Chapter twelve: A Time of Turbulence

The promise of satellites for weather prediction was intuitively obvious to a few engineers and scientists in the 1950s (page 130). See RAND publi­cations itemized under chapter thirteen.

Harry Wexler’s extensive work in promoting Verner Suomi’s experiments to the IGY and in the early days of satellite meteorology (page 131) is obvious from the minutes of the IGY’s TPESP, from Wexler’s letters to Verner Suomi, from his role as a consultant for Suomi’s and Parent’s radia­tion balance experiment (shown by TPESP minutes), and from minutes of the National Research Council’s Committee on Meteorological Aspects of Satellites in the immediate post-Sputnik days. Wexler died at the age of 50 in 1962.

Sig Fritz’s role in the early days (page 131), including his assignment of a broom cupboard for an office, is expounded on in Margaret Courain’s Ph. D. thesis, Technology Reconciliation in the Remote Sensing Era of US Civil­ian Weather Forecasting, Rutgers University (1991).

Dave Johnson’s participation in both the civilian and defense weather satellite programs is well known among satellite meteorologists (page 131). An unsigned letter to Dave Johnson dated July 29, 1991, which being from Wisconsin must be from either Thomas Haig or Verner Suomi, says, “Delighted to hear that you are about to set the record straight and tell the whole truth about the early met sat days. I’m espe­cially glad that you are the one who is going to do it, because you are really the only one who knew both the civilian and the military programs from the beginning.”

The writer puts his finger on the difficulty with writing about the early meteorological satellite days and makes the case for declassification, saying, “I have no clear idea what is still considered to be classified, and I can’t imagine why any of the old program history should still be under wraps except perhaps to hide some old CIA—AF feuding that no-one is interested in anyway.”

Information about numerical weather prediction (pages 135 and 136) came from my interviews with Joseph Smagorinsky, director of the Geo­physical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, from 1970 to 1983. Smagorinsky has been involved in meteorology since his days with the Army Air Corps. He joined the meteorology group of the Insti­tute of Advanced Studies in Princeton in 1950. The group made its first numerical weather predictions on the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC);

The beginning of Numerical Weather Prediction, by Joseph Smagorinsky, in Advances in Geophysics 25, p. 3 (1983);

John von Neumann, by Norman Macrae, Pantheon Books (1992).

A variety of publications about the Global Atmosphere Research program (pages 132 and 133) are to be found in the library of the National Acad­emy of Sciences. One, published by the International Council of Scien­tific Unions and the World Meteorological Organization, provides an introduction to the program. It is No. 1 in the GARP Publication series.

Further, less formal, information about the potential role of satellites in the GARP is to be found in a presentation Verner Suomi made to a sym­posium in October 1969 (the paper doesn’t say which symposium, or where). The paper demonstrates Suomi’s abilities as a salesman for satellite meteorology.