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Fifty years ago ...

From WMO Bulletin 5 (2), April 1956


The WMO Bulletin of April 1956 carried articles on the first Caribbean Hurricane Seminar, the International Geophysical Year 1957-58, activities of the technical commissions, utilization of wind power in India, meteorology in Europe, use of micro-opaque cards in meteorology, collaboration with other international organizations, the Technical Assistance Programme, meteorological transmissions in Europe and the international scale of radiation. An abridged selection of some of these articles is given here. Others will be included in the next issue of MeteoWorld.

The picture on the cover 

The value of an efficient hurricane warning service is well illustrated by the remarkable decrease in loss of life due to hurricanes in recent years.  I.R. Tannehill has pointed out that, whereas the death-roll of a hurricane causing US$ 10 000 000 damage to property at the beginning of this century was likely to amount to several hundred lives, the loss of life nowadays in similar circumstances could on the average be counted on the figures of one hand. Further improvements in forecasting the development and movement of hurricanes depend largely on increasing the scientific understanding of the mechanics of such systems and on spreading existing knowledge.

One way in which WMO can help in such maters is by arranging seminars under the Untied Nations Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance. … The first seminar of this nature—the Caribbean Hurricane Seminar—was held in Ciudad Trujillo from 16 to 25 February 1956. This cooperative project of the Government of the Dominican Republic, the United Nations Technical Assistance Administration and the WMO was a great success, and it is hoped that it will set an example to be followed in other parts of the world and on all branches of meteorology. 

Among the lecturers was Professor H. Riehl of the University of Chicago who delivered four lectures during the seminar on various subjects relating to hurricanes. The picture on the cover was taken during his lecture on the structure of hurricanes. The writing on the blackboard will no doubt be more understandable to those who did not attend the seminar when the texts of his four lectures are published in the full report of the seminar!


Membership of WMO 

The Republic of Korea became the 94th Member of WMO on 16 March 1956.


Caribbean Hurricane Seminar

New venture in technical assistance 

The first international seminar on hurricanes held under the joint auspices of the United Nations Technical Assistance Administration (UNTAA) and WMO, was held in the University of Santo Domingo, Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic, from 16 to 25 February 1956. Fifty-six meteorologists, lecturers and participants from 18 countries attended The success of this first hurricane seminar is attested to by the many requests received from the participants that seminars of this type should be sponsored annually or semi-annually by WMO.

Programme of seminar 

The programme during the ten days of sessions was very full and included 40 lectures by 24 lecturers from 14 countries; some of the topics covered were:

The formation, structure and movement of tropical storms and in, in particular, hurricanes 

  How to improve meteorological observations and meteorological networks in the tropical latitudes 

  Radar and its use in tracking the movement of hurricanes and in determining rainfall patterns 

  Storm tides and floods associated with hurricanes 

  Numerical forecasting and its adaptability to low latitudes and to hurricane forecasting 

  Aircraft reconnaissance in regard to hurricanes 

  Laboratory work in the latest tropical analysis techniques 

  National hurricane warning systems 

  Construction methods necessary to minimize property damage and the loss of life resulting from collapse of structure in regions periodically exposed to hurricanes 

  Future research requirements to improve hurricane forecasting


Address by Secretary-General (Mr D.A. Davies) 

… [M]any countries wished to know low assistance in meteorology could be obtained and just what form requests for such assistance should take. Mr Davies appropriately stressed that assistance is given in accordance with the high ideals and principles upon which the Untied nations is based, and is offered primarily to strengthen the economies less developed nations with a view to promoting their economic and political independence and to helping them to achieve higher levels of economic and social welfare for their populations. Meteorology is an important field in this assistance. Daily water forecasts and climatological studies assist agriculture, aviation, sea transport, fishing and domestic industries to prosper and timely warnings of severe weather, such as hurricanes and floods, aid in minimizing the disasters caused by weather. 

The Caribbean Hurricane Seminar was itself a good example of regional technical assistance in meteorology, and one of the government sponsored excursions enabled everyone to see the outstanding accomplishments of the meteorological assistance given to the Servicio Meteorológico, Dominican Republic.

Other activities 


A most important aspect, and one which must not be overlooked in evaluating the good that comes from international gatherings, is the opportunity for meteorologists from the various countries to become acquainted. Probably no other social effort of man requires closer cooperation and coordination between nations than does the practice of the science of meteorology. Cooperation is much easier to achieve when the parties attempting coordination and cooperation know each other. An impersonal request takes on a personal meaning and is not, therefore, easily dismissed. The friendships made during the 1956  Hurricane Seminar will bear fruit for years to come in improved meteorological observations and better, coordinated forecasts and hurricane warnings.

Paul. H. Swope


Utilization of wind power in India 

India has considerable resources of wind energy which have not been utilized to any extent so far. With a view to developing these resources, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research set up a Wind Power Sub-Committee in December 1952 … The committee was charged with preliminary investigations of the available wind power in the country which could be put to practical use and study of various important aspects of the economic utilization of the economic utilization of wind energy. 

The Wind Power Sub-Committee started work by studying in detail the available meteorological data on surface winds, a large amount of which have been collected and analysed by the India Meteorological Department. These have proved very useful in giving general indications of wind regimes. From anemograph records, velocity-duration and power-duration curves have been prepared. On the basis of the velocity-power duration diagrams, it has now been possible to establish a correlation between the annual mean  hourly wind velocity and the availability of power for specified speed ranges for various regions. 

As the wind velocities recorded at meteorological observatories are generally lower than those prevailing the most favourable sites in the region, the Wind Power Sub-Committee is now engaged in a programme of making more detailed surveys in order that a proper assessment of the availability of power under optimum conditions at favourable sites may be made. 

The question of utilizing wind power for pumping water has been examined in some detail. As a result of preliminary surveys, the conclusion has been drawn that there are large, untapped resources of wind power which could be profitably used in rural areas for such purposes as pumping water for drinking, sanitation, irrigation of small holdings, drainage, etc. Other possible uses of windmills in rural areas are for the processing of agricultural products, such as grinding corn, threshing and oil extraction. 

Most regions in India have average wind velocities of less than 16 km/h. Studies of windmill efficiency have indicated that economic utilization of windmills will be possible in these regions only by construction of fairly large size windmills at low cost using indigenous materials. A design project has been initiated by the committee and a prototype windmill using wood and bamboo to a large extent has been developed and will be tested shortly. Several prototypes will be built and tested. 

With regard to electricity generation through wind power, the field in India is more restricted although regions in Saurashtra and Coimbatore are promising. A 6-8 kW wind-electric plant is being obtained for experimental purposes. Large scale use of such plants will be possible only after determining the most effective way of operating them with either batteries or auxiliary power systems. 


In all work relating to wind velocity surveys, the Wind Power Sub-Committee is being assisted by the India Meteorological Department; cup-counter type anemometers and cup-contact anemographs manufactured by the Instruments Division in Poona have been supplied for carrying out detailed surveys and advice has been given on various meteorological questions. 

A proposal is now under consideration by the Government of India for utilization of wind power on a large scale in accordance with a phased programme. It is contemplated to use more than 20 000 small windmills in rural areas and perhaps a few hundred medium-sized wind electric plants for electric supply, for the operation of pumping installations and for supply of electricity in out-of-the-way localities for lighthouses, plantations, etc. 

The Wind Power Sub-Committee is now organizing the setting-up of 20 wind survey stations in various regions in the country and expects to operate a few more pilot installations including the low-cost type developed by the Committee an the 6-8 kW wind electric plant. 

By P. Nilakantan

Collaboration with other international organizations 


The sixth session of the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council (IPFC) was held in Tokyo between 30 September and 14 October 1955. The purpose of the council is to promote the development and proper utilization of living aquatic resources of the Indo-Pacific area, through international cooperation. 

The interest of WMO in this council derives from the fact that weather is an important factor in fishing operations and in several other aspects of the fishing industry, such as the design of fishing craft and gear and the faunal distribution over the oceans. Accordingly, the Secretary-General requested Dr Y. Fujei (Japan) to represent WMO at the sixth session of the council and to present a paper, prepared in the Secretariat, entitled: On the role of WMO in providing weather information for fisheries. The following account is adapted from Dr Fujei’s more comprehensive report. 

Possible faunal changes due to modification of world climate 

Evidence was at hand that certain long-term changes in oceanographic conditions were associated with changes in the faunal and floral distribution over the oceans. For instance, it was reported that the distribution and abundance of the sardine in the seas of the Far East had been clearly influence, on at least four occasions, by abnormal changes in oceanographic or meteorological conditions, Similarly, it was shown that the amelioration of the subarctic climate in the last 25 or 30 years (or longer) has resulted in the northward extension of a great many organisms. Of these, the changes in distribution, density and spawning area of the cod is most striking and well-known. During the period of weather amelioration, the catch of cod on the west coast of Greenland increased by a factor of about 30 and the area of the greatest density moved some 300 miles to the north. 

In order to gain more knowledge on the bioclimatology of fisheries, the council recommended that the first Fisheries Year for the Indo-Pacific area should be held during the International Geophysical Year in order that biological, fishery and geophysical data may be collected at the same time.

… the WMO observer stressed in his opening statement the significance of weather to the fishing industry and assure the fullest cooperation of WMO in supplying weather information designed to promote safety in fishing operations. 

… Member governments should be informed of the facilities provided by WMO and of the desirability of equipping their fishing fleets for reception and transmission of meteorological data.

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