From Ancient Greece to the birth of modern Meteorology on the 21st century
Professor Christos S. Zerefos, Academy of Athens
State Representative for Climate Change

Moving from the 5th century B.C. to the 21th century A.D. the perception of our environment has been influenced by the four element theory by Embedocles and Aristotle and its dominance through the 17th century. The concept of an atmosphere as a mixture of gases started emerging and its physical and chemical properties have been studied during the late enlightenment period. Notable in that period is the discovery of carbon dioxide and the fact that water vapor is composed by two gases namely hydrogen and oxygen, all being mixed with nitrogen to form our atmospheric envelope. The introduction of measurements and in the past decades the rapid development of informatics has revolutionized the art of predicting weather and more recently predicting long term changes in climate. The lecture will move from the four elements and the meteorological theories in Aristotle’s “Meteorologica” through the “skeptical chymist” of Robert Boyle to the recent “Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change” 2014 Report. The development of our understanding of the environment has moved from the axiomatic four element theory to include the effect of the solar heating and the earth’s cooling to understand why our planet has an optimum average temperature of about 14.5oC and how fragile is the complex interaction between the atmosphere, the cryosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere and changes in the solid earth.