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Jule G. Charney papers

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Identifier: MC-0184

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Jule G. Charney document the scientific, academic, professional and political activities of Charney during the period 1921 to 1981. The bulk of the material dates from 1948 when Charney began his professional career as director of the Theoretical Meteorology Project at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and terminates with his death in 1981 while professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The collection provides documentation of Charney's research and professional contributions in the field of theoretical meteorology and numerical weather prediction.


  • Creation: 1921 - 1981


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Biographical Note

Jule Gregory Charney, 1917-1981, was an active contributor to theoretical meteorology and in the field of numerical weather prediction. He earned a BA in mathematics and physics in 1938 from UCLA, an MA in mathematics in 1940, and a PhD in meteorology in 1946. During World War II he assisted in the training of weather officers for the armed services at the Army Air Forces Training School at UCLA.

In 1946 Charney went to the University of Chicago as a research associate of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, one of the founders of modern meteorology. He continued his post-doctoral work as a National Research Fellow in 1947-1948 at the University of Oslo, Norway. Charney spent the years in Chicago and Oslo developing his theory of quasi-geostrophic dynamics, deriving systematic approximations to the equations of fluid motions, thereby allowing large-scale atmospheric circulations to be described mathematically. His research helped create a core for future theoretical work in modern dynamical meteorology.

In 1948 Charney joined the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, as director of the Meteorological Research Group. At IAS he collaborated with mathematician John von Neumann in developing numerical weather prediction through the use of high-speed computers. Initial computations were made on the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC) in 1950. The results were the first numerical predictions of a two-dimensional model approximating the actual flow at a mid-level in the atmosphere. In 1952-1953 Charney obtained the first prediction of cyclogenesis with a three-dimensional model. The results prompted the United States government's interest in the practical application of operational numerical prediction. Consequently, Charney contributed to the establishment of the Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit in Maryland for the routine daily prediction of large-scale weather patterns. The facility served the Air Force, the Navy, and the United States Weather Bureau. The latter, with Charney's encouragement, established the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, a research-orientated facility utilizing computers for basic atmospheric and oceanic research.

In 1956 Charney came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as professor of meteorology and director of the Atmospheric and Ocean Dynamics Project. In the quarter of a century until his death in 1981, he continued to make contributions to the theory of ocean currents, atmospheric wave propagation, large-scale hydrodynamic instability, hurricanes, drought, and atmospheric blocking ridges.

In 1966 Charney was appointed the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, the first individual to occupy the chair established through a fund pledged by A. P. Sloan, Jr. In 1974 Charney became head of the MIT Department of Meteorology and was responsible for its reorganization into the Department of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography. In 1977 he resigned his post as department head in order to pursue his research interests.

During the years 1960 to 1965, while a member of the Committee on Atmospheric Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences, and later as chair of the Committee on International Meteorological Cooperation, Charney assisted in organizing the Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP). GARP developed from several sequences of scientific, technical and political advancements. The United States began to concentrate on the establishment of an American space program during the years following the first successful Soviet satellite launch in 1957. In April 1961 President John F. Kennedy, anxious to strengthen the US space effort and lessen tensions generated by Cold War politics, consulted Special Assistant for Science and Technology Jerome B. Wiesner for suggestions to promote collaborative space programs with other nations, including the USSR. Charney, contacted by Wiesner, was instrumental in initiating a series of discussions among atmospheric scientists on methods to advance international cooperation. In 1962 the International Council of Scientific Unions joined the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the administration of the Global Atmospheric Research Program. Charney continued to be active in GARP projects and became the first chair of the United States Committee on GARP.

Charney was a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a foreign member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Norwegian Academy of Sciences. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the American Meteorological Society's Meisinger Award, the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the Losey Award of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, the Symons Memorial Gold Medal of the Royal Meteorological Society, the Hodgkins Medal of the Smithsonian Institution, the Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union, and the Cleveland Abbe Award of the American Meteorological Society. Jules Charney died June 16, 1981.

Link to National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir:


Born, San Francisco, January 1
BA, Mathematics and Physics with honors, UCLA
Teaching Assistant in Mathematics, UCLA
MA, Mathematics, UCLA
University Fellow in Mathematics, UCLA
Teaching Assistant in Physics-Meteorology, UCLA
Instructor and Lecturer in Physics-Meteorology, UCLA
PhD, Meteorology, UCLA. Awarded National Research Fellowship
Research Associate in Meteorology, University of Chicago
National Research Fellow, Institute of Astrophysics, University of Oslo
Staff Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey
Director, Theoretical Meteorology Project, Institute for Advanced Study
Long-term Member, Institute for Advanced Study
Guest Lecturer, University of Chicago (summers)
Guest Lecturer, University of Stockholm (summer)
Woods Hole Associate Lecturer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (summer)
Professor of Meteorology, MIT (Alfred P. Sloan Professor, 1966-); Principal Investigator, Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans Project, MIT
Guest Lecturer, Universities of Oslo and London (summer)
Visiting Professor, Harvard University
Visiting Professor, UCLA
Guest Lecturer, Summer School of Space Physics of the Centre National d' Etudes Spatiales, Lannion, France
Summer Lecturer, Italian National Research Council Laboratory for the Study of the Dynamics of Large Masses, Venice, Italy
Guggenheim Fellow: Cambridge University, England (Overseas Fellow, Churchill College), September 1972-February 1973; Weizmann Institute of Sciences, Israel, February 1973-July 1973
Head, Department of Meteorology, MIT
Died June 16


Phi Beta Kappa
Meisinger Award, American Meteorological Society
Losey Award, Institute of Aeronautical Sciences
Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Fellow, American Geophysical Union (President, Meteorological Section, 1970-1971)
Symons Memorial Gold Medal, Royal Meteorological Society
Carl-Gustav Rossby Research Medal, American Meteorological Society
Member, National Academy of Sciences (Committee on Atmospheric Science, 1957-1967; Chairman, GARP, 1968-1971)
Foreign Member, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Fellow, American Meteorological Society
Hodgkins Medal, Smithsonian Institution
Foreign Member, Norwegian Academy of Science
Doctor of Science, Honorary, University of Chicago
President, Meteorology Section, American Geophysical Union
International Meteorological Organization Prize, WMO
Symons Memorial Lecturer, Royal Meteorological Society
John von Neumann Lecturer, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Bowie Medal, American Geophysical Union
Andrew Thompson Lecturer, Atmospheric Environment Service of Canada, Canadian Meteorological Society and University of Toronto
Honorary Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences
Cleveland Abbe Award, American Meteorological Society
Honorary Member, Royal Meteorological Society


28.2 Cubic Feet (27 record cartons, 3 manuscript boxes, 1 legal manuscript box, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



These papers document the career of Jule G. Charney, whose research focused on the mathematical description of large-scale atmospheric circulations and included work on the theory of ocean currents, atmospheric wave propagation, large-scale hydrodynamic instability, hurricanes, drought, and atmospheric blocking ridges. The papers document his scientific, academic, professional, and political activities, dating from 1936 to 1981. Part of his career was spent at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was professor of meteorology. Contributions to the field of meteorology are described in extensive files of project reports, conferences and seminars, correspondence, and committee records of the many national and international organizations in which he particpated.

Arrangement note

The collection is organized into the following six series: 1. Personal Materials; 2. Correspondence and Subject Files; 3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Materials; 4. Writings and Lectures; 5. Research Materials; 6. Articles by Others.

In general, the papers are in their original folder units, and original folder headings have been retained whenever possible. The arrangement is alphabetical except where noted. Correspondence pertaining to related subjects may be located both in correspondence files and under relevant subject headings.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) in 1982 by the Charney family.

Related Materials in the Institute Archives and Special Collections

National Research Council. Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1979. doi:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Meteorology records. AC 177.

"Conversations with Jule Charney," published transcript of George W. Platzman's interview with Jule Charney, August 25-28, 1980. MC 411.

Materials Separated from Collection

Awards, citations, and photographs were removed from the collection and presented to the MIT Museum.

Publications about Jule Charney

  • Philips, Norman A. "Jule Charney's Influence on Meterorology." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 63, no. 5 (May 1982).
  • Phillips, Norman A. "Jule Gregory Charney, 1917-1981, a Biographical Memoir." Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 1995.
  • Lindzen, R., E. Lorenz, and G. Plaztman, eds. The Atmosphere—A Challenge: The Science of Jule Gregory Charney. The American Meteorological Society, 1990.

Publications by Jule Charney

  • 1945 Section of radiation. Handbook of Meteorology. McGraw-Hill, 283-311.
  • 1947 Dynamics of long waves in a baroclinic westerly current, J. Meteor., 4, 135-162.
  • 1947 On the general circulation of the atmosphere in middle latitudes. (with C.-G. Rossby et al.) Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 28, 255-280.
  • 1948 On the scale of atmospheric motions, Geofys. Publikasjoner, 17, 1-17.
  • 1949 On a physical basis for numerical prediction of large-scale motions in the atmosphere. J. Meteor., 6, 371-385.
  • 1949 with A. Eliassen: A numerical method for predicting the perturbation of the middle latitude westerlies. Tellus, 1, no. 2, 38-54.
  • 1950 Progress in dynamic meteorology. Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 31, 231-236.
  • 1950 with R. Fjortoft and J. von Neumann: Numerical integration of the barotropic vorticity equation. Tellus, 2, 237-254.
  • 1951 with B. Bolin: Numerical tendency computations from the barotropic vorticity equation. Tellus, 3, 248-257.
  • 1951 Dynamic forecasting by numerical process. Compendium of Meteorology, Am. Met. Soc., 470-482.
  • 1951 On baroclinic instability and the maintenance of the kinetic energy of the westerlies. Trans. Internat. Assoc. Meteor. I.U.G.G., Brussels. Transactions of the Symposium on the General Circulation of the Oceans and Atmosphere, 47-63.
  • 1951 I progressi della meteorologia dinamica. Revista di Meteorologia Aeronautica, 11, 3-9.
  • 1951 Reply to "Atmospheric Signal Velocity" by R.S. Scorer, J. Meteor., 8, 69-70.
  • 1951 Remarks on coordinating meteorological research and weather forecasting. Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 33, 355-364.
  • 1953 with N.A. Phillips: Numerical integration of the quasi-geostrophic equations for barotropic and simple baroclinic flows. J. Meteor., 10, 71-99.
  • 1954 Numerical prediction of cyclogenesis. Proc. Nat. Acad. of Sci., 40, 99-110.
  • 1954 Numerical weather prediction. Proc. Workshop on Num. Weather Pred., Amer. Met. Soc.
  • 1955 The use of the primitive equations of motion in numerical prediction. Tellus, 7, 22-26.
  • 1955 The generation of ocean currents by wind. J. Mar. Res., 14, 477-498.
  • 1955 Numerical methods in dynamic meteorology. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 41, 798-802.
  • 1955 The Gulf Stream as an inertial boundary layer. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 41, 731-740.
  • 1956 Some basic problems in dynamic meteorology. J. Geophys. Res., 61, 323-328.
  • 1956 with B. Gilchrist and F. Schuman: The prediction of general quasigeostrophic motion. J. Meteor., 13, no. 5.
  • 1959 On the theory of the general circulation of the atmosphere. Rossby Memorial Volume, Rockefeller Institute Press, New York, 1959, 178-193.
  • 1959 Hydrodynamics of the atmosphere and numerical weather prediction: a synthesis. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 45, no. 12, 1650-1655, Dec. 1959.
  • 1959 Non-linear theory of a wind-driven homogeneous layer near the equator. Deep-Sea Research, 6, no. 4, 303-310.
  • 1960 Numerical Prediction and the General Circulation. Dynamics of Climate, Pergamon Press, ed. R.J. Pfeffer. pp. 12-17.
  • 1960 Integration of the primitive and balance equations. Proc. Intern. Symp. on Numerical Weather Prediction, Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 7-11, 1960, 131-152. Published by Met. Soc. of Japan, 1962.
  • 1960 Article on numerical weather prediction. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • 1961 with P.G. Drazin: Propagation of planetary-scale disturbances from the lower into the upper atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res., 66, no. 1, 83-109.
  • 1962 with M.E. Stern: On the stability of internal baroclinic jets in a rotating atmosphere. J. Atmos. Sci. , 19, 159-172.
  • 1963 A note on large-scale motions in the tropics. J. Atmos. Sci. , 20, no. 6.
  • 1963 Numerical experiments in atmospheric hydrodynamics. Proc. Symposia Appl. Math., 15, Amer. Math. Soc., 289-310.
  • 1963 with J. Pedlosky: Propagation of the energy of unstable waves from the lower to the upper atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res., 68, no. 24.
  • 1964 A time-variable differencing lattice for the control of truncation error. Presented IUGG- WMO Symposium on Research and Development Aspects of Long-Range Forecasting, June 29 - July 4, 1964, NCAR, Boulder, Colorado.
  • 1964 with A. Eliassen: On the growth of the hurricane depression. J. Atmos. Sci., 21, no. 1, 68-75.
  • 1965 Energy cascades and fronts in quasi-geostrophic flow. Presented at IAMAP-WMO Symposium on Large-Scale Processes, June 23-30, 1965, Moscow.
  • 1966 with R. Fleagle, V. Lally, H. Riehl, D. Wark: The feasibility of a global observation and analysis experiment. A Report of the Panel on International Meteorological Cooperation to the Committee on Atmospheric Sciences, Nat. Acad. of Scis., National Research Council. Publication 1290. Washington, D.C.
  • 1966 Some remaining problems in numerical weather prediction. Advances in Numerical Weather Prediction. 1965-66 Seminar Series sponsored by Travelers Research Center, Hartford, Connecticut.
  • 1969 The intertropical convergence zone and the Hadley circulation of the atmosphere. In Proc. of the WMO/IUGG Intern. Symp. on Numerical Weather Prediction, in Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 1968. III, 73-79. Published in 1969 by the Japanese Met. Agency.
  • 1969 What determines the depth of the planetary boundary layer in a neutral atmosphere? Oceanology, Acad. Sci. USSR, 9, no. 1, 143-145.
  • 1969 A further note on large-scale motions in the tropics. J. Atmos. Sci., 26, no. 1.
  • 1969 Chapter on predictability in Plan for U.S. Participation in the Global Atmospheric Research Program. A report of the U.S. Committee for the Global Atmospheric Research Program to the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
  • 1969 with M. Halem. and R. Jastrow: Use of incomplete historical data to infer the present state of the atmosphere. J. Atmos. Sci., 26, 5(2), 1160-1163.
  • 1971 with S. Spiegel: Structure of wind-driven equatorial currents in homogeneous oceans. J. Phys. Ocean., 1, 149-160.
  • 1971 Geostrophic turbulence. J. Atmos. Sci., 28, 6.
  • 1971 Tropical cyclogenesis and the formation of the intertropical convergence zone. Mathematical Problems in the Geophysical Sciences, Volume 13 of Lectures in Applied Mathematics. Published by the American Mathematical Society.
  • 1972 Impact of Computers on Meteorology. Computer Physics Communications, 3, Suppl. North-Holland Publishing Company, pp. 117-126.
  • 1973 Movable CISK. J. Atmos. Sci., 30, 1, 50-52.
  • 1973 Planetary Fluid Dynamics. Dynamic Meteorology (ed. P. Morel). D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht, Holland, pp. 97-352.
  • 1974 Reply to Comments by J. Holton on "Movable CISK." J. Atmos. Sci., 31, 3, 834-835.
  • 1975 with P.H. Stone and W.J. Quirk: Drought in the Sahara: A Biogeophysical Feedback Mechanism. Science, 187, 435-436.
  • 1975 Dynamics of Deserts and Drought in the Sahel. Quart. J. Roy. Met. Soc., 101, 193-202.
  • 1975 Dynamics of Deserts and Drought in the Sahel. GARP Publications Series No. 16. "The Physical Basis of Climate and Climate Modelling." Report of the International Study Conference in Stockholm, 29 July 10 August, 1974, pp. 171-176.
  • 1976 with P.H. Stone and W.J. Quirk: Reply to comments by E.A. Ripley. Science, 191, 100-101.
  • 1976 Reply to E.A. Ripley. Quart. J. Roy. Met. Soc., 101, 468.
  • 1977 "A Biogeophysical Feedback Mechanism in Arid Lands." Chapter 13 in Arid Zone Development, Ballinger Publishing Co., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 181-188.
  • 1977 with W.J. Quirk, S.H. Chow and J. Kornfield: A comparative study of the effects of albedo change on drought in semi-arid regions. J. Atmos. Sci., 34, no. 9.
  • 1976 "Drought in the Sahara; insufficiant biogeophysical feedback?" Reply to comments by E. A. Ripley. Science, 191, 100-102.
  • 1976 "Dynamic and equilibrium problems in climatology"
  • 1977 "A comparative study of the effects of albedo change on drought in semi-arid regions" (with W. J. Quirk, S.H.- Chow and J. Kornfield), J. Atmos. Sci., 34, 1366-1385.
  • 1977 "A biogeophysical feedback mechanism in arid lands". Chapter 13 in Arid Zone Development. Bollinger Publishing Company.
  • 1979 "Multiple flow equilibria in the atmosphere and blocking" (with J. deVore) J. Atmos. Sci., 36, 1205-1216.
  • 1980 "Form-Drag Instability, Multiple Equilibria and Propagating Planetary Waves in Baroclinic, Orographically-Forced, Planetary Wave Systems" (with David M. Straus) to be published in J. Atmos. Sci.
  • 1981 "Oceanic Analysis of Large-Scale Atmospheric Phenomena" To be published.

Theses Advised by Jule Charney

  • Bass, Arthur , Pseudospectral Numerical Study of Geostrophic Turbulence, June, 1974. PhD.
  • Bates, John Raphael , Dynamics of Disturbances of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, September, 1969. PhD.
  • Branscome, Lee Edward , Scales and Structures of Baroclinic Waves and their Influence on Climatic States, November, 1980. PhD.
  • Cardelino, Carlos Antonio , A Study on the Vertical Propagation of Planetary Waves and the Effects of the Upper Boundary Condition, September, 1978. MS.
  • Duffy, Dean G. , The Stability of Finite-Amplitude, Neutrally Stable Baroclinic Waves and their Associated Fronts, August, 1975. ScD.
  • Emanuel, Kerry Andrew , Inertial Stability and Mesoscale Convective Systems, May, 1978. PhD.
  • Eriksen, Charles Curtis , Measurements and Models of Fine-Structure, Internal Gravity Waves and Wave Breaking in the Deep Ocean, September, 1976. PhD
  • Errico, Ronald Mark , The Partitioning of Energy Between Geostrophic and Ageostrophic Modes in a Simple Model, October, 1979. PhD.
  • Fullmer, James William Anthony , The Baroclinic Instability of Simple and Highly Structured One-Dimensional Basic States, May, 1979. PhD.
  • Golan, Daniel , An Experiment in Large-Scale Air-Sea Interaction, October, 1979. MS.
  • Gordon, Neil David , Numerical Simulation of a Long-Lasting Mesoscale Convective Line, February, 1978. ScD.
  • Grant, William K-F Jr. , On Initialization of Primitive Equation Models, January, 1975. MS.
  • Hollingsworth, Anthony , Modification of the Atmospheric Semi-Diurnal Lunar Tide by Oceanic and Solid Earth Tides, September, 1970. PhD.
  • Janota, Paul , An Emperical Study of the Planetary Boundary Laver in the Vicinity of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, September 1971. PhD.
  • Jao, Zen-Kay , Monsoon and the General Circulation of the Tropics in June-August, December, 1970. MS.
  • Kim, Kuh , Instability and Energetics in a Baroclinic Ocean, August, 1975. PhD.
  • Lin, Charles Augustin , Eddy Heat Fluxes and Stability of Planetary Waves, May, 1979. PhD.
  • Lishman, Christine E. , Numerical Methods for Solving the Non-Linear Problem of a Wind-Driven, Homogeneous, Equatorial Undercurrent, September, 1967. MS.
  • Mullan, Antony Brett , A Mechanistic Model for Mid-Latitude Mean Temperature Structure, May, 1979. ScD.
  • Perrie, William Alan , Mapping of Wave Systems to Nonlinear Schrödinger Equations, November, 1979. Ph.D.
  • Shukla, Jagadish , On the Dynamics of Monsoon Disturbances, January, 1976. ScD.
Guide to the Papers of Jule G. Charney
Elizabeth Craig-McCormack; IASC collections staff
Copyright 1984 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CC-BY-NC
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Processing of the collection was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education, Title II-C This finding aid has been encoded by the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, as part of a collaborative project supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Revision Statements

  • 2021 July 9: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements and to remove aggrandizing terms in the biographical note description.
  • 2023 February: Revised by processing archivist Chris Tanguay to add access notes.

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