Chaos theory studies the inherent, unpredictable behavior of the natural systems. Many are surprised to learn it was developed in the field of meteorology, as a scientist (Edward Lorenz, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) sought to understand the structure of weather. Not only did Lorenz's work lead to breakthroughs in weather forecasting and atmospheric circulation, his pioneer methodology has enriched other fields of science as well.

The Chaotic Pendulum exhibit, made for NCAR by the Exploratorium Museum, demonstrates the principle of chaos. It would be easy for our visitors to predict the motion of one pendulum, but because the exhibit's three pendulums are connected, the movement of each will influence the others, making the overall motion unpredictable—or chaotic!

To learn more about two of the divisions at NCAR that incorporate the principles of chaos into their work, click on the Microscale and Mesoscale Meteorology (MMM) Division at and the Climate and Global Dynamics Division (CGD) at