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Jacob Bjerknes and Halvor Solberg publish their paper "Meteorological Conditions for the Formation of Rain"— an extension of Bjerknes's work on cyclones

The Japanese meteorologist Sakuhei Fujiwara proposes that forecasters calculate vorticity by using a weather map and a celluloid scale for the gradient wind

The British meteorologist Gilbert T. Walker notes a correlation between unusual surface pressure values across the entire South Pacific Ocean and names this phenomenon the Southern Oscillation from one to 260 years that had been discovered by analyzing observational data. At the time, weather cycles were considered legitimate forecasting tools because of two prevailing views of the atmosphere. One held that the atmosphere was "plastic" and the other that it was "resilient."

An external force could deform a plastic atmosphere—much as pressing clay deforms it. The atmosphere would remain in its new "deformed" state until influenced by another external force. In contrast, removing the external force from the resilient atmosphere restored it to its original state. Periodicities represented external forces that occurred repeatedly. Regular external influences included planetary and solar orbits and solar radiation. Volcanic eruptions spewing tons of debris into the air were an irregular influence. By determining a pattern in these events, scientists could predict corresponding weather patterns months or years in advance—an important advantage for those potentially affected by drought or flooding.

Until the end of the 19th century, scientists determined periodicities by graphing the relevant variables against time. The analyst looked for peaks and valleys in the data—extremes in weather conditions—and calculated the time between them. The graphical method was not very

Carl-Gustav Rossby establishes the first Pacific Coast weather service for airways under the sponsorship of the Guggenheim Fund

The first graduate program in meteorology in the United States opens at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under Carl-Gustav Rossby's leadership

1927

MILESTONES 1928

The International Meteorological Organization starts a project to standardize observation methods, codes, and units

1929

The American aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh makes the first nonstop transatlantic flight

The Russian meteorologist Pavel Aleksandrovich Moltchanoff develops the first radiosonde—a balloonsonde that transmits meteorological data via radio to a receiver on the ground accurate. If the analyst wanted to find a periodicity, he could usually modify the criteria just enough to create a pattern. As meteorology became more mathematical, some scientists used probability and statistics to analyze data more rigorously.

One of these men was the English physicist and applied mathematician Arthur Schuster (1851-1934), who introduced his mathematical theory of periodicity in 1897. He assigned a number indicating the correlation between a weather phenomenon and its occurrence. This calculation was extremely time consuming. To speed up the process, mathematicians created graphs and tables for meteorologists to use.

Some periodicities, for example, diurnal and seasonal changes, were trivial. Others were not. Two of the most prominent periodicities were the "11-year period" and the Brückner cycle. The "11-year period" was related to the length of time between successive sunspot minima or maxima. This period also corresponded to the frequency of South Indian Ocean cyclones, maxima and minima in rainfall and air pressure, famines in India, auroras, and "depression in trade"—a business event. Typically in what was called the sunspot period, when the number of sunspots was high, Earth experienced higher temperatures; when the sunspot number was low, temperatures were lower.

SUNSPOT CYCLE, 1700-2000

SUNSPOT CYCLE, 1700-2000

1700 2000 Sunspot Excel Graph
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The cyclic nature of the number of sunspots has been linked to weather cycles, but the subject is still very controversial.

The Brückner cycle was 35 years long. The German geographer and meteorologist Eduard Brückner (1862-1927) discovered this cycle while trying to correlate the changes in water level for the Caspian, Black, and Baltic Seas with variations in alpine glaciers due to alternating warm/dry and cool/wet periods. This same periodicity appeared throughout the Northern Hemisphere and sometimes in the Southern Hemisphere. The Brückner cycle appeared to be solidly predictive years in advance. It was not. The cycle failed under rigorous mathematical scrutiny.

Despite "feeling" that weather periodicities were "real," meteorologists abandoned them. Their predictive abilities were virtually zero and they all lacked a physical mechanism that could explain the weather event. That did not stop others from continuing to tie weather events to unrelated, nonmeteorological occurrences. The prominent American economist Henry Ludwell Moore (1869-1958) published a 29-page article in The Quarterly Journal of Economics titled "The Origin of the Eight-Year Generating Cycle" that argued that eight-year crop cycles in England, France, and the United States and eight-year meteorological cycles could all be tied back to Venus's motion with respect to Earth and the Sun. Into the 1930s, statisticians claimed that Moon and star positions influenced Earth's weather. Meteorologists had already moved on to newer ideas. The lure of equations to define atmospheric motion was much stronger and attracting the best meteorological minds.

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