Cooperative Program Management
Jackson, Kentucky

What are Cooperative Weather Observers?

Cooperative Weather Observers are volunteers from the community who take various weather observations for the National Weather Service. Generally these observations are taken at 7 AM local time and then transmitted to the closest Weather Service Office. How they are transmitted varies from individual to individual. Some observers use a computer to send their reports in, while others use a phone to call an automated recording that will accept their reports. Still others make a phone call to the office daily, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year to report in.

What do they report?

The elements which are recorded vary by the individual. Here in Eastern Kentucky, all of our weather observers record precipitation. With the flooding potential in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, rainfall is a very important element for us. Many of the observers also have a maximum/minimum thermometer which they record the daily max and min from 7 AM to 7 AM. We are also fortunate to have some people who live, or work, along one of the various waterways we have here in Eastern Kentucky. They report the river stage to us, which is critical in forecasting river flooding. We even have 3 stations that report soil temperatures at various depths underground. These 3 stations are referred to as agricultural stations and their data is recorded from 7 PM to 7 PM.

Why is this data needed?

As mentioned previously, much of this data helps in making river and flooding forecasts here in Eastern Kentucky. But the data helps with a lot of other things too. For instance many of the non-cooperative reporting stations in Eastern Kentucky can be found at county airports. These airports are found on the hilltops where the temperature can vary significantly from the valleys. With many of the cooperative observers taking readings in the valleys, we can more accurately predict what temperatures will be where many of our users are.

What's done with the data?

Once the data is received at the National Weather Service office here in Jackson, we compile the data and transmit it to the world so everyone can see what's going on here. Initally when the reports come in, we send out an encoded message with the data. This is so various computers can grab the data for forecasting purposes. Then we combine everyone's reports and send out 2 daily products with the information in them.

The first product is referred to as the Regional Temperature and Precipitation Report (RTP). Here's a link to see today's report:
Today's RTP from Jackson, KY

What are these awards you have listed?

While our cooperative weather observers are volunteers, we like to let them know how much we appreciate their reports. Length of Service Awards are given based on how long observers have been taking records. These awards are given locally. The John Campanius Holm Award is a nation award given to only 15 observers every year. It is a prestigious award given to an observer only after many years of faithful reporting. Observers are nominated by their National Weather Service Office. The highest award for a cooperative weather observer is the Thomas Jefferson Award. All receipients of the Thomas Jefferson Award have received the John Campanius Holm Award. Fewer than 10 Thomas Jefferson Awards are given annually. Like the Holm Award, observers are nominted locally and the award is national. Check out our awards page to see who has received what!

What if I want to learn more about this program?

If there are any questions we haven't answered here, or if you want to learn more, drop us a line! Cooperative Program Manager is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.