Mathematical Physics and meteorology

On 5 October 2012 the fiftieth anniversary of the Institute for Theoretical Physics (ITP) was celebrated with a colloquium. A few scientists of the RMI obtained their PhD at this Institute and were present on this occasion.

Piet Termonia, head of the department 'meteorological and climatological research' of the RMI, also Program Manager of the ALADIN consortium, and ex student of the ITP, took, during his presentation, the opportunity to highlight the crucial role of mathematical physics for the current scientific discipline of atmospheric modeling.


Prof. F. Denef of the Institute for Theoretical Physics about the fundamental questions of physics in the 21st century.

The Norwegian mathematician Bjerknes realised already in 1904 that weather prediction could essentially be possible by solving the dynamic equations of the atmosphere. This could, however, not be realized before the invention of the first computers and a first trial to solve the dynamical equations was reported in 1950. Since then the computing power has increased enormously and by the steady refinements of the computer models, the predictive horizon of the models has been moved further into the future by one day every ten years.

A second important theoretical contribution was made by the the theoretician E. Lorenz in 1963 who, building further on the work of the French mathematician Poincaré, showed that the equations of the atmosphere exhibit an inherently unpredictability. This led to the later development of probabilistic forecast systems. Three scientists of the RMI and ex students of the ITP, A. Deckmyn, G. Smet and J. Van den Bergh played a key role in the international context of the ALADIN collaboration, in the development of the European GLAMEPS forecasts system. Such systems make, besides forecasts, also estimates of the reliability of the forecasts.


The complexity of our weather and climate models is steadily increasing en further developments demands unique scientific skills. The contributions of theoretical physicists have been crucial and, given the challenges that our discipline is facing, we expect that the role of mathematical physics will only increase.