The invention of computer made weather forecasting not only quicker but also more reliable
Meteorology is a science that studies the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere. Meteorology consists of many areas: physical meteorology, dealing with physical aspects of the atmosphere such as rain or cloud formation; synoptic meteorology, the analysis and forecast of large-scale weather systems; dynamic meteorology, which is based on the laws of theoretical physics; climatology, the study of the climate of an area; aviation meteorology, researching weather information for aviation; atmospheric chemistry, examining the chemical composition and processes in the atmosphere; atmospheric optics, analyzing the optical phenomena of the atmosphere such as halos or rainbows; or agricultural meteorology, studying the relationship between weather and vegetation.
In his book Meteorologica, written c. 340 B.C., Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle was the first to record the use of the term meteorology. Aristotle’s work summarized the knowledge of the day concerning atmospheric phenomena. He speculatively wrote about clouds, rain, snow, wind, and climatic changes, and although many of his findings later proved to be incorrect, many of them were insightful. The fourteenth century invention of weather measuring instruments made scientific study of atmospheric phenomena possible, but it was the seventeenth century inventions of the thermometer, barometer (a device used to measure atmospheric pressure), and anemometer (a device used for measuring wind speed) that laid the foundation for modern meteorological observation. In 1802, the first cloud classification system was formulated, and in 1805, a wind scale was first introduced. These measuring instruments and new ideas made possible the gathering of actual data from the atmosphere that, in turn, provided the basis for the advancement of scientific theories involving atmospheric structure, properties (pressure, temperature, humidity, etc.), and governing physical laws.
In the early 1840s, the first weather forecasting services started with ability to transmit observational data via telegraph. At that time, meteorology was still in the descriptive phase, still on an empirical basis with few scientific theories. Meteorological science was spurred by World War I military demands. Norwegian physicist Vilhelm Bjerknes introduced a modern meteorological theory stating that weather patterns in the temperate middle latitudes are the results of the interaction between warm and cold air masses. His description of atmospheric phenomena and forecasting techniques were based on the laws of physics and provided a template for modern dynamic meteorological modeling. By assuming a given set of atmospheric conditions to which were applied governing physical laws, meteorologists could make predictions about future weather and climatic conditions.
By the 1940s, upper-level measurements of pressure, temperature, wind, and humidity provided detailed insight into the vertical properties of the atmosphere. In the 1940s, Englishman R. C. Sutcliffe and Swede S. Peterssen developed three-dimensional analysis and forecasting methods. American military pilots flying above the Pacific during World War II discovered a strong stream of air rapidly flowing from west to east, which became known as the jet stream—an important factor in the movement of air masses. Weather radar first came into use in the United States in 1949 with the efforts of Horace Byers and R. R. Braham. Conventional weather radar shows precipitation location and intensity. Ultimately, the development of radar, rockets, and satellites greatly improved data collection and weather forecasting. In 1946, the process of cloud seeding made possible early weather modification experiments. In the 1950s, radar became important for detecting precipitation of a remote area. Also in the 1950s, with the invention of the computer, weather forecasting became not only quicker but also more reliable, because the computers could more rapidly solve the mathematical equations of atmospheric models. In 1960, the first meteorological satellite was launched.
Satellites now give three-dimensional data to high speed computers for faster and more precise weather predictions. Modern computers are capable of plotting observational data, and performing both short term and long term modeling analysis ranging from next day weather forecasting to decades long climatic models. Even so, the computers still have their capacity limits, the models still have many uncertainties, and the effects of the atmosphere on our complex society and environment can be serious. Many complicated issues remain at the forefront of meteorology, including air pollution, global warming, El Niño events, climate change, ozone hole or acid rain, making meteorology a scientific area still fraught with challenges and unanswered questions.