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NOAA News Releases 2003
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Recognizing 27 years of dedication, the NOAA National Weather Service has named rural Thermopolis, Wyo., resident Harry King as a 2003 recipient of the agency’s John Campanious Holm Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Weather Observer program. The award is the agency’s second most prestigious, and only 19 are presented this year to deserving cooperative weather observers from around the country. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer Program has given scientists and researchers continuous observational data since the program’s inception more than 100 years ago. Today, more than 11,000 volunteer observers participate in the nationwide program to provide daily reports on temperature, precipitation and other weather factors.

Many of the cooperative stations have been collecting weather data from the same location for more than a century; in some cases, several generations of a family have given up vacations and braved all kinds of extreme conditions to report weather conditions. Most observers record precipitation and temperature data. King became the official observer at the Thermopolis 9NE station May 1, 1976, providing daily precipitation, temperature and snow data to the Weather Service and has amassed nearly 10,000 reports in more than 27 years of duty.

Some observers also record or report additional information such as soil temperature, evaporation and wind movement, agricultural data, water equivalent of snow on the ground, river stages, and lake levels. This data is invaluable in learning more about droughts, floods, and heat and cold waves. The information is also used in agricultural planning and assessment, engineering, utilities planning and more.

Why do they do it? Some simply have a real interest in weather. Others see their service as a civic duty.

The National Weather Service usually provides and maintains the equipment used in the climatic and hydrologic networks. At the end of each month, observers mail their records to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center for publication in “Climatological Data” or “Hourly Precipitation Data,” both published by the NCDC.

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 United States.

Like fine wine, weather records become more valuable with age. 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.

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 Campanious Holm’s weather records, taken without benefit of instruments in 1644 and 1645, were the earliest known recorded observations in the United States.

Many historic figures have also 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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