National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

What is the COOP Program?

The National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) is the Nation's weather and climate observing network of, by and for the people.

More than 8,700 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 program was formally created in 1890 under the Organic Act and 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

A cooperative station is a site where observations are taken or other services rendered by volunteers. Observers generally record daily temperature and precipitation data and electronically send those reports to the local NWS office overseeing their site and the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Data is typically transmitted via telephone or computer.

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.
 


Meteorologist-in-Charge, Kennard "Chip" Kasper, presents Billy & Ruthie Wagner, of Duck Key,
with the John Campanius Holm Award in 2018 -- a first for Florida Keys NWS observers!

 

These data 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.


 

COOP in the Florida Keys
 

Volunteer observers in the Florida Keys are located at Bahia Honda, Curry Hammock, and John Pennekamp State Parks, Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park, the Wagner Family on Duck Key, and the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative in Tavernier. In addition to these locations are the Key West International Airport ASOS site and your Florida Keys NWS Forecast Office on White Street, where meteorologists take identical readings every day as well! Our partners conscientiously contribute their time or host equipment for these vital observations and this network would not be viable without their dedication.

The daily reports taken throughout the Florida Keys are available for viewing in our Regional Temperature and Precipitation Summary (RTP) text product that is issued around 10:00 AM every day. Visit https://go.usa.gov/xpJ8k to view recent RTP products. Note: keep in mind that the high/low temperatures and rainfall observations are spanning a 24-hour period, ending at the time indicated (varies by observation site). To view past data from Florida Keys' airport and COOP sites, visit: https://go.usa.gov/xdXgT.

Map of Florida Keys NWS COOP Sites
Florida Keys NWS COOP observation sites as of January 1st, 2020


The Florida Keys COOP program is comprised of some truly unique observation sites, including one of the most remote locations in the network: Fort Jefferson! The observation site is located within a Civil War-era fort and the largest brick masonry structure in the Americas. This location, 68 miles west of Key West, is staffed by National Park Service rangers that take daily weather observations for the National Weather Service on top of their regular duties.
 

Dry Tortugas Temperature Observation Site
Temperature sensor shelter (white box left of center) inside Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park

 

Another unique site in the Florida Keys is found in the eastern Lower Keys at Bahia Honda State Park. Park rangers built a lighthouse structure to house the temperature sensor, display, and to make the transition to a solar-powered observation site!
 

Bahia Honda Temperature Observation Site
Lighthouse structure hosting temperature equipment at Bahia Honda State Park

 

For more information on the NWS COOP program, visit https://www.weather.gov/coop/overview.