Walker Institute  

Sir Gilbert Walker

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Who was Sir Gilbert Walker?

Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker
1868 - 1958

The Walker Institute is named after Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker, an eminent British mathematician and meteorologist. He is best known for his ground-breaking description of the Southern Oscillation, a major phenomenon of global climate related to El Niño, and for pioneering seasonal forecasting.

  Image of Sir Gilbert Walker

His main achievements regarding the field of weather and climate are:

  • Led the way on statistical forecasting - formed a ’human computer’ with Indian staff performing a mass of statistical correlations using data  from around the world
  • Pioneered work on the criteria for statistical significance
  • Introduced the terms Southern Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation, and North Pacific Oscillation for thefirst time in his paper on world weather correlations in 1924

“I think that the relationships of world weather are so complex that our only chance of explaining them is to accumulate the facts empirically; we know that it was impossible to explain cyclones (lows) until data of the upper air conditions were available, and there is a strong presumption that when we have data of pressure and temperature at 10 and 20 km, we shall find a number of new relations that are of vital importance.”

Sir Gilbert T. Walker, 1932

"By the Southern Oscillation is implied the tendency of pressure at stations in the Pacific ... to increase, while pressure in the region of the Indian Ocean … decreases.”

Sir Gilbert T. Walker, 1924


Biography of Sir Gilbert Walker

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A pen portrait of Sir Gilbert Walker

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