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WMO Bulletin Vol. VI, No. 4
October 1957

cover oct.57 bulletin


The picture on the cover

As in most other natural sciences, progress in meteorology has depended on our increasing ability to measure various physical quantities. Without accurate instrumental observations it would be quite impossible to operate a modern meteorological service or to investigate such phenomena as the tropopause and the jet stream. The use of meteorological instruments has in fact become such a commonplace that we may be inclined to forget the imperfections of some of our present instruments and to place too much reliance on their readings.

These matters were certainly not overlooked at the second session of the WMO Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation. Many decisions were taken which will lead to further studies on how to improve our instrumental techniques.

Careful maintenance is of course essential for obtaining the best performance of all types of instruments and this applies especially to meteorological instruments, which are exposed to much more severe conditions than most physical instruments.

The picture on the cover showed instrument mechanics in a workshop of the Pakistan Meteorological Service.



Contents in the October 1957 Bulletin covered the second sessions of the Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation mentioned above and of the Commission for Aerology, international coordination of meteorological activities, International Geophysical Year, Hamburg comparisons of long-wave radiometers and meteorology as a three-dimensional science, as well as activities of the technical commission and regional associations and the Technical Assistance Programme.

International Geophysical Year

The opening of the International geophysical Year on 1 July 1957 was appropriately heralded by a burst of solar activity and a severe magnetic storm which were duly announced to observing stations all over the world by the ALERT warning system. For meteorologists the IGY began a few minutes before midnight on 30 June 1957 when several hundred radiosonde balloons were launched to measure the temperature, pressure and humidity to heights of up to 30 km. For the man in the street special sound and television programmes were broadcast in many countries and popular articles appeared in the daily press. A leaflet outlining WMO’s contribution to the IGY was prepared in the WMO Secretariat and has since been widely distributed. In lighter vein, at least one group of meteorologists —those attending the sessions for Aerology and for Instruments and Methods of Observation—toasted the beginning of the IGY at midnight in a café on the Champs Elysées to the accompaniment of special IGY versions of popular songs. There can be no doubt that the IGY has got off to a good start.

IGY Meteorological Data Centre

The first IGY meteorological observations are arriving at the IGY Meteorological Data Centre in the WMO Secretariat and plans for reproducing them on microcards are well advanced. It is now anticipated that the essential IGY meteorological data will require a total of 18500 microcards and orders for complete sets of these cards are invited.

An important part of the auroral programme during the International Geophysical Year is the synoptic study on a worldwide scale of the morphology of auroral displays. In 1956 the Special Committee for the International Geophysical Year (CSAGI) requested the help of meteorological services in making the necessary auroral observations and about 40 countries have informed the WMO Secretariat that a special watch for aurorae will be maintained during the IGY at a selection of their meteorological stations.

Atmospheric chemistry

The IGY meteorological programme includes measurements of the chemical composition, acidity and conductivity of precipitation and of the carbon dioxide content of the air. …

Return of instruments launched during the IGY

Following a request from CSAGI, the WMO Secretariat asked Members to make arrangements for returning to the countries of origin any instruments launched during the IGY which suitable arrangements have been made and that the instruments will be returned free of customs duty. …

Fourth Antarctic Conference

Most of the 22 IGY meteorological stations planned by the nine countries sending expeditions to Antarctica are now in operation. The whole Antarctic IGY programme was reviewed at the fourth Antarctic Conference held in Paris from 13 to 15 June 1957 …Various decisions were taken to improve the communications between the stations in Antarctica with special attention to reception of synoptic data a the Weather Central (Little America).

The question of prolonging the IGY Antarctic programme for an additional year was also discussed. On the one hand it was argued that the cost of such an extension would be low compared with the initial costs of setting up the stations and that the scientific value of an additional year’s data would be considerable. …  it was decided to recommend that the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) should appoint a scientific committee to examine the merits of further investigations in the Antarctic and to make proposals to ICSU on the best way to achieve such a programme.

That is was possible to attain unanimous decision on the technical aspects of this major project [world weather charts] is a good illustration of what might be termed “the IGY spirit”, thanks to which countries have shown themselves willing to make considerable sacrifices in order to contribute to the success of the IGY.

The Hamburg comparisons of long-wave radiometers

The study of meteorological radiation processes has developed in steps which show clearly distinguishable characteristics. In the first decades of this century the direct solar radiation was the predominant interest. Later on the climatological and geophysical importance of the diffuse sky radiation was recognized and, though sky radiation has always a smaller actual intensity than direct solar radiation, it was realized that its climatological sum reaches practically the same amount as the vertical component of direct solar radiation. For practical purposes the total radiation of sun and sky is now generally measured on a horizontal surface.

Theorists have always pointed out the importance of the invisible long-wave radiation exchange between the ground and the atmosphere; it could be show that the day and night average of these radiation fluxes reaches the same dimensions as the total solar radiation. But for a long time it was only possible to measure the nocturnal radiation exchange in the absence of solar radiation and this only under special conditions.

Development of radiation instruments

An important development in recent years is that the value of measuring the actual balance of short-wave and long-wave radiation fluxes to and from the earth has led to the construction of different types of instruments. As a generally accepted model of a radiation balance-meter was not available, the desire to obtain a better knowledge of the radiation and heat economy of the earth and the atmosphere led the radiation specialists of many countries to develop their own instruments for this special purpose, so that by 1956 there existed almost 20 different instruments for measuring the radiation balance or the long-wave radiation exchange. The scientific details have been described to some extent but many of them were only known approximately and only inexact opinions existed as to their principle, accuracy, reliability and value.

The comparisons took place over two periods partly with the same and partly with different instruments. Sixteen different models were tested and 23 radiation specialists from 10 countries participated in these first comprehensive comparison of radiation instruments.

There followed a detailed summary of the results of the comparisons.

Problems of instrument development

The measurements of the long-wave radiation exchange and of the short-wave and long-wave radiation balance give rise to many experimental problems. The constructor of such instruments has to deal with the qualities of the absorbing blackening of the receiver surface with the window material and/or with the artificial ventilation. The observer, on the other hand, is concerned with the standardization and the installation of the instrument and with the question as to what kind of reference surface the radiation balance has to be measured above. …

The Hamburg comparisons of long-wave radiometers and radiation balance-meters represent a very satisfactory success of international cooperation in the field of meteorological radiation research; they have led to a thorough knowledge of the problems arising in such investigations and to a better understanding of the various constructions. But these first comparisons represent only a beginning and the criticism expressed during the gathering may have given rise to some improvement in the original designs. The Radiation Commission of the International Association of Meteorology does not therefore yet feel competent to publish formal recommendations on the reliability and the value of the different instruments. For anybody wishing to purchase a radiation instrument of the type dealt with in this article, the commercial availability … will of course be an important consideration. … It should perhaps be stressed that all these instruments must be operated under the direct supervision of a competent physicist.

… It is to be hoped … that the occasion of the International geophysical Year will increase the interest for the study of long-wave radiation processes in the atmosphere and of the radiation balance of the ground.

W. Mörikofer

News and notes

The Annals of the International Geophysical Year … will give information about the preparations and programmes of the IGY and, in due course, the progress and some of the main results.  The first volume to be published is Volume III —Instruction Manual for Ionospheric Studies in the International Geophysical Year, which can be obtained from the publishers at the price of £6 ($17). Among other subjects to be dealt with shortly are aurora and airglow, cosmic radiation, geomagnetism, nuclear radiation, ozone observations, seismology, latitudes and longitudes. It is estimated that four to six volumes of about 400 pages each will be published during 1957 and 1958.

News from the WMO Secretariat

New building for the Secretariat

Since 1951, when the Secretariat moved from Lausanne to Geneva it has been housed in a barrack-type building which was offered temporarily by the Canton of Geneva.

The question of a permanent building for the Secretariat was discussed as early as first Congress but the realization of this project has always been delayed by various difficulties.

As a result of its growth during the last six years, it has become increasingly difficult for the Secretariat to perform its functions adequately in this temporary building both on account of its unsuitable nature and its inadequate size. Last year it became necessary to rent three flats in the neighbourhood of the Secretariat to house the Technical Assistance Unit and the International Geophysical Year Meteorological Data Centre, and storerooms have also had to be rented in other parts of the town. This dispersal of accommodation has proved to be very inconvenient.

After various possibilities of constructing a permanent building for the Secretariat had been carefully investigated, the Executive Committee in January 1957 agreed that the offer of the Canton to construct this building in the Avenue Giuseppe-Motta near the Place des nations should be put before the Members of the Organization for their final approval. After a postal ballot the Members approved the proposal by a very large majority. Negotiations are now proceeding with the Canton authorities for the construction of the building which should be completed in 1959 or 1960.

The building will consist of a main part, containing offices and an annex containing the library and a conference room large enough for the sessions of the Executive Committee. The total useful space will be approximately 2360 square metres. The building may be either rented from the canton or purchased by the Organization.

Meteorological photographs

The photographic archives of the WMO Secretariat now contain a series of photographs illustrating the activities of the Organization in various parts of the world as well as different aspects of meteorology and its applications. A selection of these photographs has appeared in past issues of the WMO Bulletin.

These photographs are widely used for exhibitions and various publications containing articles about WMO or IGY. Copies are also provided on request to associations, groups or lectures and the Secretariat will be glad to comply so far as possible with any such requests received from meteorological services or individuals.

Most of these photographs have been specially commissioned whilst others were supplied by meteorological services. To enable this collection to be improved still further, the secretariat would be glad to receive from meteorological services or individuals negatives of any good photographs on agricultural or maritime meteorology.

Obituary for Carl Gustaf Rossby

One of three obituaries was for Carl Gustaf Rossby, who had died suddenly, aged 59, in Stockholm on 19 August. Rossby was an outstanding scientist in meteorology and oceanography and pioneered research in many branches of these sciences.

Together with E. Palmén, Rossby proved the existence of the jet steam and his work on the conservation of absolute vorticity became the basis for modern numerical forecasting methods.

Alf Nyberg recalled that Rossby had studied under Vilhelm Bjerknes in Bergen. He went on to work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he established a meteorological department, which he directed until 1939. After two years with the United States Weather Bureau he became professor at the University of Chicago in 1941. After 6 years there he was called back to Sweden as professor at the University of Stockholm and scientific adviser at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute.

Rossby created the International Meteorological Institute in Stockholm with support from UNESCO.


Albania became a Member State of WMO on 28 August 1957. There were now 75 Member States and 22 Territories.


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