Carl-Gustaf Rossby

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Carl-Gustaf Rossby
Born Carl-Gustaf Arvid Rossby
(1898-12-28)December 28, 1898
Stockholm, Sweden
Died August 19, 1957(1957-08-19) (aged 58)
Stockholm, Sweden
Citizenship Swedish
American (1939)
Nationality Swedish
Fields Meteorology, physical oceanography
Institutions Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Chicago
Alma mater University of Leipzig
University of Stockholm (1925)
Doctoral advisor Vilhelm Bjerknes
Doctoral students Chaim L. Pekeris
Horace R. Byers
R. Montgomery
H. Seiwell
R. Simmers
Harry Wexler
M. Neiberger
V. Starr
D. Fultz
Reid Bryson
Hsiao-Lan Kuo
G. Platzman
T.-C. Yeh
G. Cressman
Y.-P. Hsieh
Joanne Malkus
C. Newton
J. Freeman
D. Rex
Bert Bolin
E. Eriksson
Aksel C. Wiin-Nielsen
B. Doos
Jerome Namias
Jule Gregory Charney
Known for Synoptic and dynamic meteorology, polar frontal theory, jet stream, atmospheric chemistry
Influences Vilhelm Bjerknes
Notable awards Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal (inaugural)

Carl-Gustaf Arvid Rossby (Swedish pronunciation: [kɑːɭˈgʉsˌtav ˈarvɪd ˈrɔsːby] 28 December 1898 – 19 August 1957) was a Swedish born American meteorologist who first explained the large-scale motions of the atmosphere in terms of fluid mechanics.

Rossby came into meteorology and oceanography while studying under Vilhelm Bjerknes in Bergen in 1919, where Bjerknes' group was developing the groundbreaking concepts that became known as the Bergen School of Meteorology, including theory of the polar front.

Meteorological Observatory Lindenberg

He also studied at the University of Leipzig and at the Lindenberg Observatory, Brandenburg where upper air measurements by kite and balloon were researched. In 1921 he returned to Stockholm to join the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) where he served as a meteorologist on a variety of oceanographic expeditions. While ashore between expeditions, he studied mathematical physics at the University of Stockholm.[1]

In 1925 Rossby was granted a fellowship from the Sweden-America Foundation "to study the application of the polar front theory to American weather". In the U.S. Weather Bureau in Washington, DC he combined theoretical work on atmospheric turbulence with the establishment of the first weather service for civil aviation.

In 1928 he became associate professor in the Aeronautics Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Shortly after this MIT launched the first department of meteorology in the U.S. In 1931 he also became a research associate at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). His interests during this time ranged over atmospheric thermodynamics, mixing and turbulence, and the interaction between oceans and the atmosphere.

On 9 January 1939 he became a US citizen[2] and in that same year, assistant director of research at the U.S. Weather Bureau. His appointment as chair of the department of meteorology at the University of Chicago in 1940 began the period in which he turned his attention to large-scale atmospheric motions. He identified and characterized both the jet stream and Rossby waves in the atmosphere.

During World War II, Rossby organized the training of military meteorologists, recruiting many of them to his Chicago department in the post-war years where he began adapting his mathematical description of atmospheric dynamics to weather forecasting by electronic computer, having started this activity in Sweden using BESK. In 1947 he became founding director of the Institute of Meteorology in Stockholm, dividing his time between there, Chicago and Woods Hole. After the war he visited Professor Hans Ertel, an old friend, in Berlin. Their cooperation led to the mathematical formulation of Rossby waves.

Between 1954 and his death in Stockholm in 1958, he championed and developed the field of atmospheric chemistry. His contributions to meteorology were noted in the December 17, 1956 issue of Time magazine.[3] His portrait graced the cover of that issue, the first meteorologist on the cover of a major magazine.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lewis, John M. (1992). "Carl-Gustaf Rossby: A Study in Mentorship". Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 73 (9): 1425–38. Bibcode:1992BAMS...73.1425L. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1992)073<1425:CGRASI>2.0.CO;2. 
  2. ^ Rossby, Carl Gustav Arvid (9 Jan 1939). U.S. District Court. Boston, MA: Petition No: 192302; Admission: 4560990. 
  3. ^ Man's Mileu
  4. ^ TIME Magazine Cover: Carl-Gustaf Rossby - Dec. 17, 1956

Further reading[edit]