NOAA 2004-R299-08
Contact: Pat Slattery

NOAA News Releases 2004
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NOAA’s National Weather Service today named Chicago resident Frank M. Wachowski a 2004 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Weather Observer Program. The award is the agency’s most prestigious and only 11 awards presented this year to deserving cooperative weather observers from around the country. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“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. “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 Mr. Wachowski enough for his years of service to America.”

Jim Stefkovich, meteorologist in charge of the NWS Chicago forecast office, and Central Region Director Dennis McCarthy will present the award during a Sept. 16 ceremony at the weather forecast office in Romeoville, Ill. Stefkovich will repeat the presentation during an Oct. 16 reception for cooperative observers. Program Manager William Nelson of the Chicago office nominated Wachowski for the award.

The NWS 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 11,700 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.

A retired NWS employee, Wachowski began official observations at the Midway Airport reporting station in 1980, but started keeping personal weather records at his home near Midway in 1951 when he was 14 years old. He continued NOAA’s weather data collecting at Midway and is the only source of Chicago sunshine data.

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 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, 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.

NOAA’s National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National 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.

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