National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce



 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 John Darnley, at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Pittsburgh, PA 

 at (412) 262-1591 x225 for further information.