COOP Observer Data
Our nation's Cooperative Weather Observers are citizens throughout the country from almost every walk of life, that have a genuine interest in observing and reporting the ever changing weather. This group includes, but is not limited to, farmers, retirees, local officials, police and fire departments, water treatment plants, high school students, radio stations and our neighbors.
Over 11,000 dedicated volunteers record the daily weather-related information that forms the backbone of our nation's climatological data collection network. Weather observers across the country record daily temperatures and precipitation data. Some also record or report additional information such as soil temperature, evaporation and wind movement, agricultural data, water equivalent of snow on the ground, river stages, lake levels, atmospheric phenomena and road hazards. Many Cooperative Stations in the United States have been collecting weather data from the same location for over 100 years.
The first extensive network of Cooperative Stations was setup in the 1890s as a result of an act of congress in 1890, that established the Weather Bureau, but many of it's stations began operating long before that time. John Companius Holm's weather records, taken without benefit of instruments in 1644 and 1645, were the earliest known observations in the United States. Subsequently many persons, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, maintained weather records. Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between 1776 and 1816. Washington took his last weather 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 it's 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 Climate Network (HCN) and the U.S. Reference Climate Network.
Equipment to gather this data is provided and maintained by the National Weather Service. Data forms are sent monthly to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, North Carolina. The data is digitized, quality controlled, and subsequently archived. Volunteer weather observers regularly and conscientiously contribute their time so that their observations can provide vital information needed. This data is invaluable in learning more about floods, droughts and heat and cold waves, which inevitably affect everyone. They are used in agricultural planning and assessments, engineering, environmental-impact assessments, utilities planning and litigation. The data plays a critical role in efforts to recognize and evaluate the extent of human impacts on climate from local and global scales.
Many Cooperative Weather Observers report daily precipitation and temperatures through a weather program on a home computer or a programmable phone. These reports are called into a ROSA computer system and distributed nationally. Reports from Cooperative Observers are extremely important to River Forecast Centers in support of the National Weather Service Hydrology Program. The reports are important to the local National Weather Service Forecast Office for the issuance of forecasts, watches, warnings and advisories. The Cooperative Observers serve a vital role in the National Weather Service's mission to protect life and property.
In the local county warning area for the National Weather Service in Wichita, we have around 150 Cooperative Stations. We would like to express our heart felt appreciation to all Cooperative Observers for their many years of service to the Cooperative Program. They serve as a shining example of the true American spirit.