Astronomy or Meteorology or ?: Sun-Weather Connection Research as a Borderland Science

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 3:30 PM
128AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Joseph P. Bassi, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/Worldwide, Lompoc, CA

A fascinating story in the broader history of meteorology and atmospheric sciences is the effort to connect “day to day” weather with the transient events and variations on the sun often collectively referred to as “solar activity.” The idea that earth weather and solar phenomena are somehow linked has existed within scientific circles since the early 1800s, if not earlier. Noted 19th century astronomers such as William Herschel, John Herschel, and Norman Lockyer argued for such a connection. Many other scientists in subsequent decades---mostly astronomers---have continued on in these investigations. In the 20th century, prominent researchers such as C. G. Abbot of the Smithsonian and National Center for Atmospheric Research's founding director, Walter Orr Roberts took up the cause of sun-weather connection studies. Meteorologists however, especially in the 20th century, have for the most part have taken a rather skeptical view of these proposed connections. A better understanding the history of sun-weather connection science and its associated controversies therefore helps to reveal both the dynamics of interdisciplinary science. It also reveals the nature of scientific research that does not fall easily within traditionally defined scientific disciplinary boundaries. The history of sun-weather research therefore helps to illustrate the role of what some call “borderland ” or “intercalated” areas of inquiry in the modern scientific enterprise.