When meteorology was very young

Introduction:

Weather map of the 1998 ice storm
Weather map of the 1998 ice storm (From the National Weather Service).

On the 11th of November, 1870 the US Weather Bureau (later called the National Weather Service) collected its first set of synchronous meteorological data.  This was done while unscientific cowboys still strutted around on dirt streets wearing guns on their hips.  It also predated Alexander Popov’s first building-to-building radio transmissions by 26 years!

They managed to accomplish this without radio communication by employing a series of telegraph lines.  These telegraphs were supplemented by marine signals (lamps and flags viewed from afar).

Significance:

This was a huge step towards creating the world’s first weather forecasts.  These data inspired extensive cooperation between US citizens and the government. This cooperation was necessary because the data collection was facilitated by the government, but private citizens were the most capable of analyzing the data. This also paved the way for an improved understanding of weather and meteorological activity amungst the general public.

Unfortunately this general understanding is partially abandoned in favour of political ideology nowadays.  (I’m thinking of arguments that conflate climate with weather.)  Which is sad.  Also funny…but mostly just sad.

Conclusion:

Thank you science.  While most of the US was still befuddled by the Civil War, you were enlightening and egalitarian, as usual.

Bibliography and further reading:

Grice, G.K. (2014). THE BEGINNING OF THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: THE SIGNAL YEARS (1870 – 1891) AS VIEWED BY EARLY WEATHER PIONEERS. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/pa/history/signal.php

Jared Peters

Jared Peters

Jared Peters, PhD, is a geoscientist who specialises in marine sedimentology, marine palaeoglaciology and climate change.
Jared Peters
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Jared Peters, PhD, is a geoscientist who specialises in marine sedimentology, marine palaeoglaciology and climate change.