The Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) - History
The foundations of the IMS were laid down on March 14th 1937 with the establishment of the Aviation Forecasting Service at the Lod Airport under the Department of Civil Aviation of the British Mandate Government (BMG). The first director of the forecasting unit was Mr. Rudolf Feige, a Jewish immigrant from Germany.
Routine meteorological measurements began, however, in the Land of Israel considerably earlier:
• Stations measuring rainfall were established as early as at the 1920's by the BMG, assisted by the Egyptian Meteorological Service. The purpose of these stations was primarily to provide rainfall data to the Agricultural Department of the BMG.
• In the 1930's, Professor Dov Ashbel of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has established meteorological stations in nearly every new Jewish settlement, with the active support of the Zionist organizations at that time (There were also some scattered observations of rainfall, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure from the mid-19th century until the beginning of the 20th century. These measurements were carried out by different bodies, such as: the British Company for the Exploration of Palestine, the Templers, etc).
With the beginning of World War II (WWII), the British Royal Air Force (RAF) took control over the meteorological unit at the Lod Airport and turned it into a military unit. During the war the unit was moved from Lod to the RAF base near Ramlah.
At a later stage during the war, the unit was relocated to the Notre Dam monastery in Jerusalem, close to the RAF headquarters. With the end of WWII the meteorological services were reestablished under the control of the Civil Aviation Department of the BMG, and the forecasting unit has moved back to the Lod Airport. The administration of the service continued, however, to operate from the Palace Hotel in Jerusalem.
With the proclamation of the State of Israel following the UN resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, and the Israel War of Independence, the meteorological unit became the core of the newly established Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) under the Ministry of Transport. During the War of Independence the meteorological unit was forced to move out of the Lod Airport.
After the end of the War of Independence the forecasting unit of IMS returned to the Lod Airport while the other units were moved to the HaQirya in Tel-Aviv. From the administrative perspective, it was decided that the Israeli Air Force and the Ministry of Transport will cooperate on weather-related issues, and specifically, the Ministry of Transport assumed responsibility for the climate units, the station network, and technical services, while the forecasting unit and the meteorological stations located at the Air Force bases were under the responsibility of the Air Force, which would also provide meteorological services to the Israeli Navy and the Artillery Corps.
This arrangement, however, did not last very long, and during the second half of 1949 the Air Force and the Ministry of Transport agreed for the transfer of responsibility for all units of the Meteorological Service to the Ministry of Transport, excluding the meteorological stations at the Air Force bases, which were manned by enlisted soldiers.
The Forecasting Center at the Lod Airport provided all of the Air Force’s weather forecast needs, in addition to its public services and the fulfillment of its international obligations, with the management and other units of IMS operating from the HaQirya in Tel Aviv.
In 1949 Israel became a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which is a special agency of the UN, and in 1953 Israel signed the organization’s Convention. During the first years after the establishment of the state, and for many years to come, the network of meteorological stations has greatly expanded, with most of them being operated by volunteer observers, as was customary in those days.
In 1958, an agreement was signed between the Israeli government and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for the establishment of the Central Meteorological Institute in Bet Dagan. It was intended that the Central Meteorological Institute will host the Headquarters of IMS, including all the units at the Lod Airport and at the HaQirya in Tel-Aviv. The Israeli government has taken also the obligation that the Central Meteorological Institute will establish a Meteorological Training Center, providing all its facilities and equipment for training and transferring meteorological know-how to developing countries, which has been carried out ever since.
In 1962, the Institute was opened officially. The opening ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister Mr. David Ben-Gurion, and the President of the World Meteorological Organization.
As planned, all units and facilities of IMS dispersed throughout the country, including the National Forecasting Center were concentrated at the Central Meteorological Institute at Bet Dagan. Only a forecasting unit for aviation purposes remained at the Ben-Gurion Airport.
In 1969 the first computer, Sigma 5. was installed at the Israel Meteorological Service, and this development should be regarded as an important step towards transforming IMS to an advanced, high-tech institution, whose development in the various fields of meteorology continues to these days.