A short & Concise Notes on History of Climatology

History of Climatology in this article we will find out about the developmental activities of climatology discipline from ancient period to present time..

A short & Concise Notes on History of Climatology

Table of Content

  • Introduction
  • History of Climatology


Atmosphere has aroused the curiosity of man since very ancient times. Very few elements of the physical environment exerts similar influence on our life as does the atmospheric conditions. Therefore, man had started studying atmosphere thousands of years before.


We find mention of some atmospheric processes like seasons, monsoon bursts, etc., in Rig Veda composed in 1500 or before B.C. P. K. Das, a former director of Meteorological Department of Government of India in the third edition (1995) of his book Monsoon has translated a Rig Vedic verse in English. This verse makes mention of the monsoon rains in the north-western parts of India. We also find mention of climate and weather changes in the two epics of Ramayana and Mahabharta. In Brahatsamhita (505 A.D. to 587 A.D.) by Varah-Mihir five chapters throw light on weather science There are some details about clouds, rainfall, air etc. “Meghmala Tentra” (Science of Clouds) written collected edited between 800 A.D. to 1200 A.D. is the first Indian book completely devoted to weather sciences. In the time of Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) all things were said to be made of four basic elements – fire, air, earth (soll) and water. Aristotle had also written a book named “Meteorologica dealing with weather sciences. The name of weather sciences called ‘Meteorology’ is derived from this book. According to Indian tradition all things on earth are made of five basic elements – fire, air, water, earth and space. In entire history of mankind curiosity about atmospheric processes has inspired man to search for physical and chemical elements.


In the 16th century in Europe great advancements were made in scientific research about atmospheric processes. The invention and development of measuring instruments like thermometer for measuring temperature, humidity measurement instrument for measuring humidity and barometer for measurement of air pressure helped in the growth of knowledge related to atmosphere. Among these most of the instruments were developed by ingenious scientists and engineers of the Academy of Experiments at Florence City of Italy.


First of all in 1593, Galileo (1564-1642) developed a crude thermometer. Many instruments were made based on it and in 1657, the Italian Academy came up with the mercury thermometer. Toricelli (1606-1647), pupil of Galileo first discovered that air has weight and it exerts pressure. He then discovered the barometer for measurement of air pressure. A little later a French mathematician Wallace Pascal in the course of climbing a peak discovered with the help of barometer that the air pressure goes on decreasing with height. On the basis of this principle some scientists later found out that the atmosphere loses its character and existence after reaching a certain limit of height.


In the next 150 years, scientists made extensive use of instruments for the study of atmosphere. They also discovered the interrelationship among air and wind and temperature and humidity of air. Approximately at the same time the experiments carried out in many laboratories conclusively proved that atmosphere is a mixture of certain gases like nitrogen, oxygen and some water vapours. Knowledge about other few constituent gases of atmosphere also came a little later.


Our knowledge about atmosphere at that time was still limited to its layer near the surface of the earth. It further raised the curiosity of scientists whether the upper layers behave exactly in the same manner as the lower layers. The first efforts to measure air temperature of the upper layers started in the 17th century. Different instruments were placed in the upper layers with the help of helium filled balloons. Among these instruments also included canisters to obtain air samples of upper layers of atmosphere. In 1804 a French Scientist J.L. Galosck was successful in flying a balloon to a height of about 7 km. He found out that this upper layer of atmosphere had similar chemical characteristics as the lower layer.


In the 18th century, efforts to study upper layers of atmosphere continued. But no one could reach more than 10 km height in atmosphere because it was difficult to breathe due to thinly spread air in upper layers. In 1902, a French meteorologist T.D. sent such instruments in atmosphere in unmanned balloons, which recorded the various conditions of atmosphere in upper layers. It was Bort who foundout that temperature of atmosphere decreases with height.


After sometime radio signals could be picked up from unmanned flights of balloons in atmosphere. This helped scientists to know more about the upper layers of atmosphere. In 1930 the meteorologists discovered that after reaching a certain height, air temperature again begins to rise. It was later discovered that the presence of ozone gas in this layer raised the temperature of atmosphere with height. It absorbs the ultraviolet rays of the Sun.


Approximately this very time an English Scientist Edward Appleton (1892-1965) uncovered a astonishing mystery. In 1901, Marconi successfully transmitted radio signals across the Atlantic ocean, Radio waves travel in straight lines. How did these signals travel over the curved surface of the earth? Appleton reasoned that there is a layer of electrically charged ions at some height in the atmosphere. This layer reflected the radio-waves. This layer of atmosphere thus came to be called ionosphere.


The radio broadcasting balloons could not be used above the height of 30 km. In 1940s the scientists started making use of rockets to get knowledge about the upper layers of atmosphere. After launching of the Sputnik in 1957 there came about a revolution in meteorology. Now-a-days we can get any specialised information about atmosphere or its different layers by making use of weather satellites like Tyro of the United States or INSAT series satellites of India.

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