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Meteo History – The Michigan Weather Center
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Meteo History

3000 BC

Meteorology in India can be traced back to around 3000 BC, with writings such as the Upanishads, containing discussions about the processes of cloud formation and rain and the seasonal cycles caused by the movement of earth round the sun.

600 BC

Thales may qualify as the first Greek meteorologist. He described the water cycle in a fairly accurate way. He also issued the first seasonal crop forecast.

400 BC

There is some evidence that Democritus predicted changes in the weather, and that he used this ability to convince people that he could predict other future events.
Hippocrates writes a treatise called Airs, Waters and Places, the earliest known work to include a discussion of weather. More generally, he wrote about common diseases that occur in particular locations, seasons, winds and air.

350 BC

Aristotle writes Meteorology. Aristotle’s work is more general. The work touches upon much of what is known as the earth sciences. One of the most impressive achievements in Meteorology is his description of what is now known as the hydrologic cycle.


Pomponius Mela, a geographer for the Roman empire, formalizes the climatic zone system.


Han Dynasty Chinese philosopher Wang Chong (27–97 AD) dispels the Chinese myth of rain coming from the heavens, and states that rain is evaporated from water on the earth into the air and forms clouds, stating that clouds condense into rain and also form dew, and says when the clothes of people in high mountains are moistened, this is because of the air-suspended rain water.


Indian astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer Varāhamihira published his work Brihat-Samhita’s, which provides clear evidence that a deep knowledge of atmospheric processes existed in the Indian region.


The poet Kalidasa in his epic Meghaduta, mentions the date of onset of the south-west Monsoon over central India and traces the path of the monsoon clouds.
St. Isidore of Seville,in his work De Rerum Natura, writes about astronomy, cosmology and meteorology. In the chapter dedicated to Meteorology, he discusses the thunder, clouds, rainbows and wind.


Al-Kindi (Alkindus), an Arab naturalist, writes a treatise on meteorology, in which he presents an argument on tides which “depends on the changes which take place in bodies owing to the rise and fall of temperature.”
Al-Dinawari, a Kurdish naturalist, writes the Kitab al-Nabat (Book of Plants), in which he deals with the application of meteorology to agriculture during the Muslim Agricultural Revolution. He describes the meteorological character of the sky, the planets and constellations, the Sun and Moon, the lunar phases indicating seasons and rain, the anwa (heavenly bodies of rain), and atmospheric phenomena such as winds, thunder, lightning, snow, floods, valleys, rivers, lakes, wells and other sources of water.


Ibn Wahshiyya’s Nabatean Agriculture discusses the weather forecasting of atmospheric changes and signs from the planetary astral alterations; signs of rain based on observation of the lunar phases, nature of thunder and lightning, direction of sunrise, behaviour of certain plants and animals, and weather forecasts based on the movement of winds; pollenized air and winds; and formation of winds and vapours.


Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) writes on the atmospheric refraction of light, the cause of morning and evening twilight. He provides the first correct definition of the twilight, discusses atmospheric refraction, shows that the twilight is due to atmospheric refraction and only begins when the Sun is 19 degrees below the horizon, and uses a complex geometric demonstration to measure the height of the Earth’s atmosphere. He discusses the meteorology of the rainbow, the density of the atmosphere, and various celestial phenomena, including the eclipse, twilight and moonlight.


Avicenna publishes The Book of Healing, which contains his essay on mineralogy and meteorology in six chapters: formation of mountains; the advantages of mountains in the formation of clouds; sources of water; origin of earthquakes; formation of minerals; and the diversity of earth’s terrain. He also describes the structure of a meteor.


Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ma’udh wrote a work on optics. This was a short work containing an estimation of the angle of depression of the sun at the beginning of the morning twilight and at the end of the evening twilight, and an attempt to calculate on the basis of this and other data the height of the atmospheric moisture responsible for the refraction of the sun’s rays.


Chinese scientist Shen Kuo wrote vivid descriptions of tornadoes, that rainbows were formed by the shadow of the sun in rain, occurring when the sun would shine upon it, and the curious common phenomena of the effect of lightning that, when striking a house, would merely scorch the walls a bit but completely melt to liquid all metal objects inside.


Al-Khazini, a Muslim scientist of Byzantine Greek descent, publishes The Book of the Balance of Wisdom, the first study on the hydrostatic balance.


St. Albert the Great is the first to propose that each drop of falling rain had the form of a small sphere, and that this form meant that the rainbow was produced by light interacting with each raindrop.


Roger Bacon was the first to calculate the angular size of the rainbow. He stated that the rainbow summit can not appear higher than 42 degrees above the horizon.


William Merle, rector of Driby, starts recording his weather diary, the oldest existing in print. The endeavour ended 1344.


Leonardo da Vinci built the first basic hygrometer to measure the humidity of air.


Prince Munjong invented the first standardized rain gauge. These were sent throughout the Joseon Dynasty of Korea as an official tool to assess land taxes based upon a farmer’s potential harvest.


Leone Battista Alberti developed a swinging-plate anemometer, and is known as the first anemometer.


Johannes Lichtenberger publishes the first version of his Prognosticatio linking weather forecasting with astrology. The paradigm was only challenged centuries later.


During his second voyage Christopher Columbus experiences a tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Ocean, which leads to the first written European account of a hurricane.


Leonhard Reynmann, astronomer of Nuremberg, publishes ″Wetterbüchlein Von warer erkanntnus des wetters″, a collection of weather lore.


Galileo Galilei constructs a thermoscope. Not only did this device measure temperature, but it represented a paradigm shift. Up to this point, heat and cold were believed to be qualities of Aristotle’s elements (fire, water, air, and earth). This is the era of the first recorded meteorological observations. As there was no standard measurement, they were of little use.


Johannes Kepler writes the first scientific treatise on snow crystals.


Evangelista Torricelli invents the mercury barometer.


Blaise Pascal rediscovers that atmospheric pressure decreases with height, and deduces that there is a vacuum above the atmosphere.


Ferdinando II de Medici sponsors the first weather observing network, that consisted of meteorological stations in Florence, Cutigliano, Vallombrosa, Bologna, Parma, Milan, Innsbruck, Osnabrück, Paris and Warsaw. Collected data was centrally sent to Accademia del Cimento in Florence at regular time intervals.


Sir Christopher Wren invented the mechanical, self-emptying, tipping bucket rain gauge.


Robert Hooke builds another type of anemometer, called a pressure-plate anemometer.


Edmund Halley presents a systematic study of the trade winds and monsoons and identifies solar heating as the cause of atmospheric motions. He establishes the relationship between barometric pressure and height above sea level.


Ole Christensen Rømer transformed the thermoscope into a thermometer by adding a temperature scale.


Gabriel Fahrenheit creates reliable scale for measuring temperature with a mercury-type thermometer.


The first ideal explanation of global circulation was the study of the Trade winds by George Hadley.


Daniel Bernoulli publishes Hydrodynamics, initiating the kinetic theory of gases. He gave a poorly detailed equation of state, but also the basic laws for the theory of gases.


Anders Celsius, a Swedish astronomer, proposed the Celsius temperature scale which led to the current Celsius scale.


Joseph Black discovers that ice absorbs heat without changing its temperature when melting.


Black’s student Daniel Rutherford discovers nitrogen, which he calls phlogisticated air, and together they explain the results in terms of the phlogiston theory.


Royal Society begins twice daily observations compiled by Samuel Horsley testing for the influence of winds and of the moon on the barometer readings.


Antoine Lavoisier discovers oxygen and develops an explanation for combustion.


James Six invents the Six’s thermometer, a thermometer that records minimum and maximum temperatures.


First hair hygrometer demonstrated. The inventor was Horace-Bénédict de Saussure.


The Voltaic pile was the first modern electric battery, invented by Alessandro Volta, which led to later inventions like the telegraph.


Luke Howard writes On the Modification of Clouds in which he assigns cloud types Latin names.


Francis Beaufort introduces his system for classifying wind speeds.


John Dalton defends caloric theory in A New System of Chemistry and describes how it combines with matter, especially gases; he proposes that the heat capacity of gases varies inversely with atomic weight.


Alexander von Humboldt publishes a global map of average temperature, the first global climate analysis.


Heinrich Wilhelm Brandes publishes the first synoptic weather maps.


Robert Brown discovers the Brownian motion of pollen and dye particles in water.


Invention of telegraph led to modern age of weather forecasting.


Elias Loomis the first person known to attempt to devise a theory on frontal zones. The idea of fronts did not catch on until expanded upon by the Norwegians in the years following World War I.


Lucien Vidi invented the aneroid, from Greek meaning without liquid, barometer.


Francis Ronalds invented the first successful camera for continuous recording of the variations in meteorological parameters over time. He also invented and named the storm clock, used to monitor rapid changes in meteorological parameters during extreme events.


Cup anemometer invented by Dr. John Thomas Romney Robinson.


Francis Ronalds and William Radcliffe Birt described a stable kite to make observations at altitude using self-recording instruments.
The Manchester Examiner newspaper organises the first weather reports collected by electrical means.


Smithsonian Institution begins to establish an observation network across the United States, with 150 observers via telegraph, under the leadership of Joseph Henry.
William John Macquorn Rankine calculates the correct relationship between saturated vapour pressure and temperature using his hypothesis of molecular vortices.


Rankine uses his vortex theory to establish accurate relationships between the temperature, pressure, and density of gases, and expressions for the latent heat of evaporation of a liquid; he accurately predicts the surprising fact that the apparent specific heat of saturated steam will be negative.


The first International Meteorological Conference was held in Brussels at the initiative of Matthew Fontaine Maury, U.S. Navy, recommending standard observing times, methods of observation and logging format for weather reports from ships at sea.


The French astronomer Leverrier showed that a storm in the Black Sea could be followed across Europe and would have been predictable if the telegraph had been used. A service of storm forecasts was established a year later by the Paris Observatory.
The Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade was first established, which is known today as the Met Office.


William Ferrel publishes his essay on the winds and the currents of the oceans.


Robert FitzRoy uses the new telegraph system to gather daily observations from across England and produces the first synoptic charts. He also coined the term “weather forecast” and his were the first ever daily weather forecasts to be published in this year.
After establishment in 1849, 500 U.S. telegraph stations are now making weather observations and submitting them back to the Smithsonian Institution. The observations are later interrupted by the American Civil War.

1 Sep

The first ever daily weather forecasts were published in The Times on 1 August 1861, and the first weather maps were produced later in the same year.


Joseph Lockyer starts the scientific journal Nature.
The New York Meteorological Observatory opens, and begins to record wind, precipitation and temperature data.


The US Weather Bureau is founded. Data recorded in several Midwestern cities such as Chicago begins.
Benito Viñes becomes the head of the Meteorological Observatory at Belen in Havana, Cuba. He develops the first observing network in Cuba and creates some of the first hurricane-related forecasts.


International Meteorological Organization formed in Vienna.
United States Army Signal Corp, forerunner of the National Weather Service, issues its first hurricane warning.


US Weather Bureau is created as a civilian operation under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


William Henry Dines invented another kind of anemometer, called the pressure-tube (Dines) anemometer. His device measured the difference in pressure arising from wind blowing in a tube versus that blowing across the tube.
The first mention of the term “El Niño” to refer to climate occurs when Captain Camilo Carrilo told the Geographical society congress in Lima that Peruvian sailors named the warm northerly current “El Niño” because it was most noticeable around Christmas.


IMO publishes the first International cloud atlas.
Svante Arrhenius proposes carbon dioxide as a key factor to explain the ice ages.


Richard Assmann and Léon Teisserenc de Bort, two European scientists, independently discovered the stratosphere.
The Marconi Company issues the first routine weather forecast by means of radio to ships on sea. Weather reports from ships started 1905.


Vilhelm Bjerknes presents the vision that forecasting the weather is feasible based on mathematical methods.


Australian Bureau of Meteorology established by a Meteorology Act to unify existing state meteorological services.


The Met Office began issuing its first marine weather forecasts via radio transmission in 1911, including gale and storm warnings around the UK. The service was ceased in 1914 due to World War I, but it resumed after the war ended.


Norwegian cyclone model introduced for the first time in meteorological literature. Marks a revolution in the way the atmosphere is conceived and immediately starts leading to improved forecasts.


Milutin Milanković proposes that long term climatic cycles may be due to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit and changes in the Earth’s obliquity.


Lewis Fry Richardson organises the first numerical weather prediction experiment.


Gilbert Walker first coined the term “Southern Oscillation”.


In the US, the first public radio forecast was produced by Edward B. Rideout in Boston.

30 Feb

Pavel Molchanov invents and launches the first radiosonde. Named “271120”, it was released 13:44 Moscow Time in Pavlovsk, USSR from the Main Geophysical Observatory, reached a height of 7.8 kilometers measuring temperature there (−40.7 °C) and sent the first aerological message to the Leningrad Weather Bureau and Moscow Central Forecast Institute.


IMO decides on the 30 years normal period (1900–1930) to describe the climate.


World’s first televised weather forecast including weather maps was shown on BBC.


The U.S. Army Air Forces Weather Service was established (redesignated in 1946 as AWS-Air Weather Service).


Guy Stewart Callendar first to propose global warming from carbon dioxide emissions.


Pulsed radar network is implemented in England during World War II. Generally during the war, operators started noticing echoes from weather elements such as rain and snow.


The Great Atlantic Hurricane is caught on radar near the Mid-Atlantic coast, the first such picture noted from the United States.


The Soviet Union launched its first Long Range Ballistic Rocket October 18, based on the German rocket A4 (V-2). The photographs demonstrated the immense potential of observing weather from space.


First correct tornado prediction by Robert C. Miller and E. J. Fawbush for tornado in Oklahoma.
Erik Palmén publishes his findings that hurricanes require surface water temperatures of at least 26°C (80°F) in order to form.


First successful numerical weather prediction experiment. Princeton University, group of Jule Gregory Charney on ENIAC.
Hurricanes begin to be named alphabetically with the radio alphabet.
WMO World Meteorological Organization replaces IMO under the auspice of the United Nations.


National Hurricane Center (NOAA) creates a system for naming hurricanes using alphabetical lists of women’s names.


First routine real-time numerical weather forecasting. The Royal Swedish Air Force Weather Service.
A United States Navy rocket captures a picture of an inland tropical depression near the Texas/Mexico border, which leads to a surprise flood event in New Mexico. This convinces the government to set up a weather satellite program.


Norman Phillips at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, runs first Atmospheric General Circulation Model.
NSSP National Severe Storms Project and NHRP National Hurricane Research Projects established. The Miami office of the United States Weather Bureau is designated the main hurricane warning center for the Atlantic Basin.

17 Mar

The first weather satellite, Vanguard 2, was launched. It was designed to measure cloud cover, but a poor axis of rotation kept it from collecting a notable amount of useful data.

1 May

The first weather satellite to be considered a success was TIROS-1, launched by NASA on April 1. TIROS operated for 78 days and proved to be much more successful than Vanguard 2. TIROS paved the way for the Nimbus program, whose technology and findings are the heritage of most of the Earth-observing satellites NASA and NOAA have launched since then.


Edward Lorenz accidentally discovers Chaos theory when working on numerical weather prediction.


Keith Browning and Frank Ludlam publish first detailed study of a supercell storm (over Wokingham, UK). Project STORMFURY begins its 10-year project of seeding hurricanes with silver iodide, attempting to weaken the cyclones.


The United States National Meteorological Center developed a computer model of the atmosphere improving upon the predictions of sea-level pressure made by human forecasters.


A hurricane database for Atlantic hurricanes is created for NASA by Charlie Newmann and John Hope, named HURDAT.


Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale created, used to describe hurricane strength on a category range of 1 to 5. Popularized during Hurricane Gloria of 1985 by media.


Weather radars are becoming more standardized and organized into networks. The number of scanned angles was increased to get a three-dimensional view of the precipitation, which allowed studies of thunderstorms. Experiments with the Doppler effect begin.
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration established. Weather Bureau is renamed the National Weather Service.


Ted Fujita introduces the Fujita scale for rating tornadoes.


AMeDAS network, developed by Japan Meteorological Agency used for gathering regional weather data and verifying forecast performance, begun operation on November 1, the system consists of about 1,300 stations with automatic observation equipment. These stations, of which more than 1,100 are unmanned, are located at an average interval of 17 km throughout Japan.


The first Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES, was launched into orbit. Their role and design is to aid in hurricane tracking. Also this year, Vern Dvorak develops a scheme to estimate tropical cyclone intensity from satellite imagery.
The first use of a General Circulation Model to study the effects of carbon dioxide doubling. Syukuro Manabe and Richard Wetherald at Princeton University.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts is founded.


Doppler weather radar is becoming gradually more common, adds velocity information.


The first Synoptic Flow experiment is flown around Hurricane Debby to help define the large scale atmospheric winds that steer the storm.
The 24 hour cable network The Weather Channel began broadcasting in the United States.


WSR-88D type weather radar implemented in the United States. Weather surveillance radar that uses several modes to detect severe weather conditions.


Computers first used in the United States to draw surface analyses.


The Pacific Decadal Oscillation was named by Steven R. Hare, who noticed it while studying salmon production patterns. Simultaneously the PDO climate pattern was also found by Yuan Zhang.


National Weather Service begins to produce a Unified Surface Analysis, ending duplication of effort at the Tropical Prediction Center, Ocean Prediction Center, Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, as well as the National Weather Service offices in Anchorage, AK and Honolulu, HI.


NOAA hurricane experts issue first experimental Eastern Pacific Hurricane Outlook.


Weather radar improved by adding common precipitation to it such as freezing rain, rain and snow mixed, and snow for the first time.


The Fujita scale is replaced with the Enhanced Fujita Scale for National Weather Service tornado assessments.