Volume 57(1) — January 2008

Fifty years ago ...

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  Two members of the staff of the International Geophysical Year Meteorological Data Centre in the process of checking and registering some of the IGY forms which were arriving at the rate of several hundreds per day.
   

Contents
A fuller account of the January Bulletin 50 years ago is available in the February 2008 edition of MeteoWorld on the Web.

The contents of the January 1958 Bulletin covered the International Geophysical Year Meteorological Data Centre at work, meteorology and crop protection and the presidential address at the second session of the Commission for Aerology entitled “The conquest of the third dimension”. The ninth session of the Executive Committee, the second session of the Commission for Bibliography and Publications and a seminar on hydrological forecasting and the water balance were also reported on.

The IGY Meteorological Data Centre at work

… the IGY Meteorological Data Centre (MDC) … was set up in the Secretariat of WMO in Geneva towards the end of 1956. The object of the present article is to describe the work of the MDC, which is in fact unique in the history of meteorology ...

... the MDC is a service set up by WMO for the benefit of research workers. Its success depends not only on the readiness of meteorological services to send their data to the Centre—and this is already assured—but also on there being a sufficient demand for the Centre’s publications. The IGY provides a unique opportunity for meteorological services, universities and research institutes to obtain a truly worldwide set of checked meteorological data in a standard form for a period of 18 months and it must be the hope of all concerned that this opportunity will contribute to solving many of the outstanding problems in meteorology ...

The conquest of the third dimension—Part I

Presidential address at the second session of the Commission for Aerology (Paris, June-July 1957)

Present-day science has so thoroughly altered the world, technology has achieved such remarkable advances during these past few years, discoveries have followed on another at such a rapid rate, that it is sometimes wise to step aside from the disorderly road of progress and glance backward in order to measure the distance covered, consider recent developments and put our ideas in order. In this manner, we perceive, among other things, that the fundamental problems that arise are nearly always the same and that those that we imagined were new are most frequently old problems for which the ever-increasing possibilities of modern technique afford unexpected solutions ...

In these times, it is difficult for us to imagine the sensation caused in the scientific world by the invention of the barometer during the middle of the 17th century. By his famous experiment in 1643, Torricelli (1608-1647) actually demonstrated that the air possessed weight, whereas up till then it had always been thought that the atmosphere was a medium without substance ...

On 1 December 1783, Charles (1746-1822), the inventor of the hydrogen balloon, made an ascent from the Jardin des Tuileries, taking with him a barometer and a mercury thermometer. This first free balloon ascent was the starting point for the scientific exploring of the free atmosphere. The science of aerology was born ...

In 1852, John Welsh carried out four carefully prepared ascents. He was the first to employ a thermometer artificially ventilated by hand bellows. Unfortunately, Welsh’s successors did not realize the imperative need to aspirate thermometers if the indicated temperature were to be the true air temperature. This lack of appreciation was fatal to the progress of aerology and it was only after a lapse of 45 years, i.e. at the end of the 19th century, that it became possible … to form an accurate idea of the vertical distribution of temperature in the atmosphere ...

Shortly after 1880, meteorologists realized the need for completing ground observations by those taken in the free atmosphere. The increasing interest shown in flying, which began at about the same time, was bound to favour the development of sounding techniques. The International Meteorological Committee, meeting at Uppsala in 1894, recognized the importance of manned and free balloons for studying the physics of the atmosphere ...

The first simultaneous international ascents of free and manned balloons organized by our commission were those of 14 November 1896 at Paris, Strasbourg, Munch, Berlin, Warsaw and St Petersburg. Thus, 14 November 1896 became the first International Aerological Day. Up to the Second World War, our commission perseveringly and methodically continued to organize simultaneous international sounding campaigns. In this connection, we would recall the 1932-1933 Polar Year campaigns. The last one was that of the International Day of April 1939.

At its inception, 60 years ago, the aerological network thus included only six stations, stretching from Paris to St Petersburg. A mere glance at the aerological charts that are now analysed daily by all meteorological services will show the progress that has been made since 1896.

Meteorology and crop protection

The development of meteorology and of crop protection as organized sciences began at about the same time 100 years ago. The initial stimulus in the case of meteorology was disasters at sea and the need for a warning service of storms dangerous to shipping. Disaster on land ... played a similar role in giving birth to modern plant protection ...

Almost all the initial work on this subject was carried out by crop protection specialists because the meteorologists were at that time fully occupied with rapid developments in their own science with the demands of two successive world wars and with the claims made on them by the phenomenal growth of civil aviation. Only in the last few years have the meteorologists at last been able to lift their noses from the aeronautical grindstone and turn some of their attention again to wider horizons. To this new field of agricultural meteorology—or more correctly, to this old field revisited—they bring the progress in knowledge, equipment and organization which resulted from the stimulus of the aviation challenge ...

Much new light has been thrown on the life cycle of many plant pathogens and pests and on their reactions to environmental conditions. The organization of plant protection has made enormous strides. The realization that for diseases and noxious insects, just as for the weather, no borders exist and that there is a consequent need for combined international work, spread at first rather more slowly in the case of crop protection than of meteorology but has progressed rapidly in recent years. ...

The challenge to meteorology of modern agriculture can no longer adequately be met by a part-time subsection of climatology but requires the active participation of the synoptician, upper-air analyst, long-term forecaster and research meteorologist. If even a proportion of the meteorological efforts which have so successfully been applied to solving the problems of aviation were now devoted to those of agriculture, which are no less important, the promise of agricultural meteorology could quickly ripen into triumphant achievement ...

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