The “MetZet Classic Papers” Series

Stefan Brönnimann
Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland


Meteorologische Zeitschrift has a long and rich history (for details see the paper by Emeis, 2008). In fact, in just a few years the journal will celebrate its 150th anniversary (the predecessor journal, the Zeitschrift der österreichischen Gesellschaft für Meteorologie, first appeared in 1866). It is exciting to hold the first volume in ones hands and browse through the contents. For instance, one finds a seminal paper by Julius Hann (1866) on the Föhn wind (refined in several later papers in the journal, e.g., Hann (1885)). The first volume of the Meteorologische Zeitschrift in 1884 (the two journals merged two years later) contains several influential papers including Wladimir Köppen’s first classification of climatic regions (Köppen, 1884). During the following decades, landmark papers in the fields of climatology (e.g., Hann, 1890), meteorological instrumentation (Assmann, 1889), atmospheric dynamics (e.g., Bjerknes 1904, Ficker 1920), radiation (e.g., Ångström, 1916), microphysics (e.g., Findeisen, 1938), aerology (e.g., Flohn, 1952) and other fields were published in the journal. Of particular importance were the papers by Hans Ertel on the concept of vorticity (Ertel, 1942a,b, translated in Schubert et al. 2004). During these decades the Meteorologische Zeitschrift was a leading journal in the field.

Many of these papers had a large influence on the field, and it would be interesting, instructive, or even inspiring to revisit these papers from a present-day viewpoint. Scientific topics often undergo cycles of interest and older perspectives on the same topic are quickly forgotten. Current scientific discussions may sometimes benefit from an influx of past ideas (see also Stehr and von Storch, 2000). However, this process is hindered by a language barrier. All of the above mentioned papers were published in German. Most current scientists working in the field are not able to read them. Language is thus strongly restricting the current audience.

German was a well accepted scientific language in meteorology until about the 1920s, when English started to become the dominant language (see also Liljequist, 1980). For a long time, most German-speaking scientists continued publishing in German and the German meteorological journals only slowly changed to publishing in English (see also Emeis, 2008). In fact, it was not until relatively recently that the Meteorologische Zeitschrift adopted the policy to publish only English articles. Nowadays, German articles are barely citable in the English scientific literature. Therefore, there is a large body of important scientific publications that is now sinking into oblivion.

Being aware of the importance of the history of meteorology and climatology to current science, the Meteorologische Zeitschrift not only frequently publishes papers on historical aspects, but at previous occasions also has published translations of important papers. For instance, twenty-one of Ertel’s papers were translated in Schubert et al. (2004). Starting with this issue of the Meteorologische Zeitschrift, we will publish in loose sequence a series of translated and edited papers originally published in the Meteorologische Zeitschrift (including its precedents) during its first century. The goal is to make these papers readily accessible to current climate scientists working in the field (including students), and perhaps, to contribute to a stimulation of current discussions through an influx of past ideas.

The series is named “MetZet Classic Papers”. Each item in this series consists of three parts
(1) an English translation of the original article with editorial endnotes (e.g., full references instead of the common abbreviated references style, full names of or biographical notes on persons mentioned, map with locations mentioned),
(2) a pdf file of the original (German) article on, and
(3) a short accompanying paper that embeds the paper into its historical context and provides a link to the present day discussion.

Approximately two to three papers will appear per year; until the 150th anniversary of the journal about sixteen papers will have been translated (see EMEIS, 2008).

The series starts with a paper from Vol. 1 of the Meteorologische Zeitschrift (von Danckelman, 1884) and a context paper by BRÖNNIMANN et al. (2009). In this paper geographer Alexander von Danckelman describes the effect of biomass burning in the Congo region on visibility, haze, cloud cover, and precipitation. In addition to a meticulous description of the phenomena the paper also contains a brief discussion of the microphysical processes and an estimation of dry biomass burned at continental scale. Von Danckelman then compares this number, which is within the current satellite-based estimations, with industrial emissions and concludes that biomass burning is a major climate factor in sub-Saharan Africa. Biomass burning and the effect of fire on climate, including their history, have become foremost research topics. We hope that the translation of this paper and future papers in this series not only brings to mind the important work of our predecessors, but that it may even serve as a source of inspiration for some readers.

The titles of all Classic papers are listed below. The papers with a hyperlink are already available (click on link to access); those without are scheduled to be done.

Meteorol. Z. Classic Papers

Brönnimann, S., 2009: Start of the Classic Papers Series. Meteorol. Z. 18, 339–340, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2009/0385.

Ångström, A., 1916: Über die Gegenstrahlung der Atmosphäre (On the counter-radiation of the atmosphere). - Meteorol. Z. 33, 529–538 (translated and edited by Volken, E., S. Brönnimann, R. Philipona. – Meteorol. Z. 22 (2013), 761–769, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2013/0550).

Philipona, R., 2013: Atmospheric thermal radiation – from historical measurements to investigations of the Earth’s greenhouse effect. – Meteorol. Z. 22, 771–775, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2013/0473.

Assmann, R., von Siegsfeld, B., 1889: Eine neue Form des Assmannschen Aspirations-Thermometers vorgeführt auf der Allgemeinen Versammlung der DMG in Berlin, 23.-25 April 1889. - Meteorol. Z. 6, 278-279 (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 21 (2012), 421–422, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2012/530).

Assmann, R., 1891: Ein Apparat zur Ventilation des feuchten Thermometers (A device for the ventilation of the wet-bulb thermometer). – Meteorol. Z. 8, 15–24 (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. –Meteorol. Z. 21 (2012), 423–430, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2012/531).

Emeis, S., 2012: Aßmann’s development of aspiration psychrometers– Meteorol. Z. 21, 431–435, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2012/0351.

Bjerknes, Vilhelm, 1904: The problem of weather prediction, considered from the viewpoints of mechanics and physics (Das Problem der Wettervorhersage, betrachtet vom Standpunkte der Mechanik und der Physik). - Meteorol. Z. 21, 1-7.(translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 18 (2009), 663–667, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2009/416)

Gramelsberger, G., 2009: Conceiving Meteorology as the exact science of the atmosphere: Vilhelm Bjerknes’s paper of 1904 as a milestone. – Meteorol. Z. 18, 669–673, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2009/0415.

Ficker, H., 1920: Der Einfluss der Alpen auf Fallgebiete des Luftdrucks und die Entwicklung von Depressionen über dem Mittelmeer. (The influence of the Alps on areas of falling air pressure and the development of depressions over the Mediterranean Sea). – Meteorol. Z. 37, 350–363. (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 19 (2010), 489–500, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2010/478).

Davies, H.C., 2010: An early and perceptive concept of cyclogenesis. – Meteorol. Z. 19, 513–517, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2010/0477

Hann, J., 1885: Einige Bemerkungen zur Entwickelungs-Geschichte der Ansichten über den Ursprung des Föhn (Some remarks about the development of views on the origin of the foehn). – Meteorol. Z. 2, 393–399 (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 21 (2012), 591–596, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2010/0533).

Ficker, H. v., 1910: Über die Entstehung der Föhnwinde auf der Nordseite der Alpen (On the formation of foehn winds on the northern side of the Alps). – Meteorol. Z. 27, 439–451 (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 21 (2012), 597–605, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2010/0532).

Seibert, P., 2012: The riddles of foehn – introduction to the historic articles by Hann and Ficker. – Meteorol. Z. 21, 607–614, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2012/0398.

Hann, Julius: Zur Witterungsgeschichte von Nord-Grönland, Westküste. (On the weather history of North Greenland, west coast). – Meteorol. Z. 7, 109–115 (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 19 (2010), 199–205, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2010/0434).

Hense, A., R. Glowienka-Hense, 2010: Comments on: On the weather history of North Greenland, west coast by Julius Hann. – Meteorol. Z. 19, 207–211, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2010/0431.

Köppen, W., 1884: Die Wärmezonen der Erde, nach der Dauer der heissen, gemässigten und kalten Zeit und nach der Wirkung der Wärme auf die organische Welt betrachtet (The thermal zones of the earth according to the duration of hot, moderate and cold periods and to the impact of heat on the organic world). – Meteorol. Z. 1, 215–226. (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 20 (2011), 351–360, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2011/105).

Rubel, F., M. Kottek, 2011: Comments on: “The thermal zones of the Earth” by Wladimir Köppen (1884). – Meteorol. Z. 20, 361–365, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2011/0285.

Scherhag, R., 1934: Zur Theorie der Hoch- und Tiefdruckgebiete. Die Bedeutung der Divergenz in Druckfeldern (On the theory of high and low pressure areas: The significance of divergence in pressure areas). – Meteorol. Z. 51, 129–138 (translated and edited by Volken, E., Giesche, A. N. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 25/4, 511–519 (2016), DOI: 10.1127/metz/2016/0785).

Volkert, H., 2016: Aerological data spurred dynamical meteorology: Richard Scherhag’s contribution of 1934 as an early milestone. – Meteorol. Z. 25/4, 521–526 DOI: 10.1127/metz/2016/0784).

Süring, R., 1910: A. Berson’s Bericht über die aerologische Expedition des königlichen aeronautischen Observatoriums nach Ostafrika im Jahre 1908 (Report by A. BERSON about the aerological expedition of the Royal Aeronautic Observatory to East Africa in 1908). – Meteorol. Z. 27, 536–542 (translated and edited by Volken, E. and S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 22 (2013), 343–348, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2013/0494).

Brönnimann, S., A. Stickler, 2013: Aerological observations in the Tropics in the Early Twentieth Century. – Meteorol. Z. 22, 349–358, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2013/0458.

von Dankelman, A., 1884: Die Bewölkungsverhältnisse des südwestlichen Afrikas (Cloud conditions in Southwest Africa). – Meteorol. Z. 1, 301–311 (translated and edited by Volken, E., K. Lehmann, S. Brönnimann. – Meteorol. Z. 18 (2009), 341–348, DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2009/355).

Brönnimann S., E. Volken, K. Lehmann, M. Wooster, 2009: Biomass burning aerosols and climate – a 19th century perspective. – Meteorol. Z. 18, 351-355. DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2009/354

Emeis, Stefan, 2008: The History of Meteorologische Zeitschrift. – Meteorol. Z. 17, 685-693. DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2008/0330.