Did you know February 5th is National Weatherperson's Day?
National Weatherperson’s Day commemorates the birth of John Jeffries in 1744. John Jeffries started taking observations in Boston beginning in 1774 and was one of the first weather observers in the United States. John Jeffries also took the first balloon observation in 1784! This day is used to remember the men and women that take surface and upper-air observations, provide weather and climate forecasts, and provide hazardous weather watch, advisory, and warning services.
Of course, National Weatherperson’s Day wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the great pioneers, who is considered the “Father of the National Weather Service” and is a native of Milwaukee – Increase Allen Lapham.
Who is Increase A. Lapham?
Increase Lapham is one of Wisconsin’s legendary scientists who lived in Milwaukee and made his first observation January 1st, 1837. Lapham would later begin taking observations for the Smithsonian Institute on March 1st, 1849. Lapham was a large supporter of a national weather observation network and storm warning service.
Lapham was a great advocate for storm warning services on the Great Lakes and he would frequently send clippings of maritime wrecks and casualties to General Halbert Paine, a congressman from Milwaukee. The motivation for a warning service was heightened as a series of storms on the Great Lakes in 1868 and 1869 damaged more than 3,000 ships and killed more than 500 people! An Act of Congress was passed on February 9th 1870 to establish a national service due to the humanitarian, economic, and scientific merits. It was later signed by President Grant to establish a national weather service within the Department of War, under the Army Signal Service. Eight days later, Lapham was given responsibility for the Great Lakes and he issued the first official weather warning on November 8th, 1870. This would be the birth of what is now the National Weather Service.
Lapham died in his rowboat on Oconomowoc Lake on September 14th, 1875, only 10 miles northeast of the current National Weather Service office near Sullivan, WI. When we climb our radar tower and look to the east, we easily see Lapham Peak. So we're often reminded of Increase Lapham and are honored to follow in his footsteps. Thanks to Lapham, Milwaukee has had continuous observations since February 1854, a continuum of over 150 years of data for Milwaukee!
National Weather Service
Milwaukee/Sullivan, WI Weather Forecast OfficeReturn to News Archive