The National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Program (COOP)
is truly the Nation's weather and climate observing network of, by and
for the people. More than 11,000 volunteers take observations on farms,
in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, seashores, and mountaintops.
The data are truly representative of where people live, work and play.
The COOP was formally created in 1890 under the Organic Act.
Its mission is two-fold:
*To provide observational meteorological data, usually consisting of
daily maximum and minimum temperatures, snowfall, and 24-hour
precipitation totals, required to define the climate of the United
States and to help measure long-term climate changes.
*To provide observational meteorological data in near real-time to
support forecast, warning and other public service programs of the NWS.
COOP observational data supports the NWS climate program and field operations.
The program responsibilities include:
*Selecting data sites
*Recruiting, appointing and training of observers
*Installing and maintaining equipment
*Keeping station documentation observer payroll
*Collecting data and its delivering it to users
*Maintaining data quality control
*Managing fiscal and human resources required to accomplish program
A cooperative station is a site where observations are taken or other services
rendered by volunteers or contractors. Observers are not required to take any
tests. Automatic observing stations are considered cooperative stations if their
observed data are used for services which otherwise would be provided by
cooperative observers. A cooperative station may be collocated with other types
of observing stations such as standard observations stations, Flight Service
Stations, etc. In these cases, that portion of the station observing program
supporting the cooperative program's mission is treated and documented
independently of the other observational and service programs.
Observers frequently record temperature and precipitation daily and send those
reports monthly to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) or an NWS office.
Many cooperative observers provide additional hydrological or meteorological
data, such as evaporation. Data is transmitted via telephone, computer or mail.
Equipment used at NWS cooperative stations may be owned by the NWS, the observer,
or by a company or other government agency, as long as it meets NWS equipment
The first network of cooperative stations was set up as a result of an act of
Congress in 1890 that established the Weather Bureau, but many COOP stations
began operation long before that time. John Campanius Holm's weather records,
taken without the benefit of instruments in 1644-45, were the earliest known
observations in the United States. Subsequently many persons, including
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, maintained weather
records. Thomas Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather
observations between 1776 and 1816, and George Washington took his last
observation just a few days before he died. Two of the most prestigious awards
given to Cooperative Weather Observers are named after Holm and Jefferson.
Because of its many decades of relatively stable operation, high station density,
and high proportion of rural locations, the Cooperative Network has been recognized
as the most definitive source of information on U.S. climate trends for temperature
and precipitation. Cooperative stations form the core of the U.S. Historical Network
(HCN) and the U.S. Reference Climate Network.
Equipment to gather these data is provided and maintained by the NWS. Observers
send data forms sent monthly to NCDC in Asheville, NC, where data are digitized,
checked and archived. Volunteer weather observers conscientiously contribute
their time so that observations can provide the vital information needed. These
data forms are invaluable in learning more about the floods, droughts, heat and
cold waves affecting us all. The data are also used in agricultural planning and
assessment, engineering, environmental-impact assessment, utilities planning, and
litigation. COOP data plays a critical role in efforts to recognize and evaluate
the extent of human impacts on climate from local to global scales.
Please contact Bob Coblentz, Data Acquisition
Program Manager at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Pittsburgh, PA
at (412) 262-1591 x225 for further information.