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Recognizing 28 years of dedicated service to America, NOAA’s National Weather Service has named Jarrell, Texas-resident Varena M. Blackman as a recipient of the John Campanius Holm Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Weather Observer Program. This is the agency’s second highest award. Only 25 are presented this year to deserving cooperative weather observers from around the country.

“Cooperative observers are the bedrock of weather data collection and analysis,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), 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 like Ms. Blackman, scientists could not begin to adequately describe the climate of the United States. We cannot thank Ms. Blackman enough for her years of service to America.”

Joe Arellano, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service forecast office in Austin/San Antonio, will present the award to Blackman Dec. 9 in Jarrell.

Bill Proenza, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service Southern Region, said, ”Blackman and the thousands of cooperative observers across the nation give generously of their time and energy because of their interest in weather and dedication to our country. We honor them and thank them for their commitment.”

The National Weather Service 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 information, such as snow depth, river levels and soil temperature.

In addition to diligently providing timely, accurate daily rainfall reports, Blackman has provided critical rainfall data during major flood events. She is a strong supporter of the National Weather Service and a dedicated cooperative observer. Blackman also provides outstanding service to her community. She helps provide care for the terminally ill, and serves at voting polls and as a school volunteer. Following the historic Jarrell Tornado of 1989, she opened her home to volunteers and community workers who needed shelter.

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.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, 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 our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with our federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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