Born 100 years ago, two extraordinary pioneers of meteorology forever changed our understanding of the atmosphere and its patterns: MIT professors Jule Charney and Edward Lorenz. Beginning in the late 1940s, Charney developed a system of equations capturing important aspects of the atmosphere’s circulation, enabling him to pioneer numerical weather prediction, which we use today. A decade later, Lorenz observed that atmospheric circulation simulations with slightly different initial conditions produced rapidly diverging numerical solutions. This discovery led him to propose that atmospheric dynamics exhibit chaotic behavior, an idea that has since been popularized as “the butterfly effect” and has changed the way we understand the weather and climate.
As MIT professors and department heads, these individuals contributed numerous insights to the field as well as profoundly influenced the next generation of leaders in atmospheric, oceanographic and climate sciences. During their time, Jule Charney and Edward Lorenz left an indelible mark on the field of meteorology, and their legacy lives on within MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
Submitted by: EAPS | Video by: Meg Rosenburg | 15 min, 3 sec