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Fifty years ago ...

From WMO Bulletin 5 (4), October 1956


Fifty years ago, the main items in the October Bulletin included a survey of current control practices concerning basic weather data, a report of the 22nd session of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, plans for the meteorological programme of the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958 and reviews of activities of the regional associations, the Technical Assistance Programme and technical commissions. There were also reports of a meeting on radar and meteorology (Essen, Germany, June 1956) and the World Power Conference (Vienna, June 1956), on the creation of a new international society for the study of bioclimatology and biometeorology, the world comparison of radiosondes (Payerne, Switzerland, June 1956) and of the Symposium on Atmospheric Ozone (Ravensburg, Germany, June 1956). Finally, there were articles on water resource development, the question of WMO extending its mandate to include hydrology, and on sferics in Sudan. Preparations for the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958 were included in write-ups of almost all WMO activities. 

An abridged selection of some of these articles is given below. Others appeared in the October 2006 edition of MeteoWorld. 

The picture on the cover 

In accordance with the protocol to the agreement between the Swiss Confederation and WMO, a series of six postage stamps were to be issued in honour of the Organization on 22 October 1956. The stamps of value 5c, 10c and 40c were designed by Donald Brun (Basle) and those of CHF 2 by Eric Poncy (Geneva). They would be made available for use on official WMO correspondence and for private correspondence placed in a special letterbox. The stamps would be cancelled for a short period after issue by a special postmark mentioning WMO and subsequently by the normal postmark of the United Nations, Geneva. For philatelic purposes the stamps are on sale, either mint or postmarked, from the Service philatélique de la Direction des PTT, Bollwerk 8, Berne, Switzerland. 

As pointed out some time ago by F.E. Dixon (Weather, Vol. II, No. 2, p. 34), a specialized collection of stamps with some meteorological connection offered a wide field for the philatelist. Apart from the new WMO issue, there would be considerable possibilities of enlarging such collections in the near future when special stamps are issued by various countries for the International Geophysical Year.

The cover also carried a reproduction of the WMO emblem. The Executive Committee recently decided that the official WMO seal should be based on this emblem and that it should be used as a distinctive sign on WMO publications and documents.   

Water resource development 

WMO had been encouraged by the United Nations and some of its specialized agencies to assume certain responsibilities in the field of hydrology, especially with regard to the collection of data. The UN Secretary-General had been requested to carry out certain specific steps: 

  To make appropriate arrangements for ensuring the collection, analysis and dissemination of information on current development of water projects, research programmes and related activities; 

  To initiate, in cooperation with the competent specialized agencies and with the governments concerned, a preliminary inquiry on existing Hydrological Services, plans for their extension and conditions for the execution of these plans; 

  To constitute a panel of world renowned experts for reviewing the administrative, economic and social implications of integrated river basin development and for advising on the proper action, including the convening of an international conference to be taken in order to ensure a worldwide exchange of experience and data in relate domains.

At an inter-agency meeting in Geneva in July 1956, it was recommended that WMO should draft a questionnaire in consultation with the International Association for Scientific Hydrology, which would take into account the information received as a result of an earlier inquiry by WMO on the relations between National Hydrological and Meteorological Services. 

Another subject discussed at the meeting was the possibility of preparing a comprehensive international terminology covering the various sciences related to water resource development. It was agreed that the most urgent matter was to ensure coordination between the different bodies at present engaged in preparing terminologies. 

The inter-agency meeting was followed by the first session of the WMO panel on water resource development. One proposal was that WMO should ultimately assume responsibilities in the field of hydrology similar to its present responsibilities in the field of meteorology. The panel realized that this would necessitate some changes in the WMO Convention and recommended that, in the meantime, attention should be concentrated on those aspects of hydrology most closely related to meteorology. 

The long-term programme visualized included the preparation of technical regulations and guides on international practices in hydrology, the development of international standards for hydrological observations and networks, for the routine exchange of hydrological data and forecasts and for the forms of hydrological yearbooks the preparation of technical notes on various aspects of hydrology and the organization of international symposia and seminars. 

For WMO to execute these new responsibilities successfully, it would be necessary to have one or more specialists in the Secretariat able to devote their full time to carrying out the programme of hydrology. It was recommended that the Secretary-General should endeavour to arrange for at least two highly qualified personnel to be assigned to the Secretariat from countries which have large staffs dealing with hydrometeorological problems.  

World Power Conference 

The fifth World Power Conference took place in Vienna, Austria in June 1956. The subject was World energy resources in the light of recent technical and economic developments

Under the heading Utilization of primary sources of energy (thermal, hydroelectric, atomic and others), several questions of interest to meteorology were discussed, such as the current control of radioactivity in the air near atomic piles, the meteorological aspects concerned in planning atomic power plants and the analysis and control of air pollution produced by industrial and power plants.  Very interesting in this respect was the report by a British delegate on a method of obtaining continuous records of the SO2 content of the air by measuring electrical conductivity. Several reports dealt with the utilization of solar energy. … In some of the general reports, the utilization of wind power was mentioned and in this connection the representative of WMO referred to the activities of WMO and its efforts in basic research towards natural sources of energy. The possibility of utilizing tides and natural streams from the earth for the production of energy was discussed in several reports. 

Bioclimatology and biometeorology: creation of a new international society 

On 1 January 1956 an international society for the study of bioclimatology was established on the initiative of S.W. Tromp (Netherlands). 

The purpose of the society, as laid down in its statutes, is “to unite into one international society all bioclimatologists in the fields of medical, general botanical, agricultural, forest, general zoological, veterinarian, entomological and cosmic bioclimatology and other future branches of bioclimatology, in order to facilitate the future development of bioclimatology”. 

The society would, among other aims, endeavour to organize international symposia and congresses in the field of bioclimatology, to create an international clearing house for bioclimatological publications, to create an International Journal of Bioclimatology and to assist research work in the field. The society would also foster the development of national groups for the study of bioclimatology and their international cooperation and would establish close relationships with other interested international organizations. 

Many activities were taking place outside the Meteorological Services of the world. In some cases it was reported that the climatological and agricultural branches of such services were becoming increasingly interested in thee problems of bioclimatology and biometeorology, which the meeting defined as comprising the study of the direct and indirect interrelations of the geophysical and geochemical environment and living organisms, plant, animal and man. 

… after eight years of research, it is clear that ionized atmospheres have demonstrable effects on human beings as well as animals. Investigation is proceeding on all levels for the purpose of clarifying results already observed and establishing dosage and other techniques which will make artificial ionization a valuable resource for human well-being.  

Radar and Meteorology 

This meeting was held in Essen, Germany, in June 1956.

The use of radar for meteorological purposes was the central point of discussions.

The technical lectures were arranged in three different groups of subject, the first of which included general surveys on radar methods which are of special importance for upper wind measurements and measuring methods applied to atmospherics and to conductivity and atmospheric potential. During the discussion of cathode-ray screen pictures obtained by storm-detecting radar sets, special attention was given to the importance of these methods for the analysis of the actual weather situation and its further development. 

The second group of lectures dealt with influences of weather situations on radar methods. The propagation mechanism of centimetre, decimetre and metre waves and the variations of atmospheric field intensity were mainly discussed. 

The third group covered cooperation in meteorology and radar for navigation and air traffic control purposes, as well as for the protection of the population against catastrophes. Giving practical examples, one lecture dealt with the use of harbour radar for providing meteorological advice to shipping when loading and unloading cargo sensitive to meteorological conditions. A report was also made on meteorological influences on the range of radar at sea. 

It was reported that one radar could detect echoes of light rain or snow from distances of more than 250 km if no interning echoes interfered It had also provide to be of excellent assistance to the hurricane warning system. Attempts to obtain echoes of the ionization effect of radioactive clouds on the cathode-ray screen had been made but so far without success. A lecture on the navigation of aircraft in jet streams dealt with the need for accelerating measurements in the upper atmosphere, where radar could also be used. 

Sferics in the Sudan 

The accurate location of thunderstorms by a sferics system was of special value in undeveloped regions where normal observing stations were widely distributed. Unfortunately, the very reasons which make sferics observations so desirable were also the cause of many problems which would be insignificant in a more advanced country. The experience of the Sudan in establishing a sferics network illustrated many of those difficulties and also showed how they could be surmounted in spite of limited resources of equipment and staff and an almost complete lack of communications facilities. 

Early attempts to use the public trunk service as a telephone link between the stations soon failed because of delays and interruptions and it was decided that radio would be the only practical method of communication. The absence of radio-telephony equipment and two-way facilities made it necessary to evolve a simple system of wireless telegraphy (morse code) which could be used by sferics operators who were not trained telegraphists. 

Synchronization was achieved by modifying the sferics set at the control station (Khartoum) so that the automatic flash selector actuated the keying circuit of the transmitter, selection of a flash causing a pip to be tranmsitted. In the coding system, only three letters of the morse alphabet were used, the sequence or arrangement of these letters denoting the information being sent. At the beginning of each observation period, a tuning signal was sent, followed by the start signal. The auto-selector was then switched in. After every ninth flash the letter F was sent as many times as the tens figure of the subsequent flash so that every flash observed could be identified by number. 

Bearings from the outstations were either telephoned to Khartoum or put into a simple code and sent over the normal telegraph channels. On most occasions the results were available within half an hour. Observations were made every hour during daylight although the SFLOC messages for broadcast are based on the results of three consecutive hourly observations. 

It may have been thought that the flat, open plains of the Sudan were ideal for radio direction-finding. In practice, it was found that the choice of stations was restricted to sites where power and telephone facilities were already available. The absence of special staff to operate the sferics equipment further limited the choice to existing weather stations. Consequently many difficulties arose from buried cables, obstructions and other sources which caused large errors in the bearings obtained. …

No special staff are employed by the Sudan Meteorological Service. The stations are manned by the radiosonde staff at Khartoum and by the meteorological observers at the other stations. The electronics officer at Khartoum is responsible for the maintenance of the network. 

… Now that most of the initial difficulties had been overcome, the network was beginning to prove its value and the Sudan forecasters are already finding the sferics fixes one of their m most useful aids. Confidence in them has increased sufficiently for the fixes to be used as an indication of significant weather even when there are not synoptic reports to confirm the existence of thunderstorms. The assessed accuracy is not, however, uniform and some further improvement is desirable. … 

For the benefit of other countries contemplating the establishment of a sferics network, Sudan made a number of recommendations. The use of four stations instead of three was recommended to obtain greater accuracy of fixes. It also permitted a wider choice of sites since the arrangement of the stations was then less critical. It was advisable, if possible, to house complete sferics sets in mobile caravans or trailers with their own power supply and radio receiving gear. They could then be assembled at base by skilled technicians and trials could be made at various sites without the need for permanent buildings. The system of W/T broadcast synchronization had proved effective over a long period in the Sudan and should work equally well elsewhere. Staff requirements were small; an operator could be trained to a high standard in about three weeks and the services of a technician with a reasonable knowledge of standard radio technique would suffice for maintenance of the network. 

Symposium on Atmospheric Ozone
(Ravensburg, Germany, June 1956) 

The symposium was held at the invitation of the International Ozone Commission. It was divided into four main sessions. 

The first session was devoted to the standard methods of determining the vertical distribution of ozone. Besides the Umkehr method, using the Dobson ozone instrument, two other methods seemed to have special merit, namely the ozone radiosonde and a new chemical method being developed by A.W. Brewer. 

The ozone radiosonde makes use of filters in the ultra-violet spectrum and a selenium photo-cell. The photo-electric currents are amplified by a 3-stage amplifier and their intensities are transmitted to a receiving station by a Morse cylinder. This method seems to be the most practical one for use at stations where no specialists are available. The weight of the sonde is 4 kg and with a 2 kg balloon may reach an altitude of approximately 30 km. This ozone radiosonde will be used in Germany during the IGY. The meeting showed particular interest in the new technique of measuring the vertical distribution of ozone by chemical methods which is being developed by A. Brewer but is still in an experimental stage. It was pointed out that neither the radiosonde method using filters nor the airborne spectrograph method is fully satisfactory because they measure the amount of ozone above the balloon and do not give accurate information on the amount of ozone at low altitudes. The new chemical methods, however, seem to be more promising because their accuracy is independent of the height of the balloon. 

… the Ozone Commission … recommended that [during the IGY] continuous recordings of surface ozone concentration using electro-chemical methods should be carried out at as many plain and mountain stations as possible. 

Similarly, the Ozone Commission found it premature to recommend one particular method to be used to determine the vertical distribution of zone during the IGY …  the measurement of the vertical distribution of ozone at as many stations as possible would contribute substantially to a better understanding of the dynamics and physics of the atmosphere and particularly of the upper troposphere and stratosphere. 

… The meeting was informed hat two handbooks of particular value for the forthcoming IGY had been written by Prof. Dobson and Sir Charles Normand. The first of these was intended for use by technical assistants operating the ozone instruments and the second for the physicists supervising the observations. 

When Prof. Dobson started his international pioneer work in this field, only six instruments were in use. Now there were 50 Dobson ozone instruments in various parts of the world and a procedure had been instituted whereby a traveling physicist (inspector) undertakes the regular checking of as many as possible of these instruments. 

The last session, under the chairmanship of Prof. Dobson, dealt with new results and other matters. Some investigations had been carried out to see whether the mountain wave had any influence on atmospheric ozone but no such relationship had yet been demonstrated. The relationship between ozone variations and meteorological conditions was discussed in some detail but no significant progress could be made without a better network of observing stations. Such an improved network of ozone stations would be in operation during the IGY and was expected to give important material for the further study of these problems. 

The Ozone Commission decided to set up special panels of experts to deal with:

  Umkehr measurements

  Electro-chemical methods

  Infra-red methods of determining the vertical distribution of ozone in the


News and notes 

Ratification of the agreement with Switzerland 

The agreement concluded on 10 march 1955 between WMO and the Swiss Federal Council governing the legal status of the Organization in Switzerland, which was approved by the Second World Meteorological Congress (Resolution 3 (Cg-II)), was ratified on 10 June 1965by the Swiss Federal Council 

Membership of WMO 

The Afghan Government deposited an instrument of accession to WMO on 11 September 1956 and Afghanistan therefore became the 95th Member of WMO on 11 October 1956. 

As the Sudan has become an independent and sovereign State, it recently applied for membership of WMO in the category of Member State, in accordance with Article 3 (c) of the Convention. Sudan had been a Member of WMO from 13 Aril 1955 by virtue of Article 3 (d) of the Convention, as a territory not responsible for its international relations. The application by the Sudan had been approved by two-thirds of the WMO Member States and it was now in a position to submit an instrument of accession to the WMO Convention which will enable it to accede to the category of WMO Member State. 

Presentation of IMO Prize to Dr Hesselberg in Oslo 

André Viaut, President of WMO, went to Oslo on 21 September 1956 to present to Dr Th. Hesselberg the first International Meteorological Organization Prize, consisting of a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of US$ 1 200. 

The prize was awarded to Dr Hesselberg of the Executive Committee of WMO “in recognition of his unique record of service to the International Meteorological Organization and to the World Meteorological Organization and in recognition of his valuable contributions to the science of meteorology”. 

New Directors in Latin America 

In Argentina, Rolando Victor García was appointed Director of the National Meteorological Service in succession to Carlos Nuñez Monasterio. 

In Brazil, João Luiz Vieira Maldonado was appointed Director of the Meteorological Service subsequent to the death of F.S.R. de Souza. 

In Uruguay, Hispano V. Peréz Fontana was appointed Director of the Meteorological Service. He succeeded Yolando D. Mognoni. 


Gustav Swoboda, former Secretary-General of WMO, died suddenly on 4 September 1956 in Geneva after an operation. 

Dr Swoboda was born in Prague on 7 September 1893 and for 18 years held the post of Chief of the forecasting services of the State Meteorological Institute of Czechoslovakia. From 1938 to 1951 he directed the Secretariat of the International Meteorological Organization and in 1951 was appointed Secretary-General of WMO. After his retirement in 1955, Dr Swoboda was appointed professor of meteorology in the Technical University of Istanbul (Turkey) 


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