Margules' Tendency Equation and Richardson's Forecast

Peter Lynch

Met Éireann, Glasnevin Hill, Dublin


Max Margules contributed a short paper for the Festschrift published in 1904 to mark the sixtieth birthday of his former teacher, the renowned physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. Margules considered the possibility of predicting pressure changes by means of the continuity equation. He showed that, to obtain an accurate estimate of the pressure tendency, the winds would have to be known to a precision quite beyond the practical limit. He concluded that any attempt to forecast synoptic changes by this means was doomed to failure.

We re-examine the numerical weather forecast made by Lewis Fry Richardson in the light of Margules' findings. Richardson employed the method which Margules had shown to be problematical; as a result, his prediction was completely unrealistic. It appears that Richardson was unaware of Margules' paper, although a copy was received by the Met Office Library in 1905.

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