of the Weather Service Forecast
February 19, 1946, was the 75th anniversary of the first regularly
published weather forecast by the National Weather Service. The
first forecasts, the publication of which began February 19, 1871,
were called "probabilities" and were made three times daily for
such elements and periods in advance as seemed warranted by the
maps, and for eight geographical districts. In 1874 they began
to be made for eleven districts and for four elements -- state
of weather, wind, pressure, and temperature.
United States Weather Bureau Building in Washington, D.C.
Frontispiece of "Meteorology" by Willis Milham,
change was made in the method of issuing "probabilities" until
1885 when predictions were made for 32 hours in advance, and
beginning with May 1886, they were made for States and parts
of States instead of districts. In July 1888, the period covered
was extended to 36 hours in advance, and beginning August
1, 1898, forecasts based on the evening reports were regularly
made for 48 hours.
"probabilities" was changed to "indications" on December 1,
1876, and was again changed to "forecasts" on April 1, 1889,
which term is still in use.
weather forecasts were made only at the Central Office in Washington
until 1881. In that year and during part of 1882 the observer
at New York was permitted to make and publish local forecasts.
It was not until 1890, however, that the system of local forecasts
began to be extended with the assignment of forecasters to St.
Paul, Minn., and San Francisco, Calif., and the system of establishing
district forecast centers was begun in 1894 when Chicago, Ill.,
was so designated.
It is pertinent
to relate at this point that while the national meteorological
service was under the Signal Service, later the Signal Corps
of the Army, the work of observation and general administration
was placed in the hands of the officers and enlisted men,
but that the higher technical work, including weather forecasting,
from the beginning was directed and performed in large measure
by civilians, at the head of whom was Prof. Cleveland Abbe.
the commerce, agriculture, and navigation interests of the
country prevailed upon the Congress to set up a new organization
under the Department of Agriculture, with a civilian scientific
status and it is of historical interest to conclude this article
by quoting the last paragraph of comments of General Greely
on the eve of the transfer out of military status on June
30, 1891: (From signal Office, General Orders No. 25).
from the civil employees the Chief Signal Officer feels assured
that the new chief in another department will receive from
them the same loyal, faithful, and efficient service they
have rendered the Government while serving under his orders.
The scientific staff have in view important additional duties
looking to the extension of the Weather Service in the interests
of agriculture and still further development of the science
of meteorology. The Chief Signal Officer will follow with
deep interest the development along scientific lines of weather
forecasting and the application of meteorology to agriculture,
on which grounds this liberal reorganization of the Weather
Bureau was planned and carried out."