Contact: William Nelson
Recognizing more than 39 years of dedication, NOAA’s National Weather Service awarded Peru, IL resident Eldon Gunia the agency’s John Campanius Holm Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Weather Observer program. The award is the agency’s second-most prestigious, and only 26 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 Ed Fenelon, meteorologist in charge of NOAA’s Chicago 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 Eldon Gunia enough for his years of service to America.”
Fenelon presented the award on November 7 during a private ceremony at The Maples Supper Club in Peru. Cooperative observer program manager William Nelson nominated Gunia for the award.
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.
Gunia, 81, began taking observations at the Peru Greenhouse/Nursery in Peru on October 15, 1971, reporting daily temperature and precipitation data , including snowfall, snow depth, and soil temperatures, to the Chicago forecast office. The U.S. Army veteran is also a trained storm spotter and operates an official climate recording station. His reports have provided important data to NOAA forecasters and hydrologists and climate scientists. Over the years, Gunia 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. Records for Peru go back to September 1923.
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.
From left to right...Ed Fenelon, NWS Chicago Meteorologist in Charge; Eldon Gunia; Bill Nelson, Observations Program Leader