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NOAA News Releases 2005
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Recognizing 40 years of service to America, NOAA’s National Weather Service has named Janet L. Zieg of White Sulphur Springs, Mont., and James Wood Jr. of Loma, Mont., as 2005 recipients 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 nine 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, scientists could not begin to adequately describe the climate of the United States.”

Vickie Nadolski, director of the National Weather Service Western Region, will present the awards to Zieg and Wood at an 11 a.m. ceremony today at the Great Falls weather forecast office. Steve Brueske, meteorologist-in-charge of the Great Falls office who nominated both individuals for the award said, “I am so excited for Janet and James. They contribute so much to our observation program, and are wonderful members of our National Weather Service family.”

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 factors such as snow depth, river levels and soil temperature.

Ms. Zieg established the Millegan station in April 1984. She began providing observations in May 1965 at White Sulphur Springs. Zieg has recorded daily precipitation and temperature data, as well as critical storm spotter information. Her mother and brother also were weather observers at their own stations over 30 years.

Wood established the Loma station in June 1962, where he still records daily precipitation and temperature data and provides critical storm spotter information. His station recorded the nation’s largest 24-hour temperature change on Jan. 15, 1972, when the temperature rose from minus 54 degrees to 49 degrees above zero – a range of 103 degrees.

Weather records become more valuable with age. Long, continuous records provide an accurate picture of a locale’s normal weather, and give climatologists and others a basis for predicting future trends. 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 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 official 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 its 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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