The Eye of the Cyclone

One hundred two years ago today

, Jacob Bjerknes, a Norwegian meteorologist who paved the way for weather forecasting, was born. Bjerknes is known for explaining how cyclones cross the ocean, lose power, and then resurge as intense storm systems. He studied a phenomenon called the "squall line," in which a mass of cold air abruptly shoves itself under warmer air, often spawning fierce but short-lived thunderstorms. Bjerknes discovered that the squall line is followed by a cyclonic weather system in which air rotates around a low-pressure center. By 1919 he had developed an integrated model and coined the terms "warm front" and "cold front" to describe broader weather patterns. Bjerknes continued to refine his models, which eventually led to the first accurate computer-aided weather forecast in 1950. Bjerknes died in 1975.

[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed., Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research Inc., ITP, 1995).]