When was mathematics first used to predict the weather?

Math in Meteorology Read more from
Chapter Math in the Natural Sciences

One of the first people to use mathematics to predict the weather was English meteorologist Lewis Fry Richardson (1881–1953). In 1922 he proposed the use of differential equations to forecast the weather, an idea published in his book Weather Prediction by Numerical Process. He believed that observations from weather stations would provide data for the initial conditions; from that information, predictions of the weather could be made for several days ahead.

But Richardson’s methods were extremely tedious and time consuming, mainly because they had to be done by hand in the pre-computer age. Thus, most of his calculations came too late to be of any predictive value. Richardson determined that 60,000 people would have to do the calculations in order to predict the next day’s weather. But his ideas did lay the foundation for modern weather forecasting.


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