'Weather Experiment': Predicting the weather once seemed impossible

Winter storm in Rochester
Predicting storms once seemed like a magical act; now predictions can come days and weeks in advance.
Alex Kolyer for MPR News

In the 1850s, when a British politician declared that people might one day know the weather 24 hours before it happened, everybody laughed.

Predict the weather? Impossible!

But not everyone was content to simply wait and see what the clouds would bring. Writer Peter Moore's new book, "The Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future," examines the sailors, scientists and inventors who dared to try and crack the secret of weather forecasting.

'The Weather Experiment' by Peter Moore
'The Weather Experiment' by Peter Moore
Courtesy of publisher

They did so with plenty of personal risk. Some took to the seas, sailing through tremendous storms. Others took the skies, exploring the upper atmosphere in a hot-air balloon. Another, Admiral Robert FitzRoy, risked everything — including his reputation.

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Moore chronicles their adventures, discoveries and failures, explaining how they laid the foundation for the weather science in use today.

Of course, skepticism remains about the field of meteorology. People love to critique weather forecasters — that's just a hazard of the job.

"Uncertainty is inherent in science to some point," Moore said. "But meteorology takes it to another level."

To hear the full discussion with Peter Moore about "The Weather Experiment," use the audio player above.