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Introduction
Weather data come from a wide variety of sources, including satellite, remote sensors, radars, automated observing stations, and volunteer cooperative observers. Every day, a wide spectrum of users access these weather data to solve problems and plan their lives. Whether it is a nursery in DeKalb County, a national insurance company, a climate scientist in Europe, or a weather enthusiast in Oklahoma, the weather data that our cooperative observers collect has a profound impact on society.

The Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) is older than the United States, dating to the pre-Revolutionary War colonies. Farmers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and scientists like Ben Franklin were always interested in the weather. Many kept detailed daily records and these records are part of the continuing study of our weather. This interest in weather followed settlers into the Tennessee and Cumberland Valleys. The COOP is truly the nation's weather and climate observing network of, by, and for the people. Nearly 10,000 volunteers across our country take daily weather observations on farms, in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, water treatment plants/pumping stations, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Projects, seashores, and mountaintops. The weather data collected are representative of where people live, work, and play.

Continuous official weather records in Nashville date back to the 1870's. Several other sites in Middle Tennessee can trace their records prior to 1900: Carthage, Clarksville, Cookeville, Dickson, Dover/Ft. Donelson, Franklin, Lewisburg, McMinnville, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma, and Waynesboro.

Cooperative Observers conscientiously contribute their time and are the weather eyes and ears for their community. The weather observed by our nation's COOPs is vital to learning more about the floods, droughts, and heat and cold waves affecting us all.  All Cooperative Observers keep daily precipitation records. The same instrument, the Standard or 8" Rain Gage, has been used for most of the recorded history. This information is used to determine normal values and set record amounts. Such information was very important during the summer of 1999 to determine the severity of drought conditions and issuance of crop insurance. Maps showing seasonal departures and related normals are available at the Southern Region Climate Center. There are also 16 sites in Middle Tennessee that have an automated precipitation gage that records hourly rainfall. Some sites even record snowfall.

Most observers also keep temperatures readings: the 24-hour high and low readings and the temperature at observation. Most sites are equipped with an electronic Maximum/Minimum Temperature System that has replaced thermometers; this instrument is accurate to 0.3° Fahrenheit.

Four special stations in Middle Tennessee are very involved in collecting weather information. Continuing the tradition of Thomas Jefferson and the early farmers, the University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Stations at Crossville (Plateau), Lewisburg (Dairy), Neopolis/Spring Hill (Field Crops), and Springfield (Highland Rim) collect temperature, precipitation, evaporation, wind, and soil temperatures. This data are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its weekly crop updates.

Historical records for all cooperative sites are available at the National Centers for Environmental Information (formerly NCDC) in Asheville, North Carolina.

Our COOP pages were designed to help our observers and customers access COOP and other sources of data, describe the uses of data, and explain how to become an observer.

 
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