National Weather Service Honors Mexican Hat, Volunteer Weather Observer
For Outstanding Contributions over More Than 35 Years
Recognizing more than 35 years of dedication, NOAA’s National Weather Service has named Medicine Hat, Utah, resident Harlan H. Harrison as a 2010 recipient of the agency’s Thomas Jefferson Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Weather Observer program. The award is the agency’s most prestigious, and only five are presented this year to deserving cooperative weather observers from around the country.
“Cooperative observers are the bedrock of weather data collection and analysis,” said Douglas Crowley, Meteorologist in Charge of NOAA’s Grand Junction, Colorado, National Weather Service office. “Numerous technological breakthroughs have brought great benefits to the Nation in terms of better forecasts and warnings. But without the century-long accumulation of accurate weather observations taken by volunteer observers, scientists could not begin to adequately describe the climate of the United States. We cannot thank Harlan Harrison enough for his years of service to America.”
Grand Junction’s Data Acquisition Program Manager John Kyle nominated Harrison for the award. Kyle will present the award at 10:15 a.m., October 18, during the San Juan county commissioners meeting at the courthouse in Monticello.
The National Weather Service’s Cooperative Weather Observer Program has given scientists and researchers continuous observational data since the program’s inception more than a century ago. Today, some 11,700 volunteer observers participate in the nationwide program to provide daily reports on temperature, precipitation and other weather factors such as snow depth, river levels and soil temperature.
Harrison, 82, established the Mexican hat observing site March 1, 1972, recording daily temperature and precipitation data, including snowfall, snow depth and evaporation, to the Grand Junction forecast office. His reports have provided important data to NOAA forecasters and hydrologists and climate scientists. Over the years, the Harrison has provided more than 13,800 daily reports to the National Weather Service.
Long and continuous records provide an accurate picture of a locale’s normal weather, and give climatologists and others a basis for predicting future trends. These data are invaluable for scientists studying floods, droughts and heat and cold waves. At the end of each month, observers mail their records to the National Climatic Data Center for publication in “Climatological Data” or “Hourly Precipitation Data.”
The first extensive network of cooperative stations was set up in the 1890s as a result of an 1890 act of Congress that established the U.S. Weather Bureau. Many of the stations have even longer histories. John Campanius Holm’s weather records, taken without benefit of instruments in 1644 and 1645, are the earliest known recorded observations in the United States.
Many historic figures have maintained weather records, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between 1776 and 1816, and Washington took weather observations just a few days before he died. The Jefferson and Holm awards are named for these weather observation pioneers.
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