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women in the weather bureau during world war 2

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By today's standards, Weather Bureau offices of the early 1940s were Spartan. Communications consisted of two teletype-writers and usually one or two telephones. Observational instruments were provided for normal surface observations, and a few locations took upper-air observations. Both the teletype-writer and upper-air observations were relatively new to Weather Bureau operations prior to World War II. Both had been implemented in the 1930s and Weather Bureau employees still were adjusting to the new technology and science. Considerable research was being conducted into the impact of upper-air conditions on surface weather pattems, and frontal and air-mass theory was in the process of being accepted by Weather Bureau forecasters.

The Airways Weather Service was an important part of Weather Bureau operations as the number of flights increased rapidly prior and during the war. By 1941, the impact of aviation weather had increased to such importance that considerable pressure was mounting to transfer the Weather Bureau from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Commerce. Administratively, Weather Bureau operations across the United States were divided into seven regions with Regional Headquarters in New York, Atlanta, Fort Worth, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Seattle. In addition, a Regional Office was located at Anchorage for the Territory of Alaska.

It was into this environment that women began to enter the Weather Bureau in 1942. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, only two women were working in the observation and forecast staff of the Bureau. However, as men went to war, the need increased for women to fill critical positions. In 1942, the Weather Bureau issued the following announcement:


Although there has been much prejudice against and few precedents for employing women generally for professional work in meteorology, perhaps a dozen women have obtained meteorological positions in the last few years, mostly outside the government service. However, since there is at present an acute shortage of both trained meteorologists and men for observers and clerical positions in the Weather Bureau and other government agencies, airlines, etc., women with the proper qualifications (same as for men) are now being welcomed in many places where they were not encouraged even last year. (In England women have already taken over many meteorological posts, we hear.) Therefore, women with training or experience in meteorology or its branches should apply immediately for any of the current or forthcoming U.S. Civil Service examinations in meteorology which are open to them... This will be an opportunity to join the vanguard of the many women who will very likely find careers in meteorology in the not too distant future and at the same time it will be a patriotic choice in case the war should require many women to replace or supplement men as meteorologists.

Women Plotting Upper-air Maps

By 1945, over 900 women were employed by the Weather Bureau, mostly in clerical positions or as junior observers. Many women were hired as temporary employees during 1942 to ease the immediate vacancy crunch in the Weather Bureau. For the most part, these individuals later were changed to permanent status. Most later hires were permanent.

The influx of new people required a massive training effort which was accomplished on station or through correspondence courses. Eventually, formal training courses were established at Regional Office Headquarters.

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Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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