A Time-Line of the National
For the bulk of the 20th century, there were five National Weather Service (NWS) offices in Wisconsin: A forecast office at the airport in Milwaukee (NWSFO MKE) which had ultimate responsibility for the entire state of Wisconsin, a surveillance radar station at Neenah (WSMO EEW), a local warning and observation office (WSO GRB) at the airport in Green Bay, a local warning, observation and back-up radar office at the airport in Madison, (WSO MSN) and a part time warning and observation office in La Crosse (WSO LSE).
Weather Service in Wisconsin
During the 1980's the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
launched a major program to modernize the NWS. This resulted in three state of the art weather service offices: La Crosse (NWSFO ARX), Green Bay (NWSFO GRB), and Milwaukee/Sullivan (NWSFO MKX). All 3 offices are equipped with weather radars and have forecast and warning responsibilities for the counties in their county warning areas (CWA). Other NWS offices in neighboring states which watch over counties in Wisconsin include Duluth, Minneapolis and Davenport.
This report outlines the history of the 5 main Wisconsin NWS offices and how they were stream-lined to 3 offices during the Modernization and Restructuring (MAR)
of the NWS.
NWSFO Milwaukee (MKE)
1870 - The Milwaukee Office of the U.S. Weather Bureau was first established on November 1, 1870 and was located in the Chamber of Commerce Building, corner
of Broadway and East Michigan Streets, in downtown Milwaukee. In December of this year, the office was relocated to the Insurance Building, corner of Broadway and East Michigan Streets.
1878 - On March 23rd, 1878, the office moved to the Mitchell Building, corner of North Water and East Michigan Streets.
1899 - On April 22nd, 1899, the office was relocated to the Federal Building on East Wisconsin Avenue between Jefferson and Jackson Streets.
1941 - On March 1st, 1941, the official weather observations were moved from downtown to the Airport Station on East Layton Avenue at General Mitchell Field
which is five and three-fourths miles south of the Federal Building.
1955 - On June 20th, 1955 the office moved to the New Terminal Building on Howell Avenue on the General Mitchell International Airport.
1989 - In October, 1989, office operations split with observations remaining at the airport and warning and forecast responsibilities commencing at the modernized forecast office located just outside of Sullivan Wisconsin in Jefferson county.
1995 - The Automated Surface Observing System, ASOS, was commissioned on July 1st, 1995 and the Milwaukee Airport office was eventually closed. In September, 1995 the Doppler radar was commissioned at the Milwaukee/Sullivan NWS office (MKX).
1998 - The modernized new weather radio system known as CRS, (Console Replacement System) was installed in April.. Originally powering the Madison and Milwaukee area weather radios, CRS expanded to support 5 NWR stations across south-central and southeast Wisconsin.
1999 - The Advanced Weather Information Processing System(AWIPS) super computer was installed to integrate and process multi-source data for forecasting. AWIPS was commissioned in May, 2000.
WSO Madison (MSN)
1869-Continuous weather records for Madison date back to 1869 when weather observers began recording data at Bascom Hall on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus. Professors ran the program and frequently enlisted the aid of science students, including the now renowned naturalist, John Muir. The original instruments were supplied by the Smithsonian Institute.
1878-A Signal Service Station was established in downtown Madison at the corner of
Pickney and East Washington Street.
1883-In May of this year the office moved back to campus to North Hall. Signal Service operations ceased and the office reverted to University jurisdiction. In September of 1883 the office moved to the Washburn Observatory on campus.
1904-The National Weather Service, then called the Weather Bureau, was established at North Hall in 1904 and forecasts began to accompany observations. The first regularly broadcast weather forecast in the United States originated from the Madison Weather Service office in 1920 over the University radio station, WHA.
1939-The Weather Service moved to the airport in 1939, a year after it was built. For over 50 years, the Madison National Weather Service operated in the full capacity of supplying weather data to south central Wisconsin along with the responsibility to notify and warn counties of severe weather and winter storms.
Meanwhile, back in town, weather records continued at the Madison "City Office" until 1963. So for over 20 years Madison had two weather offices, one run by the National Weather Service and another record-gathering site on campus.
1972- A 74c weather radar was installed adjacent to the NWS office.
1980s- Modernization and Restructuring of the National Weather Service resulted in a new office located near Sullivan, Wisconsin, 45 miles east of Madison. Equipped with the latest technology, including a new 88D-Doppler radar, the Sullivan office is now the official Weather Service office serving Madison, Milwaukee, and all of south-central and southeast Wisconsin.
1996-The Madison National Weather Service office closed April 1, 1996, marking the end of an era. The radar was decommissioned and dismantled. (The radar tower now sits proudly on top of the
UW-Madison Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Science building supporting satellite communication equipment.) An Automated Surface Observing System, or ASOS unit, was commissioned to generate the official weather observations for Madison. Contract observers augment ASOS for accuracy, and the Wisconsin Air National Guard records snowfall.
WSO La Crosse (LSE) - NWSFO ARX
1872- The first weather observation was taken in La Crosse, Wisconsin on October 15, 1872 by a sergeant in the US Army Signal Service. The office was located in the Anderson Building on 2nd and Main Streets. Observations were taken three times daily and disseminated to the public by displaying weather and temperature flags. A year later a river gage was constructed on the La Crosse Wagon Bridge and a network of river stage observations were established.
1881- The station was moved into the Opera Building on 4th and Main.
1887- The weather office moved across the street into the MacMillan Building.
1890- The office moved into the Post Office Building on 4th and State streets.
1907- The office moved into the Weather Bureau Observatory Building on 5th and Cass.
In 1952 the Weather Bureau Building was turned over to the La Crosse Board
of Education. Forecasts and observations were then made at the Municipal Airport.
1950- Observations began at the La Crosse Municipal Airport.
1969- The National Weather Service Office was moved from the Municipal Airport into the Post Office Building, 425 State Street, in February 1969. Weather observations
continued 24 hours a day by contract observers at the airport while the NWS office
downtown was generally closed on the midnight shift.
1995- As part of the modernization of the National Weather Service, the La Crosse office expanded its operations and moved into a new facility just north of Grandad Bluff. With new technical equipment including Doppler Radar which was commissioned in 1996, the La Crosse office became a Weather Forecast Office (ARX) serving 13 counties in Wisconsin, seven in Minnesota, and eight in Iowa.
NWSFO Green Bay- (GRB)
1886- The Green Bay office of the U.S. Weather Bureau was established in the Jacobs House at 212 North Washington Street in downtown Green Bay.
1891- The office moved a few blocks to 324 N. Washington Street.
1910- The office was relocated to the Minahan Building at 210 E. Walnut Street.
1945- The office moved to the Jones Warehouse at 404 Henry Street.
1949- The office moved to the Hangar Building at the Austin Straubel Airport.
At this location an upper air balloon station was eventually established.
1965- The office moved from the Hangar building to the Administration building.
1994- Modernization and Restructuring resulted in a new office near the Austin Straubel
Airport equipped with the latest technology including an 88D radar which was commissioned in 1995.
1996- ASOS was commissioned and automated weather observations began to be augmented by NWS employees.
WSMO Neenah (EEW)-
This was a 57c Network Radar station that operated from 1972 to November 1995.