Measuring the sky

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Norwegian scientists hiking in the mountains

The large amounts of weather data generated by networks of telegraphs and weather stations did not necessarily mean that observatories were able to predict the weather very accurately.

On the one hand, and most basically, the form of data itself needed to be standardized so that it could be used to make calculations. Besides weather data, more complex mathematical models for understanding the behavior of weather systems were also needed.

One of the pioneers in this area was the Norwegian physicist Vilhelm Bjerknes (1862–1951). Having worked in Bonn (with Heinrich Hertz), Stockholm, and Leipzig, as well as Oslo, he founded the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen in 1917, where he and others developed increasingly sophisticated weather prediction models.

How to cite this page


Alexander Badenoch, 'Measuring the sky', Inventing Europe,


  1. Edwards, Paul N. A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming. The MIT Press, 2010.

About this tour


Weather: mapping common skies in divided Europes

Weather knows no political boundaries, but weather maps certainly do. Charting and predicting the weather involves collecting data from a number of places and making calculations fast - hopefully before the weather changes! This means building networks to gather and exchange information, and that means crossing the border. Ironically, the moments when people have most urgently wanted weather data is during wartime, when the networks break down ...

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One of the pioneers: Vilhelm Bjerknes (1862-1951)

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