I hadn’t heard about Reid Bryson until I received an email this morning. My partner at work, Dr. Mel Goldstein, knew of his work. Bryson was a pioneer in meteorology.
So much of what academicians look at is theoretical – Ivory Tower stuff. This is a story about practical meteorology, practiced before computers and voluminous data made it easy… even for guys like me… to tackle.
This was forwarded to me by a friend who reads the highly regarded (and impossible to get on) Tropical-storms mailing list:
I have the sad news to report that Professor Emeritus Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin – Madison passed away in his sleep Wednesday morning. Reid founded the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1948 . Although Reid is most well known for his work in Climate,People and the Environment,it is less known that Reid was also a pioneer in tropical meteorology and hurricane forecasting. As U.S. Army Air Corps meteorologist out of Saipan, Marshall Islands during World War II (December, 1944),
Reid pieced together evidence that a typhoon was apparently developing in harms way and commissioned reconnaissance of the storm that he believed surrounding observations suggested must exist in one of the many data void regions. The reconnaissance that he ordered found the storm, encountered 140 kt winds and aborted an apparent eye wall penetration.
Reid then identified a trough of low pressure in the storms path and predicted to his superiors that the storm would recurve into the path of the US Third Fleet. Believing that typhoons never recurve so far to the east, Reid’s superior officers chose to not believe his forecast.
Reid pleaded that this was not a guess, they actually flew into the storm and measured the winds! His superior officers conceded to watch it closely but did not act to move the fleet. Reid tells me that he went so far as to place unofficial warnings (off the record) of his own which he is convinced did save lives.
Then 36 hours later the storm began the recurve, just as Reid predicted and they tried to move the Third Fleet out of the way, but it was now too late.
Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea (see Henderson, 2007: Down to the Sea, ISBN978-0-06-117316-5 for a detailed account of this incident).
I suppose that this experience went a long way to shape Reid’s views on conventional thought and to compel him to dedicate the rest of his life to the science of weather and finding truth.
Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
University of Wisconsin – Madison