How to Become a Cooperative
NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) staff at 121 locations nationwide
recruit Cooperative Observers. Station locations are not selected by
NWS Regional or National Headquarters.
The distribution of Cooperative Weather Stations is a function of need. Needs are
defined by data users and considered within the context of constraints of limited
The basic distribution of Cooperative stations in the network are governed by an
1953 Iowa State University study, which determined that a spacing of about one
station every 25 miles (one per 625 square miles) was sufficient to adequately
define the climate of the United States in areas of homogeneous terrain. Greater
densities are allowed in areas with large differences in elevation, urban heat
islands, steep land-sea-lake interfaces, etc.
Because the network is 110 years old (established in 1890), many areas already
have the necessary stations operating; however, about 200 observers resign each
year, about 4 per state. Additionally, changing requirements can expand the need
Becoming an NWS Cooperative observer volunteer requires the following:
- Dedication to public service
- Attention to detail
- Ability to learn and perform daily duties
- Willingness to allow NWS to place measuring instruments on your
- Willingness to allow at least one visit per year from a NWS representative.
Additionally, the following capabilities are useful but are not mandatory:
- Ownership of a personal computer with modem and familiarity with
its basic uses
- Established internet access.
If you are selected to become an official NWS Cooperative station,
NWS will provide you with the training and supervision you will need
to perform your duties. Depending on your station's instrumentation,
your site will be visited once or twice every 12 months, more if unscheduled
maintenance or training updates are required.
Generally, volunteer observers receive no pay. Sometimes, because of special circumstances,
exceptions are made locally. Questions regarding monthly stipends can be answered
by your local NWS representative.
If you are interested in becoming an NWS Cooperative observer, contact
the NWS representative in the WFO supervising your location.