The Cold War and Research Funding

In many ways, the 1950s was a period of financial retrenchment for much of science. European nations, still rebuilding after the war's devastation, had little in the way of spare funds for scientific research. Fiscal restraint was also a feature of the Eisenhower administration in the United States. While the Weather Bureau was trying to prepare for the introduction of numerical weather prediction techniques, which would require the acquisition of a computer and related peripheral equipment, its budget was cut. One part of the federal budget had not seen significant reductions: the military.

Hostilities in Korea and tense relations between the United States and the USSR over atomic weapons and Soviet expansionism in Eastern Europe kept military budgets high. Funds for research and development, primarily handled by the Office of Naval Research, were available to scientists who were prepared to pursue research in both basic and applied science that could potentially aid the nation's defense. As seen earlier during times of war, weather and climate play an important role in the successful prosecution of military strategy and tactics. Accurate domestic weather forecasts during periods of conflict are also important for agricultural and industrial production, transportation of material and personnel, and optimal provision of heating fuel. Because of their importance, therefore, atmospheric sciences were well funded by the military services.

Atmospheric studies and forecasts in support of aeronautics continued to be of importance. In the immediate postwar years, the air force pursued its development of rockets, missiles, and high-altitude, high-performance jet aircraft. All of these hardware developments needed to take into account the influence of weather systems during launch, flight, and recovery stages. Most U.S. Air Force-funded meteorological research focused on the upper atmosphere; some was also related to oceanograph-


Victor Starr and Robert M. White document for the first time the climatology of the three-dimensional atmospheric circulation, outlining the importance of both average and eddy motions in the general circulation


The U.S. Weather Bureau's Harry Wexler publicly proposes the use of artificial satellites in meteorology


The first operational numerical weather predictions are made by Carl-Gustav Rossby's group at the University of Stockholm on the BESK computer and then by the Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit on an IBM 701 computer at Weather Bureau headquarters in Suitland, Maryland ic research related to the recovery of pilots who were forced to ditch their planes at sea. Although the army had ceded most of its weather services to the air force, the Signal Corps remained active in meteorological equipment research and development, and in studies addressing climatological and current atmospheric information as they related to chemical and biological warfare.

Unlike the air force and army, the navy was more likely to fund basic research from which it hoped to derive a useful outcome eventually. The navy had been the first of the military services to fund the Meteorology

The military services, headquartered at the Pentagon, provided significant funding for scientific and technological research after World War II. (Arlington Historical Society)


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