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Thursday, April 5, 2012


Satellite image of Hurricane Hugo

Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries. After the development of the computer in the latter half of the 20th century, breakthroughs in weather forecasting were achieved.

Meteorological phenomena are observable weather events which illuminate, and are explained by the science of meteorology. Those events are bound by the variables that exist in Earth's atmosphere; temperature, air pressure, water vapor, and the gradients and interactions of each variable, and how they change in time. Different spatial scales are studied to determine how systems on local, regional, and global levels impact weather and climatology.

In 350 BC, Aristotle wrote Meteorology. Aristotle is considered the founder of meteorology. One of the most impressive achievements described in the Meteorology is the description of what is now known as the hydrologic cycle. The Greek scientist Theophrastus compiled a book on weather forecasting, called the Book of Signs. The work of Theophrastus remained a dominant influence in the study of weather and in weather forecasting for nearly 2,000 years. In 25 AD, Pomponius Mela, a geographer for the Roman Empire, formalized the climatic zone system.

In 1607, Galileo Galilei constructed a thermoscope. In 1611, Johannes Kepler wrote the first scientific treatise on snow crystals. In 1643, Evangelista Torricelli invented the mercury barometer. In 1662, Sir Christopher Wren invented the mechanical, self-emptying, tipping bucket rain gauge. In 1714, Gabriel Fahrenheit created a reliable scale for measuring temperature with a mercury-type thermometer. In 1742, Anders Celsius, a Swedish astronomer, proposed the "centigrade" temperature scale, the predecessor of the current Celsius scale.

In 1806, Francis Beaufort introduced his system for classifying wind speeds. Near the end of the 19th century the first cloud atlases were published, including the International Cloud Atlas, which has remained in print ever since. The April 1960 launch of the first successful weather satellite, TIROS-1, marked the beginning of the age where weather information became available globally.

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