What is the Coop Program?
The National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Program (Coop)
is truly the Nation's weather and climate observing network of, by
and for the people. More than 8,700 volunteers take observations
on farms, in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, seashores,
and mountaintops. The data are truly representative of where people
live, work and play.
The Coop was formally created in 1890 under the Organic Act. Its
mission is two-fold:
- To provide observational meteorological data, usually consisting
of daily maximum and minimum temperatures, snowfall, and 24-hour
precipitation totals, required to define the climate of the United
States and to help measure long-term climate changes
- To provide observational meteorological data in near real-time
to support forecast, warning and other public service programs
of the NWS.
Coop observational data supports the NWS climate program and field
operations. The program responsibilities include:
- Selecting data sites
- Recruiting, appointing and training of observers
- Installing and maintaining equipment
- Keeping station documentation observer payroll
- Collecting data and its delivering it to users
- Maintaining data quality control
- Managing fiscal and human resources required to accomplish program
A cooperative station is a site where observations are taken or
other services rendered by volunteers or contractors. Observers
are not required to take any tests. Automatic observing stations
are considered cooperative stations if their observed data are used
for services which otherwise would be provided by cooperative observers.
A cooperative station may be collocated with other types of observing
stations such as standard observations stations, Flight Service
Stations, etc. In these cases, that portion of the station observing
program supporting the cooperative program's mission is treated
and documented independently of the other observational and service
Observers generally record temperature and precipitation daily and electronically send those reports daily to the NWS and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Many cooperative observers provide additional hydrological or meteorological data, such as evaporation or soil temperatures. Data is transmitted via telephone, computer or, in special cases, by mail. Equipment used at NWS cooperative stations may be owned by the NWS, the observer, or by a company or other government agency, as long as it meets NWS equipment standards.
The first network of cooperative stations was set up as a result
of an act of Congress in 1890 that established the Weather Bureau,
but many Coop stations began operation long before that time. John
Campanius Holm's weather records, taken without the benefit of instruments
in 1644-45, were the earliest known observations in the United States.
Subsequently many persons, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,
and Benjamin Franklin, maintained weather records. Thomas Jefferson
maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between
1776 and 1816, and George Washington took his last observation just
a few days before he died.
Two of the most prestigious awards given to Cooperative Weather
Observers are named after Holm and Jefferson. Because of its many
decades of relatively stable operation, high station density, and
high proportion of rural locations, the Cooperative Network has
been recognized as the most definitive source of information on
U.S. climate trends for temperature and precipitation. Cooperative
stations form the core of the U.S. Historical Network (HCN) and
the U.S. Reference Climate Network.
Volunteer weather observers conscientiously contribute their time
so that observations can provide the vital information needed. These
data are invaluable in learning more about the floods, droughts,
heat and cold waves affecting us all. The data are also used in
agricultural planning and assessment, engineering, environmental-impact
assessment, utilities planning, and litigation. Coop data plays
a critical role in efforts to recognize and evaluate the extent
of human impacts on climate from local to global scales.