NOAA 2006-R272
Contact: Pat Slattery
NOAA News Releases 2006
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Recognizing 28 years of service to America, NOAA’s National Weather Service has named rural Clay Center, Neb., resident Michael Overturf as a 2006 recipient of the agency’s John Campanius Holm Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Weather Observer Program. The award is the agency’s second most prestigious and only 25 are presented this year to cooperative weather observers from around the country.

“Cooperative observers are the bedrock of weather data collection and analysis,” said retired Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, 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. We cannot thank Mr. Overturf enough for his years of service to America.”

Michael S. Lewis, meteorologist-in-charge of the Hastings weather forecast office, will present the award to Mike Overturf on September 1 at 5:00 p.m., during a ceremony at the Sutton American Legion. Steven J. Carmel, assistant cooperative program manager for the Hastings forecast office, nominated Overturf for the award.

The National Weather Service’s 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.

Mike Overturf became the observer at the Clay Center 6ESE site on July 13, 1978, reporting daily precipitation and snowfall data for the National Weather Service. Mike Overturf has continued reports from the historical location for which data was first collected on January 1, 1894. He provides critical precipitation information affecting Little Sandy Creek, which begins near the Overturf farm.

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 in what is now Wilmington, Del., 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.

In 2007, NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey by Thomas Jefferson in 1807 to formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America’s scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency 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. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the plant it observes.

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