Vilhelm Frimann Koren Bjerknes, Norwegian physicist (1862-1951), was a central figure in the pioneering stage of modern meteorology and oceanography. His meteorological theories (especially with regard to cyclogenesis along the polar front) helped establish the basis for weather forecasting in temperate and high latitudes. His mathematical treatment of water motions in the sea helped establish the foundations for dynamic oceanography.
Bjerknes was the leading figure of the "Bergen School" of the physics of atmosphere and ocean, early in the 20th century. The central goal of the "school" was to bring the principles of hydrodynamics and thermodynamics into the daily business of meteorology, which was focused on weather prediction. The most important result was the elucidation of the processes associated with frontal development and the genesis and evolution of storm systems along the polar front. As Bjerknes points out in this essay, the circumstances in Bergen, downwind from a major region of cyclogenesis, were uniquely suited to this purpose. The Bergen methodology soon moved into oceanography, where it provided the foundations for dynamical treatment of currents and eddies.
What follows is an essay by Vilhelm Bjerknes, translated from the German text by Wolfgang H. Berger, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD.