MIT, News | February 8, 2017

Happy Birthday to the Father of Modern Dynamical Meteorology

By Lauren Hinkel

In honor of his 100th birthday on January 1st, MIT remembers Jule Gregory Charney, a leader in numerical weather prediction, and a former MIT professor and director of the Atmospheric and Ocean Dynamics Project. As an American meteorologist, Charney focused on mathematically describing large-scale atmospheric circulation; this extended to work on ocean currents, atmospheric wave propagation, large-scale hydrodynamic instability, hurricanes, drought, and atmospheric blocking ridges.

Jule Gregory Charney
Jule Gregory Charney

One of his most notable contributions was the development of The Quasi-Geostrophic Equations, a set of equations that calculated motions of planetary-scale waves (Rossby waves). Additionally, Charney’s seminal work on baroclinic instability theory provided the first correct explanation for the development of cyclones and anticyclones in Earth’s mid-latitudes. He also led the preparation of a National Research Council report, “Carbon dioxide and climate: A scientific assessment”, which provided one of the earliest evaluations of climate change and its carbon dioxide link.

Later this year, MIT’s Lorenz Center and PAOC will throw a joint symposium recognizing the contributions that Jule Charney and Edward Lorenz—also celebrating 100 on May 23rd and the father of chaos theory—made to MIT and Earth sciences.