CLaSP History: Atmospheric and Oceanic

Atmospheric and Oceanic History

Meteorology at the University of Michigan began in 1954 with the hiring of Professor Wendell Hewson, by the Civil Engineering Department. His interest centered around pollution studies with particular emphasis on ragweed pollen.

Engineering Meteorology continued to grow with additional faculty and students joining the group and interest growing into fields such as dynamics and instrumentation. As the dynamics component grew the group was moved to Engineering Mechanics in 1961.

This evolving program in meteorology developed into the Department of Meteorology and Oceanography with a core of six faculty members by 1963. The first head of the department was Axel Wiin-Neilsen, who was recruited from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Additions to and departures from the department in the 1960s changed it from strongly emphasizing “engineering” to emphasizing more basic meteorology.

Around this same time, the oceanography component of the department came from the Zoology department within the School of Literature, Science and the Arts. This group was led by Professor John Ayres and concentrated on the limnology of the Great Lakes.

By the late 1960s, the department had become very strong in atmospheric dynamics, in large part driven by the interest of its Chair, Win-Neilsen. In 1970, the department had 14 faculty members, with seven, five and two specializing in the atmospheric, oceanic and aeronomy areas, respectively.

In the early 1970s, the water component of the department moved away from limnology and took on the character of more conventional oceanography programs by hiring faculty in geological, chemical and physical oceanography.

Our Research Today

Climate & Space scientists conduct extensive research in the areas of climate change, air quality and the dynamics and chemistry of the lower atmosphere. Activities include in-situ measurements, design of instruments, kinetics of chemical reactions and remote sensing from space.

Theoretical and modeling efforts at Climate & Space include the development of sophisticated numerical models to a range of topics, spanning ocean waves and currents; the impact of naturally occurring and man-made aerosols on climate; and the formation and transport of air pollutants.