Oral history of British science
Gilchrist, Andrew (Part 3 of 7). An Oral History of British Science
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Gilchrist, Andrew, 1929- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 3: Comments on influence of Head of LRFB on statistical focus of LRFB. Brief description of own statistical work in LRFB. [1:14] Description of own investigation of use of 5 day mean charts [5DMC] of the northern hemisphere (at surface and 500 millibars [mb]) as forecasting tool, including role of MO Head of Research, Reginald Sutcliffe [RS]. Mentions similar technique used in US, led by Jerome Namias [JN]. Continued description of use of 5DMC, including relations between long wave and short wave atmospheric dynamics at 500 mb, identification of connection between strength of ‘westerlies’ and heat transfer, middle latitudes to poles. [4:59] Story of work in representing 5DMCs mathematically (using spherical harmonics), involving night-time use of UOM computer (with FB/MH testing NWP model). Comments on results of ‘integration’ of 5DMCs forward in time, involving unrealistic development of atmospheric ‘long waves’. [8:05] Comments on posting to Central Forecasting Office [CFO], 1958-1959. [8:47] Comments on own view of statistical work, LRFB, 1950s; MO use of ‘analogues’ in operational long range forecasting from early 1960s. [11:40] Mentions Hubert Lamb [HL]. Comments on character/abilities of contemporary Head of LRFB. [14:17] Description/discussion of method of representing 5DMCs mathematically, including use of UOM (Ferranti [Mark 1]) computer. Mentions Tom Kilburn/Tony Brooker, UOM. [22:23] Comments on character/abilities/interests of FB/MH. Description of role of own assistant in use of UOM computer. [26:05] Description of output from UOM computer; process of integrating 5DMCs forward in time. Mentions John Sawyer [JS], successor to RS. Comments on meaning of ‘vorticity’ (rotation). [31:11] Description of Ferranti computer, UOM. Comments on FB’s optimism in 1950s concerning future of NWP; FB’s use of a two level ‘Sawyer-Bushby model’ based on vorticity; personal relations between FB/MH. [35:02] Comments on feelings about posting to CFO, 1958; shift pattern, CFO. Description of role of senior forecaster, CFO; own role as upper air forecaster, CFO. [43:27] Comments on living arrangements/pastimes, 1950s; involvement in MO ‘Dramatic Society’. [47:53] Brief comments on father’s death. [48:40] Comments on secondment to Nigerian Meteorological Service, Lagos, Nigeria, Africa [NMS], 1959. Story of travel to/arrival in Lagos. Comments on work undertaken during secondment, including objective of preparing NMS for (political) independence. [55:05] Description of assessments of likely wind dispersion of nuclear fallout from French nuclear bomb tests, conducted for Atomic Weapons Establishment [AWE], Aldermaston, Berkshire. [57:09] Comments on own investigations of Nigerian weather events, including Harmattan (dust laden desert winds), line squalls (thunderstorms), ‘easterly waves’ (confirmed by satellite observations, 1960s). [1:00:51] Discussion of identification of easterly waves from changes in wind patterns. Comments on ‘little dry’ period. [1:02:44] Comments on travel during secondment, NMS; awareness of contemporary colonial tensions, Nigeria; personnel of NMS; differences between NMS and MO. [1:08:05] Description of work on evaporation nomograms, NMS. Mentions Rothamsted Research Station Hertfordshire, UK. [1:10:12] Comments on own accommodation, Lagos, Nigeria. [1:11:13] Comments on feelings of relief at return to UK following secondment; role as Scientific Assistant to MO Director General, Graham Sutton [GS]; role of GS in procurement of new MO computer, [English Electric] KDF9 and decision to publish Long Range Forecasts [LRFs]. Story of decision to publish LRFs, following US forecasts of severe winter in UK, 1962/1963. Comments on reasons for procurement of KDF9, including demands of administrative work; visit to MO of Minister Hugh Fraser. [1:17:41] Story of own replies to letters to GS from members of the public critical of the MO, including those concerned with effects of electricity and nuclear bomb testing on weather. [1:20:12] Comments on US forecast of severe UK winter, 1962/1963; own preparation for posting to new MO Dynamical Climatology Branch [DCB], established 1963; reasons for establishment of DCB and other new branches (including High Atmosphere Branch) following MO review, 1956. [1:23:44] Comments on change in approach to NWP from1950s to 1960s, entailing focus on ‘primitive equations’ rather than vorticity equations, allowing development of a ten level model [10LM].
Interview with climate modeller and research meteorologist Andrew Gilchrist