NOAA 2003-R201
Contact: Marilu Trainor
NOAA News Releases 2003
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John and Heather Balock, of Melstone, Mont., today received a 45-year length of service award as cooperative weather observers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NOAA National Weather Service). The couple received the honor for their dedication as volunteers in the Cooperative Weather Observer Program, recording weather conditions for this area of eastern Montana. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The award was presented at a ceremony in Roundup by officials from the NOAA Weather Service forecast office in Billings, Mont. Meteorologist-in-Charge Keith Meier cited the Balocks’ long-term volunteer service to the nation for keeping records of precipitation and temperatures. Other officials from the Billings forecast office were also in attendance.

“For 45 years, they have provided dependable, accurate and timely weather observations that have defined the climate around Musselshell County near the plains of eastern Montana. We estimate they have taken more than 16,500 observations during their tenure. They monitor the observation station at Melstone and the other weather station for the county in Roundup,” Meier said.

Keeping weather records in Melstone began in May 1909. On Feb. 20, 1957, John and Heather Balock became the official weather observers.

The cooperative observer program is the nation's weather and climate observing network of more than 11,000 volunteers, who take observations every day of the year on farms, in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, seashores, and mountaintops. That information becomes part of the nation’s historical weather and climate archive.

The first network of cooperative stations was set up as a result of an act of Congress in 1890 that established the former Weather Bureau. Many stations began operating long before that time with John Campanius Holm's weather records, taken without the benefit of instruments in 1644-45, as the earliest known observations in the United States. Benjamin Franklin maintained weather records and Thomas Jefferson had an almost unbroken record of observations between 1776 and 1816. George Washington took his last observation just a few days before he died.

Today’s cooperative observer network provides observational meteorological data, consisting of daily maximum and minimum temperatures, and 24-hour precipitation totals, required to define the climate of the United States and to help measure long-term climate changes. It also provides meteorological data in near real-time to support forecast, warning and other public service programs of the NOAA Weather Service.

Each volunteer takes observations about the same time every day, submitting their records each month. Weather observers also call in to report significant weather situations. Once the NOAA Weather Service certifies the climate data, often it is used by agricultural planners, engineers, environmental-impact assessment specialists, and the utilities and litigation communities. The data also plays a critical role in efforts to recognize and evaluate the extent of human impacts on climate from local to global scales.

Mr. Balock worked for the railroad from 1945 until 1950 and then started Balock Excavating, Inc., which he still runs today. Mrs. Balock is the book keeper for the business.

Mr. Balock said he remembers some “rough storms” that hit the Melstone area through the years. He recalls a late May 1954 snow storm that covered the town service station’s gas pumps. In late June of 2001, a severe thunderstorm ravaged the area twice, first moving through town from the west, then returning from the east dumping slabs of hail and tearing up homes.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather and flood forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The NOAA Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.

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