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Weather by the NumbersThe Genesis of Modern Meteorology$
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Kristine C. Harper

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262083782

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262083782.001.0001

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:: Creating a Realistic Atmosphere (1950–1952)

:: Creating a Realistic Atmosphere (1950–1952)

Chapter:
(p.151) 6 :: Creating a Realistic Atmosphere (1950–1952)
Source:
Weather by the Numbers
Author(s):

Kristine C. Harper

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262083782.003.0007

This chapter details how the Meteorology Project tested a variety of atmospheric models. First run on Army Ordnance’s ENIAC and then on John von Neumann’s computer, the team members modified the models to get a “match” between the computer forecast and the weather that had occurred. The initial post hoc forecasts of the infamous 1950 Thanksgiving Day storm, which had dumped large amounts of snow and rain in the Mid-Atlantic states, were made in spring 1952. The results were poor. The first two computer models failed to catch the explosive deepening of the low-pressure system, but the third model—a simple two-level baroclinic model—did the trick. Even though the “predicted” low-pressure center was 240 miles from its observed position, the computer-generated forecast would have allowed forecasters to forecast the rain and snow that had disrupted the Eastern Seaboard. The Princeton team members were moving closer toward their goal of creating a realistic atmospheric prediction, but they were not the only ones. Army Air Force meteorologist Philip Thompson, an original Meteorology Project member, was also developing and testing his own models at the Air Force’s Geophysical Research Directorate in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Keywords:   Meteorology Project, atmospheric models, weather forecasting, Philip Thompson

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