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Weather Prophecies

Weather Prophecies

(p.108) Chapter 3 Weather Prophecies
Looking Forward
Jamie L. Pietruska
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines conflicts over long-range weather forecasting from the 1890s to the 1910s, when the US Weather Bureau attempted to suppress the popular commercial “weather prophets” who sold predictions a month, a season, or a year in advance and threatened the professional authority of the government’s civilian weather agency. It focuses on the career of Willis L. Moore, chief of the Weather Bureau from 1895 to 1913, and his efforts to discredit private long-range forecasters as frauds while teaching the public to trust in but also accept the limitations of short-term weather forecasting and scientific meteorology. It also describes Moore’s rivalry with St. Louis long-range forecaster W. T. Foster and Moore’s ironic entry into the long-range forecasting business himself. The chapter traces the shift from the Weather Bureau’s rejection of long-range forecasting as unscientific toward the introduction of its weekly forecasts in the early twentieth century and its acceptance of uncertainty as an inescapable feature of weather forecasting.

Keywords:   long-range weather forecasting, meteorology, "weather prophets", US Weather Bureau, Willis L. Moore, authority, W. T. Foster, fraud, weekly forecasts

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