Weather Radar Research

Weather Radar Research, Postcards, Klystron, Spiros Geotis, 1960–1963

MIT’s pioneering role in weather radar began at the Radiation Laboratory during WWII. Following the war, the military transferred several radar systems to MIT, which quickly became a key center for weather radar research.

For his study of hailstorms, Professor Spiros “Speed” Geotis instigated one of the earliest “citizen science” research programs. Geotis teamed up with WBZ-TV meteorologists Don Kent, Bob Copeland, and Norm MacDonald, who in turn invited residents in metropolitan Boston to send in a postcard any time they experienced a hailstorm. The key data included: address, date and time of the storm, and the size of the hailstones. Postcards poured into WBZ. Geotis compared this information to the data obtained from MIT’s radar equipment. (The klystron displayed in the MIT 150 Exhibition is the device that produced the radar waves.)

Not only did Geotis prove one could use radar to predict the location of hailstorms, but the quantity and detail of citizen data also showed that it was possible to estimate the size of the hailstones.

Photo: MIT Museum Collection, gift of Earle Williams and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.