Weather Forecasting and Control

April 13, 1960

Report Outline
New Light on Weather-Making Forces
Progress in Long-Range Forecasting
Efforts of Man to Control Weather

New Light on Weather-Making Forces

Potentialities in Wider Weather Knowledge

Orbiting of earth's first weather satellite on April 1 gave man a spectacular new instrument to aid in forecasting, perhaps controlling, conditions that importantly affect agriculture, industry, and the daily life of humankind. The two television cameras carried by Tiros I have been sending back to ground stations unexpectedly clear pictures of cloud cover over various parts of the globe. When Tiros I is joined by other, more advanced orbiting companions, the broad range of new information thus made available will greatly expand knowledge of weather-making forces. Meteorologists presumably will be able then to make more accurate and longer-range forecasts; rain-making and other efforts by man to generate the kind of weather he wants may produce increasingly certain results.

Dimensions in weather research are vast. The earth's area of 197 million square miles forms the base of an enveloping blanket of atmosphere that is from 400 to 600 miles thick. It has been pointed out that “If all the persons in the world were weather watchers, each would have to watch about 2,000,000 tons of atmosphere.” The atmosphere comprises hundreds of air masses, each with its own surface characteristics of temperature, humidity, cloudiness and visibility, its own vertical structure and “life cycle.” As these masses move across land or sea, they acquire new characteristics. Hence there is question whether any key to complex weather patterns can be found in neat mathematical formulas.

Meteorologists are confident, however, that it will be possible some day to make order out of the seeming atmospheric disorder. Even a small improvement in long-range weather forecasting would produce economic savings of millions of dollars for agriculture and industry. Weather modification on a local or regional basis might bring relatively large benefits at modest cost. Large-scale weather modification projects, such as the thawing of Arctic ice recently proposed by Soviet scientists, conceivably could change the climate of whole continents. Vannevar Bush, chairman of the Office of Scientific Research and Development in World War II, has expressed both the hope and the challenge of this search for effective control of weather processes:

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Sep. 09, 2011  Extreme Weather
Jun. 15, 1990  Progress in Weather Forecasting
Sep. 05, 1980  Weather Control
Feb. 02, 1979  Weather Forecasting
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Apr. 13, 1960  Weather Forecasting and Control
Oct. 19, 1953  Weather Modification
Atmospheric Sciences