Carl-Gustaf Arvid Rossby was a gregarious, high-spirited powerhouse in the world of meteorology. Wherever the man went—and he went far during a nearly 40-year career—he was at the center of a moving seminar on atmospheres and oceans, surrounded by his many colleagues, nurturing a cadre of elite students, and holding court at the best dining and drinking establishments in town.

Rossby got his start in meteorology under fluid dynamicist Vilhelm Bjerknes and worked to bring Norwegian methods of air-mass analysis to the US. He soon developed his own school of thought and brought to the study of meteorology and dynamic oceanography novel analysis techniques and influential theories about the behavior of upper-air winds and ocean currents. He benefited from and further developed airplane and radio-balloon soundings, rotating-tank experiments, and other technologies—especially digital computing.

Rossby traveled the world promoting international understanding and cooperation in meteorology. His “centers of action” included the...

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