Who Discovered Jet Streams?
Aeronautics played a role in the discovery and mapping of jet streams. Many credit bomber pilots flying missions during World War II with much of the knowledge we have today about the jet streams. They were able to quicken their missions and beat hasty retreats over the Mediterranean Sea by making the most of the jet streams.
But even before WWII bomber pilots used the jet streams. Wiley Post, an American pilot and the first to fly solo around the world in 1933, contributed to our knowledge of these forces of nature. He developed a pressurized suit to fly higher in the atmosphere and noted the differences in pressure at various levels. This set the stage for the understanding of the jet stream and pressurized flight.
German meteorologist H. Seilkopf is often credited with coining the phrase “jet stream,” as he used in a research paper published in 1939.
Volcanoes have also played a role in understanding of the jet stream. Observers of the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcanic island in Indonesia documented its effect on the sky, and in the 1920s Japanese meteorologist Wasaburo Oishi used aviator balloons to identify the jet stream from a site near Mt. Fuji.
More recently, many European flights were grounded after the 2009 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano —further proof that plumes of volcanic ash have a tendency to get sucked into the same jet stream that airplanes use for travel.