Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and short term forecasting (in contrast with climatology). Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the eighteenth century. The nineteenth century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries. Breakthroughs in weather forecasting were achieved in the latter half of the twentieth century, after the development of the computer.
What is meteorology? The word “meteorology” was coined by Greek scientist and philosopher Aristotle, who named one of his research books Meteorologica. This early work deals with general sciences of the earth: elements, geology, hydrology, wind, seas, and of course, the weather. In today’s terms, the word meteorology designates a full-blown science. It is meant to understand the dynamics of the atmosphere and to forecast both our local weather and large-scale weather-related phenomena like thunderstorms and hurricanes.
The Discoverer The 17th century is when several discoveries tipped the scales in favor of a scientific meteorology. Galileo Galileiinvented a device to measure temperature, and Blaise Pascal discovered that atmospheric pressure was linked to altitude. The most important discovery, however, is probably the invention of the barometer by Evangelista Torricelli. The barometer – still in use today – indicates changes in atmospheric pressures that are usually linked to upcoming changes in the weather.
Ancient Meteorological Science Weather forecasting is not a new activity and has probably been practiced – with more or less accuracy – since the beginning of time. History records dating back to antiquity contain numerous examples of weather prediction methods based on the close monitoring of surrounding elements.
Modern-Day Meteorology Meanwhile, other methods also evolved. Meteorology has a lot to do with cycles and their analyses, which is what Fernando II de Medici wanted to prove. In 1654 he undertook a very ambitious program meant to record weather patterns in various Italian and European cities in order to compile data and analyze them. Those breakthroughs (among others) were followed in the 18th century by others who took the science to a new level. Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the modern mercury-based thermometer, and Daniel Bernoulli devised theories about hydrodynamics that greatly helped understand atmospheric changes.
Once the theory of atmospheric pressures and thermodynamics were in place, no real changes in the approach were necessary to understand meteorology. In more recent times the focus has been more on improving meteorological tools in order to attain better accuracy levels. Technology provided a tremendous boost to meteorology in two different ways. The first one is the ability to communicate results and analyses in a timely fashion, which was made possible with the invention of the telegraph. The second one is the ability to probe the skies – first using balloons, then satellites and radars.
Meteorology has become a permanent fixture in our everyday lives. Dedicated channels and mobile devices provide us with live updates on weather forecasts. The science is still evolving and is a crucial element of the economy with so many industries like civil aviation and agriculture that depend on it.
Hygrometers One of the first known designs of the hygrometer was written down in approximately 1450 AD by Nicholas of Cues, who described how to measure the humidity of air. An early hygrometer was built by Leonardo da Vinci and later in 1663 by Robert Hooke, using a piece of hair that contracted or expanded depending on the degree of humidity present. Inventions in 1783 by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (who used human hair) and in 1820 (when J. F. Daniell used ether in glass tubes) refined the hygrometer. Read more:
Thermometers Thermometers were progressively developed over time by inventors such as Cornelius Drebbel, Robert Fludd, SantorioSantorio and, most notably, Galileo Galilei, who in 1592 invented a thermoscope that reacted to changes in temperatures. In 1612, Santorio put a scale on the thermometer so that it began to resemble its more modern permutations, but it wasn't until 1714 that Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit replaced the alcohol in thermometers with mercury and developed a more accurate measurement, later to be followed by Anders Celsius and Sir William Thomson (who invented the Kelvin scale) with their own measurements of temperature. Read more
Barometers Evangelista Torricelli is credited with inventing the barometer in 1643 to measure air pressure, but both Giovanni Battista Baliani in 1630 and René Descartes in 1631 had postulated a version of the barometer even earlier than that. GasperoBerti, who had heard from Galileo about the design written down by Baliani, attempted to experiment with water in a vacuum between 1639 and 1641 to explain why pumps would not draw water above a certain height. Torricelli, however, approached it from a different angle and recognized that air had weight; he also recognized that mercury in a barometer was a suitable replacement for water. Years later, Blaise Pascal and Florin Périer refined the design. Read more
Anemometers Anemometers, which measure wind speed, were first described by Leon Battista Alberti in 1450, but the most familiar kind, the cup anemometer, was invented in 1846 by Dr. John Thomas Romney Robinson. The design was refined up until the 20th century: In the 1960s and 1970s, anemometers that used lasers or sonar to measure wind speed were developed. Read more