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The National Weather Service Cooperative Program

"The National Weather Service Cooperative Program is the cornerstone of the most important and valuable climatological, hydrological and environmental monitoring network in the world." John Grimes III, State Climatologist, Louisiana State University

Over two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson envisioned a nationwide network of weather observers. In 1776, he began to recruit volunteer weather observers throughout Virginia. By 1816, he had also established a network of observers in every county of Virginia. Also by 1800 there were volunteer weather observers in 5 other states across the newborn nation. They included Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina. By 1891, the network of voluntary observers across the country had grown to 2000 stations.

 By 1890 the direction of the growing volunteer force was taken over by the Smithsonian Institution; however, it was not until 1953 that Dr. Helmut Landsberg of The Weather Bureau conducted a study with Iowa State University to establish a scheme to blanket the nation with a volunteer network. It was determined that there should be one weather station every 25 miles for estimating rainfall to acquire an accuracy tolerance of ten percent. With this blanket coverage in mind, our cooperative weather observer network has grown to nearly 11000 stations today.

To date, Mr. Edward G. Stoll who took weather observations for 76 years in Arapahoe, Nebraska, has the longest history as a cooperative weather observer. Throughout the nation, numerous families have continued their cooperative weather observer duties for successive generations with some providing a century or more of data.

It is estimated that the cooperative observers donate their time to the tune of over a million dollars a year making the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program one of the nation's most cost effective government sponsored programs.

The value of weather data collected extending back over a hundred years is becoming more and more valuable with the passage of time. The climatological database generated through the efforts of the volunteer cooperative weather observer provides not only the cornerstone of our nation's weather history; but also, serves as the primary data for research into global climatic change.

 

Are You Interested in Becoming a Cooperative Weather Observer?

The Cooperative Observer Program is a nation-wide network of volunteer observers who make daily reports of rainfall, temperature, and river levels. These volunteers have a long history of dedication to the program and their reports form the basis for the climatology database for the country.

 Each weather office has responsibility for determining the need for new observers, recruiting and training those observers, and maintaining the equipment used by the observers, providing all supplies needed, and ensuring reports are submitted in a timely manner and are accurate.

 After determining a need for an observer in a specific area, the National Weather Service send a representative out to recruit an observer. The key objective is to find an observer that is willing to make a long-term commitment to providing daily reports each morning. Another important consideration is the location available for instrument siting - it is important that the instruments give representative readings for the area.

 The importance of the long term commitment cannot be under emphasized. It takes 30 years of reports to form a valid climatology for a specific site. The Cooperative Weather Observers must make arrangements for others to take daily readings in the event the primary observer is out of town or otherwise unable to make the reports.

 Depending on the location and needs of each office, equipment might include an instrument shelter, maximum and minimum thermometers, rain gage, river gage, automated thermometer system, and telephone to enter daily reports directly into the computer system. In addition to daily reporting, a monthly form is submitted through the local National Weather Service Office to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville NC for archiving and publication.

If you are interested in becoming a Cooperative Weather Observer and have a site location that meets these instrument and exposure standards, please e-mail tim.morrin@noaa.gov or call him at 631-924-0517 extension #225.
 
  


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