I have been studying the history of the collection of weather data, which in the old days of the 18th and 19th centuries were iffy at best compared to the technology we have today. I know some of these posts are long reads, however I think it is important to have an idea of how things were done in the ‘old days’.
During the early and mid-1800’s, weather observation networks began to grow and expand across the United States. Although most basic meteorological instruments had existed for over 100 years, it was the telegraph that was largely responsible for the advancement of operational meteorology during the 19th century. With the advent of the telegraph, weather observations from distant points could be “rapidly” collected, plotted and analyzed at one location.
In 1859 the Smithsonian Institution supplied weather instruments to telegraph companies and established extensive observation network. Observations were submitted by telegraph to the Smithsonian, where weather maps are created.
By the end of 1849, 150 volunteers throughout the United States were reporting weather observations to the Smithsonian regularly. By 1860, 500 stations were furnishing daily telegraphic weather reports to the Washington Evening Star, and as the network grew, other existing systems were gradually absorbed, including several state weather services.
During the Civil War this system was disrupted. In 1870 a Joint Congressional Resolution requiring the Secretary of War “to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent, and at other points in the States and Territories…and for giving notice on the northern lakes and on the seacoast, by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms” was introduced. Congress passed the resolution and on February 9, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law. A new national weather service had been born within the U.S. Army Signal Service’s Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce that would affect the daily lives of most of the citizens of the United States through its forecasts and warnings for years to come.
A Weather Bureau office began operating in Oklahoma City at the Overholser Opera House on November 1, 1890. This opera house was located on the southeast corner of the intersection of Robinson and Grand. Eventually, Grand became known as Sheridan Avenue, and the Overholser Opera House became known as the Orpheum Theater, long after the Weather Bureau had moved. This theater was eventually demolished in 1964, and now the Cox Convention Center is situated in that location.
Pictures from the Overholser Opera House. From left to right: The Overholser Opera House building,
instruments on top of the roof, and the instruments from a different angle.
After the Overholser Opera House, the Weather Bureau office in Oklahoma City moved to the Culbertson Building, which was located on the southeast corner of Broadway and Grand in Oklahoma City, just down the street from the old office. The new office began officially operating there on July 1, 1902. The Weather Bureau office only lasted in the Culbertson Building until January 16, 1906. The reason for the move was a brand new Weather Bureau Observatory, built at 1923 Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City. This weather observatory was one of a special new class of 47 observatories being built across the United States.
From left to right: The Culbertson Building, the Department of Agriculture building at 1923 Classen,
and a Google Map of the early locations of the Weather Bureau Offices.
Back in the days of the Weather Bureau Observatory, it served as both an observatory, and a residence for the Section Chief. This is evident in the picture below, which shows a clothesline hanging from the temperature shelter to the building on the south lawn. The office on Classen Boulevard was north of downtown Oklahoma City, in a fairly residential area. The building still exists to this day.
A picture from April 1934 courtesy of NOAA and the Oklahoma Climate Survey of the Weather Bureau Observatory in OKC.
In 1932, a Weather Bureau office opened up at Will Rogers Airport on the southwest side of Oklahoma City. This office officially opened on April 2, 1932 and began the gradual transition away from the Weather Bureau Observatory on Classen Boulevard. The new office was located in the Administration Building at Will Rogers Field. Initially observations remained at the Weather Bureau Observatory, but by 1951 the number of observations taken there were substantially reduced. Below are a series of pictures from the Administration Building at Will Rogers Airport.
From left to right: The Administration building at Will Rogers Airport, the building from another angle,
and a later picture after a control tower had been added to the terminal building.
From left to right: The office in the Administration Building, another angle of the office,
and an optical theodolite on the roof of the building.
The office was located at Will Rogers Airport in some fashion until January 26, 1987. A new Weather Bureau Building was built at the airport to just house the Weather Bureau Office. The Weather Bureau office relocated there on October 22, 1965. By 1967, the U.S. Weather Bureau had been renamed the National Weather Service. Below is a picture of this new building that was constructed at the airport.
On January 27, 1987, the National Weather Service office in Oklahoma City relocated to Norman, Oklahoma. It was located at Max Westheimer Airport in a building built specifically for the NWS office. By 1997, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC, previously named the Severe Local Storm Warning Center and located in Kansas City) had moved to Norman and was co-located with the National Weather Service office there. The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) was also in the building. This building at Max Westheimer, and also located on what is sometimes referred to as the “north campus of the University of Oklahoma”, is pictured below along with other pictures of the office.
From left to right: The NOAA Weather Center at night, the “PUP” – Principal User Processor,
and forecasters working at computer workstations. The last two pictures were taken circa September 1990.
From left to right: The operations area of the forecast office, an upper air balloon release,
and a daytime picture of the NOAA Weather Center.
On August 7, 2006, the National Weather Service Forecast Office began the move to a new building on the University of Oklahoma’s South Research Campus in Norman, Oklahoma. The office began operations in the new building on August 10, 2006. The “National Weather Center” is located along Highway 9 on the south side of Norman. The Storm Prediction Center and National Severe Storms Laboratory also moved to the new National Weather Center that summer.
If you would like to read a more detailed history you can find it here.
After a fairly nice day yesterday to conclude the long holiday weekend we now move into a cloudy wet period which will last through most of the rest of the week. Temps will be cooler than normal through most of the next couple weeks. I haven’t put in the air conditioners yet – last year at this time they were running almost non stop when we had temps in the upper 80s and low 90s.
Seven Day Forecast
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