Guy Stewart Callendar Amateur Meteorologist

The British steam engineer Guy Stewart Callendar was the second son of the steam expert Hugh Longbourne Callendar (1863-1930)—a fellow of the Royal Society of London. The younger Callendar followed in his father's footsteps, working as his assistant in conducting research on steam at high pressures and temperatures at the Royal College of Science. After his father's death in 1930, Callendar took over his father's classes and continued his own steam research experiments with funding provided by turbine manufacturers.

Although he was a steam engine specialist, Callendar devoted a considerable amount of free time to his hobby, meteorology. Intrigued by news reports that air temperature had been rising since the 19th century, he decided to examine observational records closely and make his own computations. Others had made similar attempts, but the records were scattered and in disarray, frustrating most would-be researchers. Not only did Callendar confirm that there had indeed been a temperature increase, he revived the early 20th-century theory that the cause was increased atmospheric CO2. Publishing his first paper in 1938, and despite opposition from the meteorological community, Callendar continued to examine the connections among industrialization, CO2 emissions, and atmospheric warming. His articles appeared in such distinguished scientific journals as the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Tellus, and Weather through the early 1960s. As additional data confirmed his original conclusions, Callendar's work was seen with new appreciation by the meteorological community. He was honored as a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and served as member of its leadership council.

Callendar died suddenly in 1964, living long enough to see his work validated by the broader scientific community, but not long enough to witness the dramatic increase in climate research that occurred at the end of the 20th century. In retrospect, Guy Stewart Callendar can be seen to have played a critical role in focusing attention on the effects of the industrial age on Earth's climate.

In the first half of the 20th century, research on climate changed seemed to fall to those who were not climatologists: physical chemist Svante Arrhenius at the turn of the century, mathematician Milutin Milankovitch in the second decade, and then, starting in the late thirties, steam engineer Guy Stewart Callendar boldly proclaimed that rising carbon dioxide levels have been and will continue to raise global temperatures. While climatologists such as Wladimir Koppen concerned themselves with defining climate, these non-climatologists were postulating reasons behind climate—a very different undertaking. Their work more closely paralleled that of the meteorologists of this era who were struggling to understand the physical mechanisms underlying atmospheric phenomena such as rain, hail, and frost in hopes of aiding the production of more accurate forecasts. This new generation of meteorologists, unlike those of thirty years before, was more likely to have been attracted by weather phenomena at a young age and have been focused on atmospheric studies in graduate school. Norwegian Tor Bergeron was one of those meteorologists.

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