1.9 A picture is worth a thousand words—station histories of early weather observations in the United States

Monday, 20 June 2005: 11:00 AM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
Karen Andsager, Midwestern Regional Climate Center, Champaign, IL; and S. R. Doty, G. Conner, and G. Grice

Under the National Climatic Data Center's Climate Database Modernization Program (CDMP), we have undertaken the task of developing station histories for weather observing sites with daily records starting in the 19th Century. These historical records are being digitized under another CDMP project; useful analysis of the data requires detailed information on the station location, exposure, instrumentation, and observer practices. The station histories we are producing are text-based descriptions of the observing history of the station, with particular emphasis on location and exposure. To this end, the station history writers travel to various archives to attempt to locate and obtain historical photographs, drawings, and descriptions of the station's weather observing activities. These archives include public libraries, university libraries, historical society archives, museums, and local National Weather Service offices. They then compile the information into the station history, including determining latitude, longitude, and elevation using modern maps where possible. These station histories are being made available on the web. At the same time, they are also gathering documentation on the standard instrumentation and observer instructions provided by the agencies that maintained the observer networks in the 19th Century, including the Signal Service and the Smithsonian Institution. Where possible, these documents will also be scanned and made available on the web for ease of use by the climate research community.

The photograph is of the Pacific Club in the 1880s, Nantucket, MA, courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Society, reference number P9558. Note the location of the weather instruments on the roof of the three-story building.

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