The Rise of Atmospheric Modeling

The 1950s were years of fiscal retrenchment for the U.S. government, but the military services—fighting the cold war—had ample funds for basic research. The Office of Naval Research provided significant funding for numerical weather prediction, cloud physics, and a variety of weather control techniques. The National Science Foundation, established in 1950, would become the primary provider of basic research funds, while the military concentrated on applied research. The money that flowed into atmospheric research was critical for the computer-driven advances in meteorology and climatology of this decade. Efforts by the two cold war giants—the United States and the Soviet Union—to outshine each other in science and technology and thereby demonstrate the superiority of their political system, also led to the beginning of the "space race" at the end of the decade. The attention to space and artificial satellites paid dividends for the atmospheric sciences, which finally had an "eye in the sky" to observe remote weather systems. Advances in hardware and instrumentation such as computers, radar, and satellites were critical to meteorological progress throughout the decade.

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