Development of Meteorology

Aristotle's Meteorologica (c.340 BC) is the oldest comprehensive treatise on meteorological subjects. Although most of the discussion is inaccurate in the light of modern understanding, Aristotle's work was respected as the authority in meteorology for some 2,000 years. In addition to further commentary on the Meteorologica, this period also saw attempts to forecast the weather according to astrological events, using techniques introduced by Ptolemy.

As speculation gave way to experimentation following the scientific revolution, advances in the physical sciences made contributions to meteorology, most notably through the invention of instruments for measuring atmospheric conditions, e.g., Leonardo da Vinci's wind vane (1500), Galileo's thermometer (c.1593), and Torricelli's mercury barometer (1643). Further developments included Halley's account of the trade winds and monsoons (1686) and Ferrel's theory of the general circulation of the atmosphere (1856). The invention of the telegraph made possible the rapid collection of nearly simultaneous weather observations for large continental and marine regions, thus providing a view of the large-scale pressure and circulation patterns that determine the weather.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Weather and Climate: Terms and Concepts