Weather observers fill gaps

by northcountrywriter

By MIKE LANGLOIS Press-Republican (March 27 2016)

BURLINGTON — Cooperative Observer Program volunteers are vital to filling in the data gaps by reporting weather observations from the nation’s more rural areas.

The National Weather Service forecast offices are generally located in urban areas and often utilize airports to set up weather stations.

“When we establish a volunteer (weather) station, we find places where we don’t already have observation stations,” said Andy Nash, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Burlington.

“We have these cooperative observers nationwide, spaced to fill in the holes where we otherwise would not.”

Headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, the National Weather Service has 5,000 employees and 122 weather forecast offices.

The agency also has 13 river forecast centers and nine national centers working to gather and process data worldwide.

Each year, according to the Weather Service’s website, it collects some 76 billion observations and issues approximately 1.5 million forecasts and 50,000 warnings.

SITE VISIT

Initially, a prospective volunteer will get a site visit from the agency, some initial training and assistance in setting up the equipment.

The agency will also supply a rain gauge, stakes for measuring snowfall and a thermometer for daily temperature readings.

National Weather Service field operators will make periodic follow-up visits to answer questions and ensure instrument quality control.

In Vermont and New York, about 52 volunteers report daily weather observations to the Burlington office.

In Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, there are 15.

TIME COMMITMENT

Other than a proper site for the instruments to ensure consistent weather observation data, the only remaining criteria for volunteers is a willingness to commit their time, said Nash.

“If you’re one who likes to travel a lot or have an irregular schedule, it really becomes difficult to be a volunteer observer,” he said.

“We find people who are interested in the program or farmers who are already (monitoring the weather) as part of their routine.

“We have observers who are weather enthusiasts and want to play a role.”

LEARN MORE

Interested in joining the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program?

Visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/coop.