"From its inception, the National Weather Service has relied heavily on cooperative weather observers for establishment and maintenance of the nation's climatic database. It follows that appointing, training, and keeping good observers is a very high priority."
The Cooperative Observer Program is older than the United States, dating to the pre-Revolutionary War colonies. Farmers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and scientists like Ben Franklin were always interested in the weather. Many kept detailed daily records and these records are part of the continuing study of our weather. This interest in weather followed settlers into the Tennessee and Cumberland Valleys.
Continuous official weather records in Nashville date back to the 1870's. Several other sites in Middle Tennessee can trace their records prior to 1900: Carthage, Clarksville, Cookeville, Dickson, Dover/Ft. Donelson, Franklin, Lewisburg, McMinnville, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma, and Waynesboro.
All Cooperative Observers keep daily precipitation records. The same instrument, the Standard or 8" Rain Gage, has been used for most of the recorded history. This information is used to determine normal values and set record amounts. (Such information was very important during the summer of 1999 to determine the severity of drought conditions and issuance of crop insurance.) Maps showing seasonal departures and related normals are available at the Southern Region Climate Center. There are also 16 sites in Middle Tennessee that have an automated precipitation gage that records hourly rainfall. All sites record snowfall.
Most observers also keep temperatures readings: the 24 hour high and low readings and the temperature at observation. Most sites are equipped with an electronic Maximum/Minimum Temperature System that has replaced thermometers. This instrument is accurate to 0.3o Fahrenheit.
Four special stations in Middle Tennessee are very involved in collecting weather information. Continuing the tradition of Thomas Jefferson and the early farmers, the University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Stations at Crossville (Plateau), Lewisburg (Dairy), Neopolis/Spring Hill (Field Crops) and Springfield (Highland Rim) collect temperature, precipitation, evaporation, wind, and soil temperatures. This data is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its weekly crop updates.
Historical records for all cooperative sites are available at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. They can be reached by telephone at (828) 271-4800. Daily records and climatological normals are available in the climate data section of this website, and at the National Weather Service Interactive Weather Information Network.
|Cooperative Weather Observer Stations in Middle Tennessee|
|Centerville Water Plant||Hickman||1939||660|
|Centerville 4 NE||Hickman||2000||740|
|Cheatham Lock & Dam||Cheatham||1936||392|
|Clarksville Sewage Plant||Montgomery||1854||382|
|Clarksville Water Plant||Montgomery||1967||496|
|Crossville Experiment Station||Cumberland||1912||1810|
|Edgar Evins Marina||De Kalb||1974||642|
|Fairview Bowie Nature Center||Williamson||2001||820|
|Fall Creek Falls State Park||Van Buren||1999||1790|
|Forrest Hills (Dyer Observatory)||Davidson||2001||1130|
|Franklin Sewage Plant||Williamson||1879||655|
|Lebanon 3 W||Wilson||1909||535|
|Lebanon 7 N||Wilson||1956||510|
|Nashville Berry Field||Davidson||1937||580|
|Neapolis (Spring Hill)||Maury||1975||700|
|Old Hickory Lock & Dam||Davidson||1954||460|
|Old Hickory NWS||Wilson||1974||590|
|Pickett State Park||Pickett||1999||1625|
|Warner Park Nature Center||Davidson||2000||625|
The Cooperative Observer Program is beginning a modernization program that will see many new instruments put into the field. The program in Middle Tennessee has expanded to include at least one site in every county and an increasing concentration around population centers. A new system is being implemented that allows observers to input their data daily into the National Weather Service computer systems. This allows forecasters to know what is going on across the region and not just at airports.
Two observers were honored in middle Tennessee with the John Campanius Holm Award. This award is given for exemplary participation in the cooperative observer program. Only 25 awards are given out annually across the country. Mary King of Dover received the Holm Award in 2000, and Geraldine Moore Young of Woodbury in 2001.
NWS Cooperative Observer (COOP) Basics
Local reports from the Middle Tennessee Area