Thursday, 23 June 2005: 8:15 AM
South Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
The earliest weather observers often made note of the instruments they used, the times of their observations, and the environment that affected the measurements. Many times, those notes were extensive and detailed. Comments were encouraged by the Army Surgeon General, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Signal Service on a wide variety of topics to amplify the data from their observation of the weather elements. The observer was encouraged to comment about anything they considered as noteworthy. After the Weather Bureau was established, the emphasis on commentary was diminished and the information that they had contained was relegated to entries in blocks on a form. As the digital age approached, comments were not welcomed. The effect was that, if it couldn't be expressed as numbers, it didn't need to be recorded. When the digital age arrived, the need to amplify the observational data was recognized. Meta data were generated to describe how, when, and by whom a particular digital data set was collected. It was also necessary to record how the digital data were formatted. The implementation of automated observations effectively reduced the station history to little else but meta data. Recently, the Climate Data Modernization Program began to image original observer records. With that came a renewed interest in station histories. This paper describes the evolution of station histories, presents examples from each era, and illustrates their value in assessing the data the station produced. It stresses the importance of station history as the time lengthens since its observations were made.
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