Cooperative Weather Observers are selected to take and record weather observations at predetermined locations over the 26 counties that this weather office serves. These observations are taken to allow us and other users to define the climate for the long term.
While Cooperative observers/volunteers may take several different kinds of observations, they usually make daily readings of maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation.
Observers are usually selected from permanent residents in a community who have an interest in observing the weather, so that a long record can be assured. Observation must be taken for seven days a week throughout the year. The value of data is enhanced to a great extent by the records extending over a number of years. Most cooperative observers have served from 25 to 50 years.
A cooperative station represents an area of approximately 700 square miles in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico. This distribution of stations varies in accordance with the topographic features of the county. There are approximately 11,500 cooperative observers across the United States, with 70 in the NWS Midland/Odessa County Warning Area.
Our County Warning Area and Cooperative Weather Observer areas are identical and include these counties in Southeast New Mexico: Eddy and Lea. In West Texas the counties are: Andrews, Borden, Brewster, Crane, Culberson, Dawson, Ector, Gaines, Glasscock, Howard, Jeff Davis, Loving, Martin, Midland, Pecos, Presidio, Reagan, Reeves, Scurry, Terrell, Upton, Ward and Winkler.
When a cooperative observer is needed, the Weather Service provides the shelter, thermometers and rain gage. The observer takes one observation daily, preferably near sunset, and records the data on forms provided for this purpose. The records are forwarded to the National Weather Service, then to a processing center at the end of the month where the data is verified and published in a Climatological Data Bulletin for each state and area. In conjunction with the equipment provided by the Weather Service, routine visits by NWS personnel are done generally twice per year. Emergency maintenance and repairs are performed when needed.
The "National Cooperative Observer Newsletter" is published quarterly by the National Climatic Data Center and is sent to observers in the climatic and hydrologic network. It contains information on observers and observing procedures.
The network of cooperative observers has become rather stable in recent years with only a few new installations added.
While age requirements of observers are not stressed, observers must be able to assume the responsibility of recording official observations.