Feb. 9, 2010 - The NOAA National Weather Service is celebrating
its 140th anniversary by looking back with pride and forward with
On February 9, 1870, 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 Signal Service.
Today, thousands of weather observations are made hourly and daily
by government agencies, volunteer/citizen observers, ships, planes,
automatic weather stations and earth-orbiting satellites.
"Today, as in the beginning of our organization, the mission
of the National Weather Service to protect life and property is
a passion for all 4,750 of our employees," said Jack Hayes
director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "Advances in
research and technology through the decades have allowed the NOAA
National Weather Service to create an expanding observational and
data collection network that tracks Earth's changing systems. The
21st century will see these changes accelerating"
National Weather Service - Through the Years:
original 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.
From 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
In 1910, 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.
Realizing 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. This
network still exists, but has expanded to 121 Doppler Radars that
allow meteorologists to see the inner workings of storm clouds. 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 Administration
The advent 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. In 2010 the NWS
installed new supercomputers at the National Center for Environmental
Prediction capable of making 69.7 trillion calculations per second.
In 1970, the U.S. government created the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service
became NOAA's National Weather Service.
Today, advances in satellites, radars, sophisticated information
processing and communication systems, automated weather observing
systems and superspeed computers are the centerpieces of NOAA's
National Weather Service that have resulted in more timely and
precise weather forecast and warnings for the nation. Hayes adds, "NOAA's
National Weather Service is dedicated to using all the tools available
and all the skills of our employees to provide decision makers
the information they need, when they need it."