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May-June 2013

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June 2, 1924: Death of Weather Bureau Balloonist Clarence Meisinger

Aeronautics has always played an important role in meteorology, especially during the early 20th century, when the U.S. Weather Bureau regularly sent small, unmanned “pilot” balloons, as well as larger weather balloons with radiosondes and other instruments attached, into the atmosphere to gather data.

In 1924, Dr. Clarence L. Meisinger of the Weather Bureau undertook a research project to use manned balloons to study air currents in midlatitude cyclones—the large storm systems that sweep across the North American continent, producing everything from blizzards to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The scientific understanding of how midlatitude cyclones work was still in its infancy at the time, with the groundwork having been laid by the polar front theory put forth by Vilhelm Bjerknes and his “Bergen School” colleagues just a few years earlier.

Contributing Editor Sean Potter is a New York-based Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM), Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM), and science writer with an interest in weather history.

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