John d cox

To my mother and father, elizabeth cox and ernest y. cox Copyright 2002 by John D. Cox. All rights reserved Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey Published simultaneously in Canada No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 or the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either...

Down Tornado Alley

As the western expansion populated larger tracts of the prairie and the Great Plains, a diabolical surprise confronted the nation. More and more settlers found themselves in the paths of the most horrifying storms. The violent tornadoes were not unique to this part of the country, of course, but there was definitely more of them than anyone had been led to expect. It was a shock, and maybe even a threat to the growth of the nation. Where were these terrifying storms coming from, and why Nobody...

Shy Genius

If there was a true intellectual giant among the meteorologists of the nineteenth century, a man who was both able and inclined to devote scientific genius to the problems of the atmosphere, a man who could define the behavior of the air in such a way as to set the science on a whole new plane, a Newton or a Kepler of meteorologists, it was a certain American country boy who learned his physics with a pitchfork while carving geometric diagrams in the soft poplar of a barn. That boy would be...

Divining the Downburst

Eastern airlines flight 66 from New Orleans was approaching John F. Kennedy International Airport on the afternoon of June 24, 1975. Rain was falling intermittently and there were thundershowers in the New York area, although winds at the airport measured only seven miles per hour as the Boeing 727 began its final approach toward Runway 22L at 4 01 P.M. Controlled by the instrument landing system, the airliner followed a routine glide path down to 400 feet when it hit a wall of heavy rain and a...

Setting the Stage

Elias loomis's groundbreaking display of contemporaneous measurements from several points across the country made plain to the small scientific community toward the middle of the nineteenth century the crucial importance of a widespread network of observers. Cooperative, coordinated, far-flung observations and a central organization are uniquely indispensable to the science of meteorology. Without a large field of vision the science of storms is nearly blind. As James P. Espy put it The...

Bibliography

Benjamin Franklin as Meteorologist. Bulletin, American Philosophical Society, April 20, 1906, pp. 117-128. Abbe, Truman, Professor Abbe . . . and the Isobars. New York Vantage Press, 1955. Anderson, Katharine Mary. Practical Science Meteorology and the Forecasting Controversy in Mid-Victorian Britain. Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1994. Aspray, William. John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing. Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press, 1990. Basu, Janet Else. Jerome...

Mastering the Math

Harry, it's snowing like hell in Washington, the meteorologist told the director of research for the U.S. Weather Bureau. The telephone call from Jule Charney came in the middle of the night. Charney was in his office in Princeton, New Jersey, wide awake, as he often was at that hour, and exuberant with his news about the weather in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1952. At the other end of the line, Harry Wexler was at home in Washington, in bed, formerly sound asleep. This urgent weather...

Conquering the Weather Bureau

More than anyone, it was Carl-Gustaf Rossby who finally dragged the U.S. Weather Bureau into the twentieth century. It was he who created the first American university programs in meteorology and set the nation on a course of scientific excellence. It was Rossby, more than anyone, who organized the emergency training of thousands of military meteorologists in time to contribute to the Allied victory of World War II. And it was Rossby whose own celebrated research opened the way to extended...

The Bergen Schoolmaster

Weather science insinuated itself into the life of Vilhelm Bjerknes while he was making other plans. Through the last decade of the nineteenth century his formative years as a young Norwegian scientist his focus was mathematical and mechanical, the areas his famous father was pursuing in an effort to explain Newtonian physics by the presence of a cosmic ether. Carl A. Bjerknes ultimately failed to achieve this goal, and while the worldview it proposed lost favor with leading physicists,...

Civilian Casualty

The first civilian chief of the new U.S. Weather Bureau was a scientist with a national reputation for excellence who was in a good position to take the agency to important new heights in the study of meteorology. After 20 years of military control, there was reason to suppose that the advent of civilian authority would mean an important shift in the approach to the weather agency's pursuit of its young science. The New York Tribune advised President Benjamin Harrison to select a competent...

Calculating Chaos

The postwar revolution in meteorology that was ignited by digital electronic computers gave rise to a long dawn of dreamy ambition among weather forecasters and researchers. In the 1950s and 1960s, the study of weather was finally coming into its own as both a science and a service. At last, scientists had the technical wherewithal to apply the objective tools of the laws of physics to unraveling the old mysteries of the atmosphere. Those ingenious Numerical Weather Prediction computer programs...

The Long Ranger

For a fellow who considered himself lucky, the man who pioneered the modern science of long-range weather prediction had more going against him than anyone since the nineteenth-century theorist William Ferrel, who had to carve the geometries of the atmosphere into the barn door with a pitchfork. Jerome Namias was a special case a leading scientist in an increasingly rigorous discipline who never earned a doctorate or even a bachelor's degree. Recognition would come with numerous scientific...

The Storm Breeder

Despite the evident care of William Redfield's investigations, his findings were sharply attacked, beginning in 1834, by a Philadelphia scientist with a very different theory about the character of storms. In an era of high seas sailing ships, when captains were relying on luck and lore for the safety of their vessels and men, the different ideas these two men held about the behavior of the winds were of special practical interest. The air does not rotate around storms, James Pollard Espy...

Cecilia Glaisher

On the afternoon of September 5, 1862, in the gloriously bright light and brilliantly blue sky high above a sea of clouds over England, a dark and deadly curtain was beginning to descend. Suddenly the scientist was struggling to make his observations. The images of the fine measuring scales of the barometer and the thermometer were blurring and fading in his eyes. James Glaisher was more than five miles in the air and still the balloon was rising. Panting for breath, he called to his pilot to...

Death by Daring

There is a very decided charm about being suspended in the air, especially when one is uncertain as to his location, and when one does not know his speed, Lieutenant C. LeRoy Meisinger of the U.S. Army Signal Corps' Meteorological Service reported in the U.S. Weather Bureau's Monthly Weather Review a month after ascending in a balloon from Fort Omaha, Nebraska, on March 14, 1919. Meisinger was a talented writer, a fact that found its way even into the stodgy gray pages of a government...

Clouds over Crimea

In the long history of European warfare, the Crimean War ranks among the biggest military blunders. In 1854, England, France, the Ottomon Turks, and Austria were allied against Russia, which was intent on extending its dominion over the Balkans and the Middle East. The Russians were fortified at Sevastopol, where for a year their Black Sea fleet was besieged by a flotilla of allied vessels. Among military brass on both sides, Crimea became a byword for strategic ineptitude and logistical...

Naming the Clouds

Luke howard always lamented the fact that he had been taught too much Latin grammar and too little of anything else at the private Quaker school of his youth in Oxfordshire, England. His real interest was science, although it would never be more than an avocation in his life. In a letter to the great German dramatist and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he wrote in 1822 that from the first my real penchant was towards meteorology. Pursuing this lifelong avocation, Howard would make observations...