Development of weather forecasts


Whether it’s watching clouds closely, forecasting the weather, or launching cutting-edge technology to see what’s happening in the world, weather has fascinated people since the dawn of time.

Let’s look at the weather timeline and see how far we’ve come.

What do you want to know

  • People have studied Aristotle’s meteorology book for 2000 years, even though it was not accurate
  • It was not until the 16th century that we got our first meteorological instrument
  • Scientists launched the first weather satellite in the 1960s

Where does the name come from?

Meteorology has nothing to do with space objects, yet many people confuse it with the study of meteors.

Meteorology and meteorology both come from the Greek word meteoros, which means “in the wind”.

In Aristotle’s time, people believed that astronomy and meteorology went together and classified anything that fell from the sky as a meteor. This is how the name was born.

Therefore, meteorology introduces the study of weather and climate.

Drawing by Evangelista Torricelli of one of the first barometers. There was mercury in the tubes and vacuum at the top. (Library of Congress)

The weather improves with time

Around 600 BC. AD, weather forecasts came from observations, meaning people tried to predict the weather based on the clouds they saw or the color of the sky.

Fast forward to 340 BC. AD when Aristotle wrote the Meteorologicala, a detailed book on meteorology.

It describes when certain weather events occurred and under what conditions, including dew, frost, thunder, lightning, and many more. Although it was very detailed and studied for 2000 years, it was not very precise.

Soon after, Chinese astronomers developed a calendar that divided the year into 24 seasons.

And it was not until the 16th and 17th centuries that Galileo Galilei and Evangelista Torricelli invented the thermometer and the barometer, respectively, which led to breakthroughs in weather observation.

During the 1900s, we had many more seasons before.

Norwegian meteorologists developed a theory for the development of mid-latitude cyclones that is still used today.

In 1942, the US Navy donated radars to the National Weather Service (then known as the Weather Bureau), introducing the US Weather Radar System.

In the 1950s computers ran the first models of the atmosphere, and in the 1960s we launched the first weather satellites.

Since then we have evolved in the weather industry, bringing our advanced weather technology to what we have today.

The GOES-T weather satellite which was launched in early 2022. (United Launch Alliance)

Today’s weather and why it’s so important

Today, the technology is advanced enough that meteorologists can study weather conditions around the world. In the past, observations were limited to specific points on Earth.

We can even be precise because the observations of certain cities are able to see rotations within thunderstorms to detect tornadoes.

All in all, we can forecast tropical systems weeks in advance, which is a big change from forecasting cloud storms already in your area, like 600 BC.

Forecasters can also forecast long-term events, such as drought or monsoon rains.

There is no doubt that today’s prediction helps many people to prepare for their working day or vacation, but the most important reason is that it helps save lives.

Just 100 to 200 years ago, hundreds of people were killed by a single weather event. Today we reach about 500 per year for each weather event combined, indicating that the weather has improved in a short time. Who knows what we might be doing in just 100 more years.

Our team of meteorologists delve into meteorology and break down weather data and information in a timely manner. To see more weather and climate related articles, check out our weather blog section.


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