanese participants excellent opportunities to be acquainted with top meteorologists of the day and their works.

1961-09-01 21:11:15

Reginald Cockcroft Sutcliffe (UK), President of the Commission for Aerology (CAE/WMO)

Reginald Sutcliffe's career as a meteorologist - first as a civil servant and later as a university professor - spanned a period of more than four decades during which there were remarkable changes in the extent of meteorological knowledge and in the manner of its application. In the 1920s, when Sutcliffe entered the scene, there was a basic understanding of the physics and thermodynamics involved in weather systems, and the equations of motion had been formulated for an atmosphere on a rotating globe, but weather forecasting was almost entirely a matter of experience and empiricism, dominated by the then new Norwegian frontal theory. Climatology was a matter of simple statistics of basic weather elements. Meteorological research was in the hands of scattered individuals, specialists in some aspect of the science. By the 1970s, when Sutcliffe retired, the prediction of weather systems had been put on a quantitative basis with numerical computation on electronic computers of both the physics and dynamics. The study of climate had been transformed into the study of the physics and dynamics of the atmosphere on the grandest scale, and substantial scientific teams were working on these problems in both universities and meteorological services. Professor R.C. Sutcliffe played a noteworthy role in bringing all these changes about.

1962-11-01 19:29:30

George P. Cressman (USA), President of the Commission for Aerology (CAE/WMO)

Pioneer in the use of computers to predict the weather and a former director of the US National Weather Service.

1963-03-01 21:27:37

The fundamentals of chaos theory applied to numerical weather prediction

Established by Edward Lorenz

1964-11-01 03:56:09

International Year of the Quiet Sun (IQSY)

Was a worldwide programme in solar-terrestrial research during the year of solar activity.

1965-01-01 02:35:30

New Computer "Comet" at Met Office

English Electric KDF9, called ‘Comet’, which was installed at the Met Office in Bracknell in 1965 and cost £500,000. Comet used transistors, had a speed of 60,000 arithmetic operations per second, a memory of 12,000 numbers and could output charts in both zebra form on a line printer and later on a pen plotter.

1965-08-01 12:00:09

El Niño Oceanographers and Meteorologists Comment by George Philander

1967-03-01 09:52:35

The role of Science in improving Operational Services Comment by Celeste Saulo

1967-03-01 09:52:35

GARP Comment by Brian Golding

Brian Golding, Met Office Research Fellow and Co-Chairperson WMO/WWRP HIWeather project

1967-03-01 21:27:37

The Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP)

GARP was one of the most ambitious scientific undertakings in the history of meteorology, if not in the whole field of geophysical science. It aimed at revealing the details of unknown dynamics of the atmosphere. Led by WMO and collaboration of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), GARP lasted 15 years through which its field experiments scored dramatic progress in meteorology, in particular allowing major improvements in Numerical Weather Prediction.

1967-12-01 00:56:09

"That's how GARP was born" Comment by Jagadish Shukla

1968-09-01 21:28:08

John S. Sawyer CAS President (UK)

He was Chairman of the British National Committee for Geodesy and Geophysics (1961), Assistant Director (Dynamical Research) at the Meteorological Office, Director of Research at the Meteorological Office (1965–1976) and President of the Commission for Atmospheric Sciences, World Meteorological Organization (1968–1973). He retired in 1976.

1968-11-01 22:07:35

"How I first met Jule Charney at NWP symposium in Tokyo" Comment by Jagadish Shukla

1969-10-05 05:10:49


The Internet began on 29 October 1969 as Arpanet. It was used to network the mainframes of universities and research institutions. The initial goal was to use the computing power of these mainframes more efficiently, initially only in the USA and later worldwide.

WMO Chronology of Weather Science

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