National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

What is the job of a CO-OP observer?

Being a NWS Cooperative observer can be a demanding job. To provide accurate and complete weather data, observations are required seven days a week 365 days a year. This does not mean that someone has to be monitoring the "weather" all the time; instruments are provided to monitor temperature and precipitation. Yet someone should be available to record the daily maximum and minimum temperature, the precipitation, and snowfall. This generally is done around 7am.

This information is recorded on the internet through a computer or phone menu system and monitored daily by the local NWS office for quality assurance before forwarding to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, North Carolina.

What kind of training is involved?

Training consists of on site, hands on instruction with the designated Cooperative Observer and their backup. This usually is done the same day as the equipment is installed and takes about one hour. If necessary, additional training may be provided upon request. Basic equipment maintenance is discussed and the Co-Op observer is provided with a name ("point of contact") and a number should additional questions or problems arise. A reference binder is also provided.

Where does the data go ?

Data is transmitted to the local NWS office. This near real-time data is used to support the day-to-day operations of the NWS in its forecast and warning decisions.

The data supplied to the National Weather Service by Cooperative Observers is then sent to our archive center, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

The data is checked, archived and published for public review. The forms and charts sent in each month are reviewed by personnel here at the local weather service office in Albany before being submitted to the archive center. In the past the data was again reviewed and the information logged into a computer by hand. Forms and charts are now electronically scanned with computers reading the data entries.

The computer then does the final checks, and compares the individual station data with surrounding stations to ensure the data is within set tolerances. Data beyond these levels is discarded by the computer. This process has been deemed the best practice to keep the data as unbiased as possible. Human error and equipment problems are generally the culprit for erroneous data.

In an effort to help eliminate errors even further, we are incorporating new way's to log station data. Computer spreadsheets are now available for observers to use which can then be emailed to us at the end of each month.

As computers become more involved in reading the scanned forms, the legibility of the forms becomes an increasingly important issue. Forms prepared by a computer and emailed have proven to be easier to read, less mutilated by the postal service and received in a very timely manner.

The actual forms prepared by observers can now be viewed from the archive center. Data compiled from the form can also be accessed and the published version of data for the entire state can also be obtained.