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US Weather Bureau Chief Willis Moore and the Reimagination of Uncertainty in Long-Range Forecasting

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This article examines competing modes of knowledge production in the context of long-range weather forecasting in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. The US Weather Bureau, a newly constituted civilian organisation in 1891, sought to build its institutional reputation based on authoritative short-term 24-hour forecasts by discrediting the popular and ubiquitous 'weather prophets' who made long-range predictions. Chief Willis L. Moore, at the helm of the Weather Bureau from 1895 to 1913, initially condemned long-range forecasting as superstition and quackery inherently inferior to professional meteorological expertise. But the Weather Bureau, which began issuing its own weekly forecasts in 1908, reimagined long-range forecasting to accept the very indeterminacy it had formerly denounced, thereby rationalising the uncertainty of weather prediction into its weekly forecasts and into its vision of modern scientific meteorology.
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Keywords: US Weather Bureau; Willis Moore; knowledge production; prediction; professionalisation; science and the public; uncertainty; weather forecasting; weather prophets

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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