Oral history of British science

Gilchrist, Andrew (Part 4 of 7). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Recording locations

    The British Library, London

  • Interviewees

    Gilchrist, Andrew, 1929- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: Brief description of DCB, MO, led by George Corby [GC]. Mentions own refinement of earlier work on integration of 5DMCs, prompted by JS. Comments on development in DCB of 5 level numerical model of the atmosphere with 100 mb layers [5LM], including use of single column experiments on KDF9, in anticipation of new MO computer. Mentions establishment by JS of Department of Meteorology [DOM], University of Reading, 1965; own lectures DOM. [5:20] Mentions John Mason’s [JM] procurement of IBM 360/195 computer. Story of visits to IBM establishment, Poughkeepsie, New York, US to develop 5LM, with FB (developing his 10LM for NWP). Mentions establishment of IBM 360/195 at MO, early 1970s, allowing operation of 5LM; dissemination of results of 5LM integrations, including papers in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society [QJRMS], 1972/1973. [8:00] Comments on use of 5LM for investigation of effect of increasing carbon dioxide [CO2] on the atmosphere, including limitations of 5LM for this purpose. Mentions lecturing work. [9:08] Comments on new recruit to DCB, Peter Rowntree [PR], including PR’s use of computer model at Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory [GFDL], Princeton University, New Jersey, US. Mentions own visits to GFDL with GC; advice from Department of Physics, University of Oxford concerning radiation scheme in 5LM. Brief story of work by others on 5LM radiation scheme, including successful efforts of Tony Slingo. [Muted between 11:29 – 11:52] [12:42] Description of work of DCB at time of promotion to Head of DCB, 1973, including preparation for more advanced model, especially methods of ‘parameterisation’. [14:00] Description/discussion of method of adding effects of topography to integration of 5DMCs. [16:42] Comments on work of DCB using single column experiments to develop 5LM, including method for representing upward transfer of heat/moisture in relation to observed stability, method for representing effects of stability near the ground. [19:04] Brief comments on 5LM grid; ways of appraising success of 5LM during development. Description of various reasons/justifications for development of computer models of the global atmosphere, including the 5LM. [22:28] Comments on lack of awareness of Ministry of Defence [MOD] encouragement for development of computer models of the global atmosphere; lack of MO interest in climate modification. [24:33] Discussion of visits to IBM facility, Poughkeepsie. Comments on use of machine code rather than Fortran in 5LM. [31:24] Comments on FB in relation to Poughkeepsie visits. [32:09] Brief description of example of line of machine code in 5LM. [33:53] Brief comments on establishment of IBM 360/195 in MOHQ. Description of 5LM as printed output from IBM 360/195. [36:44] Comments on process of comparing 5LM output with actual meteorological observations; tendency for 5LM to represent temperature well and winds/rainfall less well. [38:07] Story of scientific and political interest in effect of increasing CO2 concentrations in the global atmosphere, including JM’s decision to alert UK Government, mid 1970s, own meetings with scientists in UK Government Departments to discuss prospect of CO2 induced climate change, production of public information leaflet on CO2 (1979), lack of interest in climate change of incoming Conservative Government (1979), later support/interest of Margaret Thatcher [MT], establishment of MO Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research [MOHC]. [42:15] Further comments on own meetings with scientists in UK Government Departments, including variation in levels of interest/concern. [45:55] Further comments on meetings with Cabinet Office committee; lack of interest of incoming Conservative Government (1979). [48:30] Detailed comments on work of GFDL, 1970s, led by Joseph Smagorinsky [JSY], including comparison with MO. Comments on character of JSY. [55:42] Description of process of using MO IBM 360/195. [57:24] Comments on work of Julia Slingo in DCB, with PR. [58:50] Brief comments on 1977 promotion. Comments on role of DCB in the GARP [Global Atmospheric Research Programme] Atlantic Tropical Experiment [GATE], 1974. Mentions other GARP experiments. [1:02:59] Comments on own/MO’s negative view of BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) programme ‘The Weather Machine’, written by Nigel Calder, shown 1974, including role of HL; own/MO’s view of work of HL. [1:08:09] Detailed comments on MO’s competition with other fields in recruitment of mathematicians/physicists. Comments on distinction between MO Scientific Officers and Experimental Officers. [13:09] Comments on married/family life, from 1962, including birth of children (1963, 1965, 1970). Mentions piano lessons; work involved in editing QJRMS, early 1980s. [1:16:35] Story of meeting future wife in Reading Mountaineering Club. Comments on parallel commitments of career and family, including use of lecture fees to buy tape recorder for children; reading of stories/books onto tape for children; wife’s lack of involvement in own career; own children’s limited interest in meteorology/climate.

  • Description

    Interview with climate modeller and research meteorologist Andrew Gilchrist

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    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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