Weather Service, which is in the midst of a major modernization program
that will significantly improve its forecasting, celebrates its 125th
anniversary on Feb. 9.
President Ulysses S. Grant signed a joint resolution of Congress authorizing
the Secretary of War to establish a national weather service. Later
that year, the first systematized, synchronous weather observations
ever taken in the U.S. were made by "observer sergeants" of the Army
125 years later, thousands of weather observations are made hourly
and daily by government agencies, volunteer/ citizen observers, ships,
planes, automatic weather stations and earth-orbiting satellites with
the mission of protecting life and property.
come a long way since those first weather observations," said Elbert
W. Friday Jr., director of the National Weather Service. "Back then
we were using only human surface observations; today we are in the
midst of a major program to modernize the National Weather Service
based on state-of-the art technology and knowledge about meteorology."
weather agency operated under the War Department from 1870-1891 with
headquarters in Washington, D.C., and field offices concentrated mainly
east of the Rockies. Little meteorological science was used to make
weather forecasts during those early days. Instead, weather that occurred
at one location was assumed to move into the next area downstream.
1891 to 1940, the Weather Bureau was part of the Department of Agriculture.
These first two decades of the 20th century had a remarkable effect
on the nation's meteorological services. In 1902, Weather Bureau forecasts
were sent via wireless telegraphy to ships at sea. In turn, the first
wireless weather report was received from a ship at sea in 1905. Two
years later, the daily exchange of weather observations with Russia
and eastern Asia was inaugurated.
the Weather Bureau began issuing weekly outlooks to aid agricultural
planning. And in 1913, the first fire-weather forecast was issued.
During these times, weather forecasters began using more sophisticated
methods including surface weather observations; kite experiments to
measure temperature, relative humidity and winds in the upper atmosphere;
and later, airplane stations.
that the Weather Bureau played an important role for the aviation
community, and therefore commerce, in 1940, President Franklin D.
Roosevelt transferred the Weather Bureau to the Department of Commerce
where it remains today. During the late 1940s, the military gave the
Weather Bureau a new and valuable tool - 25 surplus radars - thus
launching the network of weather surveillance radars still in use
today. In 1970, the name of the Weather Bureau was changed to the
National Weather Service, and the agency became a component of the
Commerce Department's newly created National Oceanic and Atmospheric
of computer technology in the 1950s paved the way for the formulation
of complex mathematical weather models, resulting in a significant
increase in forecast accuracy. Today the National Weather Service
is at the brink of a meteorological evolution. Advances in satellites,
radars, sophisticated information processing and communication systems,
automated weather observing systems and superspeed computers are the
centerpieces of the modernization that will result in more timely
and precise severe weather and flood warnings for the nation.