October 29, 2008
Recognizing more than 37 years of dedication, NOAA’s National Weather Service has named Pocatello, Idaho, resident Dick Clothier as a 2008 recipient of the agency’s Thomas Jefferson Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Observer Program. The award is the agency’s most prestigious, and only six are presented this year to deserving cooperative weather observers from around the country.
Susan Nelson, cooperative observer program manager at the National Weather Service western region headquarters in Salt Lake City, and Rick Dittmann meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service forecast office in Pocatello, presented the award at 11:00 a.m. on Oct. 28 during a ceremony at the Pocatello office.
Clothier began recording weather and climate observations at Pocatello in February 1971. During his tenure, Clothier provided uninterrupted observations and recorded daily precipitation and temperature data, as well as critical storm spotter information. Clothier is also the recipient of the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program second highest award, the John Campanius Holm Award, which he received in 2001. Clothier’s flawless and informative observations have been instrumental in providing the National Weather Service with critical weather information.
The National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program has given scientists and researchers continuous observational data since the program’s inception more than a century ago. Today, some 11,700 volunteer observers participate in the nationwide program to provide daily reports on temperature, precipitation and other weather factors such as snow depth, river levels and soil temperature.
Weather records retain their importance as time goes by. Long and continuous records provide an accurate picture of a locale’s normal weather, and give climatologists and others a basis for predicting future trends. These data are invaluable for scientists studying floods, droughts and heat and cold waves. At the end of each month, observers mail their records to the National Climatic Data Center for publication in “Climatological Data” or “Hourly Precipitation Data.”
The first extensive network of cooperative stations was set up in the 1890s as a result of an 1890 act of Congress that established the U.S. Weather Bureau. Many of the stations have even longer histories. John Campanius Holm’s weather records, taken without benefit of instruments in 1644 and 1645, were the earliest known recorded observations in the United States.
Many historic figures have also maintained weather records, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between 1776 and 1816, and Washington took weather observations just a few days before he died. The Jefferson and Holm awards are named for these weather observation pioneers.
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