The National Weather Service has an expansive network of volunteers throughout the United States that provide timely and accurate vital weather information to their local NWS Weather Forecast Office. Throughout the Nation, there are roughly 10,000 volunteers from various locations such as farms, urban and suburban areas, National Parks, Conservation Areas, water treatment plants, local radio and TV stations, just to name a few. The COOP program was initially formed under the 1890 Organic Act in which a system was set up for volunteers to be recruited and trained in weather observations. The mission of these valuable volunteers consists of two parts:
- 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.
The data is invaluable to an extensive climate database across the United States. Although the majority of the NWS observers take daily measurements of maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, and snowfall, there are other observers that provide soil temperatures, frost depth, river levels, and greenness or grassland curing data (for fire weather purposes). All this data that is collected from our volunteer observers helps several industries such as litigation, water resources, insurance, engineering and architectural, medical, manufacturing, communications, public utilities, transportation, agriculture, natural disasters/hazardous material mitigation, housing and real estate. We at the National Weather Service are extremely grateful and fortunate to have some amazing folks volunteer their time to provide such crucial data everyday. Length of Service Awards are given every 5 years to individuals or institution that have dedicated their time to help complete the NWS Mission. So far this spring 2015, the NWS Des Moines gave 2 Cooperative Observer Length of Service Awards.