The first issue of the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, then called the Journal of Meteorology, appeared in September 1944, just a few months after the Allies’ D-Day Invasion of Normandy. Thus, this year marks the journal’s 75th anniversary. That a new journal focused on atmospheric research should appear at such a fraught time shows the remarkable prescience of the Council of the American Meteorological Society. The atmospheric sciences soon emerged to epitomize postwar modern science, leading in the peaceful scientific applications of new wartime technologies, such as radar, digital computing, and rocketry (which led to satellite remote sensing) and addressing major environmental concerns, such as air pollution and, later, climate change.
The first chief editor of the journal was Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Victor Starr, Rossby Research Medal awardee, founder of MIT’s General Circulation Project, and author of the remarkably interdisciplinary book, Negative Viscosity Phenomena. These are big shoes for his successors! Papers in that first issue were written by giants of twentieth-century meteorology: Jacob Bjerknes, Jørgen Holmboe, Harry Wexler, and Herbert Riehl.
The most celebrated paper ever to appear in the journal came later. Edward Lorenz’s “Deterministic nonperiodic flow” published in the February 1963 issue of the (by then) Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, has been cited nearly 10 000 times. Arguably this is the paper that launched “chaos theory,” with profound influences throughout the natural and social sciences and into the humanities. Despite its broad impact, Lorenz was intent on the implications of his work for weather prediction, so it is no accident this work appeared in an atmospheric sciences journal.
Lorenz’s acknowledgments include the following: “Special thanks are due to Miss Ellen Fetter, for handling the many numerical computations and preparing the graphical presentations of the numerical material,” reminding us how it is only recently that women, in significant numbers, have been fully included in the atmospheric sciences. The first three volumes of the journal include only one paper authored by a woman, a short contribution from Joanne Simpson, another giant of our field, on the subject of inertial instability. Today half of the subject-area editors of the journal are women, yet the inclusion of people of all genders, races, and origins in our science and on the pages of journals remains in this century very much a work in progress.
While the diversity of journal authors and editors has increased over these 75 years, the diversity of science in its pages has, in some respects, declined. Articles addressing air pollution, climate change, and the upper atmosphere that once would have appeared in this journal now go elsewhere. While a healthy range of scales and disciplines, from boundary layer turbulence to cloud physics and from convective dynamics to the planetary-scale circulation, remain, one wonders if the increasing number and specialization of journals, together with their nearly exclusively online use (such that no one ever flips through their pages and makes a serendipitous discovery) has reduced the cross-disciplinary fertilization that often is the source of new ideas. At the same time, today all the AMS journals are as close as one’s desktop, so technology has brought us back, in a way, to 1944, with one big journal spanning research throughout the atmospheric and related sciences. Seventy-five years later, it is really all 12 AMS journals together that are the true legacy of that wonderful decision, taken in 1944, to launch the Journal of Meteorology.