Page 27

for verification, instrumented aircraft measurements over the South Pole. The success of the endeavor, and its importance to human life and safety, was recognized by award of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Sherwood Rowland, Mario Molina, and Paul Crutzen.

A widely recognized contribution to fundamental understanding by a meteorologist is chaos theory, pioneered by Edward N. Lorenz beginning in the 1960s. Professor Lorenz explored the properties of a simplified system of equations describing convection. He discovered, through numerical experimentation, that the evolving solutions of these equations were aperiodic and ultimately unpredictable, even though they were clearly deterministic in the sense that they were governed by the equations of the system. Such chaotic behavior of nonlinear systems is now known to be common rather than rare, and this discovery has resulted in a new paradigm for phenomena occurring in almost every field of science. It has also resulted in a widely accepted theory of atmospheric predictability and has led to a deeper understanding of the mathematical structure of atmospheric motion and the nature of strategies required to predict the statistics that describe climate. Of even greater significance, perhaps, is the fact that the understanding of chaos and nonlinear dynamics that stemmed from basic research in meteorology has now illuminated phenomena studied in many scientific disciplines.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement