Alta Cooperative Observers Receive Prestigious Award


            Recognizing nearly 55 years of dedication, NOAA’s National Weather Service has named the Kaufman family of rural Alta, Wyo. , as a 2006 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 six are presented this year to cooperative weather observers from around the country. The Kaufman Family will also receive the Benjamin Franklin Award for 55 years of service as cooperative weather observers.

            “Cooperative observers are the bedrock of weather data collection and analysis,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Satellites, high-speed computers, mathematical models, and other 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 world . We cannot thank the Kaufman family members enough for their years of service to America.”

            Douglas Crowley, acting meteorologist-in-charge of the Riverton, Wyo. weather forecast office, and Chris Jones, warning coordination meteorologist, presented the awards to the Kaufmans on October 24 during a ceremony at the family’s ranch. Program manager Ralph A. Estell Jr., of the Riverton office nominated the Kaufmans 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.

            When a nearby observer moved from the area, Alfred Kaufman established the Alta 1NNW observing station on the western slopes of the Grand Tetons on November 19, 1951, recording daily temperature, precipitation and snow data. Family members are also storm spotters and provide critical information on the Snake River drainage during the spring run-off season. Daughter Julie Kaufman took over ranch operations and cooperative weather duties in May 1994. Alfred’s wife, Phyllis, and daughter Garlene Shappart both have been involved in the program as back-up observers. The Alta site was designated a Historical Climatology Network Station in August, 1989. In their 55 years of service, the Kaufmans have recorded more than 20,000 daily weather observations.

            Weather records retain their importance as time goes by. 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 wavers. 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 in what is now Wilmington, Del., without benefit of instruments in 1644 and 1645, were 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.

Click on the links below to view pictures of the awards ceremony.

Doug Crowley of the NWS
presents the Kaufman Family
(l-r: Julie, Phyllis, and Warren)
with the Benjamin Franklin
and Thomas Jefferson Awards


Doug Crowley reads a
congratulatory letter to the
Kaufman’s from NWS
Director Brig. Gen.
D.L. Johnson (ret.)

Julie Kaufman is congratulated
by Doug Crowley of the NWS
for her family’s exceptional
service to the Cooperative
Observing Program
East-facing view of the
Teton Range from the
Kaufman Ranch, Alta, WY










Return to News Archive is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.