About Quizzes

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service is part of NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and was created in 1890, when an Act of Congress transferred the weather bureau from the Army Signal Corps to the Department of Agriculture. This was preceded, however, by nearly 250 years of weather observation and study in the United States. The first continuous weather records in the U.S. were kept in 1644 and 1645, by the Reverend John Campanius Holm near Wilmington, Delaware. Thomas Jefferson was considered a weather expert in his day, and often answered questions about American weather and climate. The War of 1812 brought the first government collection of weather observations. In 1896, the first hurricane warning service was established by the Weather Bureau, and in 1905, the first reports from ships at sea were received to support hurricane warnings. Weather Bureau began operational use of radiosondes in 1936, which allowed for the routine measurement of atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind direction, and speed, and in 1940, the first official five-day forecast was issued. Also in 1940, the Weather Bureau was transferred to the Department of Commerce. President Roosevelt's explanation for this reorganization noted that the move would "permit better coordination of Government activities relating to aviation and to commerce generally . . .." During and after World War II, the tremendous growth of the Weather Bureau was due largely to the expansion of aviation. After World War II, surplus radars were acquired by the bureau to track the movement of rain areas, storms, and squall lines. In 1942, building on early work on the use of computers for weather prediction, a central Analysis Center was created to prepare and distribute master analyses of the upper atmosphere. The Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit was established in the center in 1954, and by 1985, operational computer weather forecasts had become routine. In 1954, the Bureau began the installation of high-powered radars along the coastline to detect and track hurricanes. A similar effort to improve forecasts of severe storms inland, the Weather Bureau established a severe storm forecast center, in 1952. Early Weather Bureau forecasters were not permitted to issue tornado forecasts for fear of causing panic. The ability to make accurate forecasts of severe storms was made possible with the development of modern methods of upper air observation and air-mass analysis. Perhaps the most exciting developments in recent Weather Service history was when NASA launched the first weather satellite, in 1960. The polar-orbiting TIROS-1 (Television lnfra-Red Observation Satellite) built by RCA, provided forecasters with the first view of cloud (i.e., weather) patterns as they developed and moved across the continent. The history of weather satellites can be traced back to the 1950s when scientists like Dr. Harry Wexler began to push for the development of satellites for weather studies and measurements. The mid-late 1950s saw the development and testing of a number of military-sponsored satellite systems for weather observations. In 1958, however, the Defense Department began a program to develop a spacecraft specifically for meteorological purposes. The "TIROS" program was then transferred to NASA, in April 1959. TIROS-8, launched in late 1963, successfully tested an automatic picture transmission (APT) system which continually relayed imagery to ground receiving stations anywhere in the world along the satellite's track. The TIROS-9 satellite launched into sun-synchronous, near polar-orbit, in 1965, giving the first complete daily coverage of the entire sun-illuminated portion of the earth. Launched just a few months earlier, the NIMBUS-1 satellite carried an infrared sensor which permitted the first-ever nighttime pictures from space, and in July 1965, TIROS-10, the first wholly operational meteorological satellite, was launched. Today, the National Weather Service provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings, for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters, and ocean areas.