Joint Centre for Mesoscale Meteorology (JCMM)
Potential vorticity: A short history of its definitions and uses
by Alan J Thorpe and Hans Volkert
There has, in recent years, been something of a renaissance in the use of potential vorticity to interpret atmospheric dynamics. This owes a lot to the review paper of Hoskins. McIntyre and Robertson (1985). However, the definition and use of potential vorticity dates back to about 1940. In this paper the different roots of the conception of the dynamical quantity now called potential vorticity are traced during the period 1940 to 1955. Some background information about the principal scientists involved is provided as is a brief account of the use of the early ideas during the following two decades.