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The Cooperative Weather Observer program

The 11,700 Cooperative Weather Observers across the United States, including those in the St. Louis Service area, net the public more per dollar expended than any other government service in the world. Cooperative Weather Observers donate more than a million hours each year to obtain weather data. Observers provide the precious stream of weather information that we need to forecast the weather, issue weather warnings, and record the climates of the United States.

"All science begins with observation" is a phrase that is never more true than for the sciences of meteorology and hydrology. When attempting to predict what continuously changing fluids and gases (the atmosphere and the water cycle) will do in the future, makes the accurate and timely weather observation extremely important. The National Weather Service's Cooperative Observer supplies a large share of available data in solving problems concerning nearly all aspects of life.

The present day Cooperative Observers can trace their tradition back to Colonial days. Long before a National Weather Service was established, people with a curiosity to learn more about the weather began to record their observations of the atmosphere and weather phenomena in the vicinity of their settlements.

The first known observations in the American Colonies were recorded by the Reverend John Campanius Holm, a Swedish chaplain in the Swedes Fort Colony near what is now Wilmington, Delaware. This was more than 350 years ago in 1644 and 1645.

Many famous Americans kept detailed daily weather records. We all know the fabled story of Ben Franklin flying his kite in a thunderstorm, but he contributed much more. Franklin was probably the first person to track a hurricane along the Atlantic Coast by using a network of observers. He was Postmaster General in 1743 and was able to get weather reports from postmasters along the coast. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson also kept weather records.

Jefferson envisioned a nationwide network of weather observers as early as 1797, when he outlined a plan for providing weather instruments to someone in every county of Virginia, so that a regular statewide record might be maintained.

A plan of this kind was not established until almost 100 years later when, in 1891, the Weather Bureau was charged with the task of "taking such meteorological observations as may be necessary to establish and record the climatic conditions of the United States." In compliance with these directions, the Weather Bureau relied heavily, as it does to this day, on voluntary Cooperative Observers.

Our present day Cooperative Observers record and transmit their weather observations in much the same spirit as our early pioneers.

Ed Stoll, a Nebraska farmer, was 19 years old when he began taking weather observations. He was still recording weather observations 76 years later. Mr. Stoll was invited to the White House by President Carter and chatted with the President in the Oval Office. The Cooperative Observer Award for 50 years of service is named after Mr. Stoll.

Cooperative Weather Observers come from all walks of life; they may be farmers, ranchers, lawyers, storekeepers, ministers, teachers, construction workers, and retirees. Organizations such as radio and television stations, schools, and public utilities are also examples of places that may maintain a Cooperative Weather Station.

Cooperative Observers are dedicated and have a strong sense of duty. They are usually involved in other service-oriented endeavors in their communities. We salute the many individuals, families, and institutions who tirelessly provide the valuable service of supplying the National Weather Service and the Citizens of the United States with valuable weather information that continues to acquire greater value with time.

From everyone at the St. Louis Weather Service Office...  Thank You!

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