National Weatherperson's Day
by Jim Allsopp, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Chicago
Sunday February 5 is National Weatherperson's Day, commemorating the birth of John Jeffries in 1745. Jeffries, a Boston physician and one of America's first weather observers, began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774. He took the first balloon weather observation over London in 1784. He carried a thermometer, a barometer, and a hygrometer to the height of 9,000 feet. This is a day to recognize the men and women who collectively provide Americans with the best weather, water, and climate forecasts and warning services of any nation.
John Jeffries, an American physician, flew across the English Channel with Frenchman Jean Blanchard..
Many of us take weather information for granted. Turn on a light switch, you get light. Turn on your television or radio, or check a web site and you get the weather forecast. It’s easy to forget that around the clock, dedicated meteorologists and weathercasters are vigilantly creating forecasts to help you plan your day, and issuing warnings to help keep you safe.
NWS WSR-88D Doppler radar
The men and women at your local National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office gather the raw weather data, analyze the data, and study numerical computer models in order to issue the weather and river forecasts and warnings to protect life and property. Specialized marine and aviation forecasts help enhance the Nation’s economy. Spot forecasts help firefighters control wildfires, and emergency management officials contain hazardous chemical spills. Extensive climate records help engineers, architects, researchers, insurance companies, and utilities.
Photo courtesy of NASA
The primary mission of the NWS is to provide the American public with the best possible warning service in an effort to save lives and protect property. Recent severe weather statistics show that we continue to improve our capability to warn the public of impending hazardous weather. Nationally, lead time for flash flood warnings improved from 22 minutes in 1993 to 67 minutes in 2011. Lead time for tornado warnings has increased from 6 minutes in 1993 to nearly 15 minutes in 2011. Tornado warning accuracy increased from 43 percent to 75 percent. Winter storm accuracy in 2010-2011 was 88 percent with an average lead time of almost 20 hours. Since 1990, the Tropical Prediction Center’s 24 to 72 hour tropical storm forecast track errors have been reduced by more than 50%. These more accurate and longer lead time warnings help communities stay safe.
Tornado over Will County IL June 7, 2008. Photo courtesy David Mayhew.
But the NWS couldn't accomplish its mission without a diverse group of partners helping in the process.
Nationwide, more than 11,000 volunteer Cooperative Observers take regular measurements of temperature, precipitation and other data, which is used by forecasters and climatologists. Nearly 300,000 volunteer storm spotters are trained by the NWS to provide visual reports of severe weather conditions to forecast offices and local emergency management officials. Volunteer amateur radio operators provide critical emergency communications during severe weather.
Early photo of a Cooperative Observer
The Chicago NWS office has a network of 80 dedicated volunteer Cooperative Observers across a 23 county area in north central and northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana. In addition, there are about 30 supplemental snow observers and 30 supplemental rainfall observers in the area. Around 800 volunteer observers report through the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow (cocorahs.org) network. The office also has volunteer ice spotter network to provide forecasters reports of ice jam flooding on area rivers in winter. About 2500 people attend Skywarn severe storm spotter training classes in the local area each year.
Most of the colorful weather graphics seen on television, in newspapers, and on web pages come from another member of the America's weather team. Commercial weather companies enhance the presentation of the NWS data and information for their clients in the media and in many weather-sensitive industries. They also provide customized forecasts and services for clients.
Television weathercasters are the most visible members of the America's weather team. They are the trusted faces many people turn to for weather information. The NWS depends on TV weathercasters to relay its official watches and warnings for hazardous weather to the public.
And finally, let's not forget the K-12 science teachers, and the professors of atmospheric sciences at colleges and universities who guide and encourage students. Research meteorologists, programmers and engineers at universities and national research centers develop new forecast techniques, and the hardware and software to get the job done.
On National Weatherperson's Day, the NWS would like to thank all of the volunteers, and our partners in television, commercial, and research weather services. Thank you!