Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Weather--You Like it or You Don't

What the Skies Tell Us by Martha Rogers

Our grandson-in-law is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma. Because of that, I became interested in how they know what our weather will be like. I had no idea the weather service went back as far as it does. I'm thankful for their dedication to letting us know what's ahead . . . especially with hurricane season on the horizon here on the Gulf Coast.

One hundred and fifty-two years ago on February 6, 1870, The National Organic Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant on February 10. This act allowed or authorized the Secretary of War to "take observations at
military stations and warn them of approaching storms on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts." Later that year, the first systemized observations ever taken were made by "observer sergeants" of the Army Signal Service. Because of their success, they became one of the most popular of the federal agencies.

However, earlier than that in 1849, the Smithsonian Institution suppled weather instruments to telegraph companies to establish an extensive observation network. These observations were submitted to the Smithsonian where they created weather maps. 

As many as 150 volunteers located throughout the country reported regular observations to the Smithsonian, and by 1860, 500 stations furnished daily reports by telegraph to the Washington Evening Star newspaper. The Civil War interrupted that work, and it didn't start up again until 1869-70. 

In 1891 the weather service moved to the Department of Agriculture and became known as the Weather Bureau. It remained a part of the Agriculture Department until 1940. 

In 1902, all forecasts were sent by wireless telegraphy to ships at sea, and the first report from a ship came in to the bureau in 1905. By 1910, they had begun issuing weekly forecast to aid farmers in their planning, and in 1913, the first fire-weather forecast was issued. More sophisticated methods aided the bureau in the ensuing years including the use of kites and later an airplane station.

Pictures of Typical Weather Stations Then and Now

Official observations by the bureau didn't begin until 1917. those first two decades had a profound effect on meteorological services. Even then, the weather office didn't have it's own building or place. That changed when the they moved into a "real" office building in 1931. By 1938, they had five observers and the first full-time forecaster in the office. 

Weather Bureau Office

When officials realized the important role the forecasts played for the aviation community, in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the bureau to the Department of Commerce where it is today. Then in the late 1940's, the military gave the bureau a new tool--radar. This launched a new era of forecasting. Today the network has expanded to over 100 Doppler Radars that allow meteorologists to see into the inner workings of storm clouds. 

Early Building Headquarters

Computer technology in the 1950's added another dimension to weather forecasting. Computer science paved the way for meteorologists to formulate complex mathematical weather models which greatly increased forecast accuracy.

In 1970, the bureau became the National Weather Service in the Department of Commerce's newly created National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA) 

Weather Team in 1970

Today, with all the advances in satellites, radar, and more sophisticated processing of information and communication systems, automated weather observing systems and superspeed computers make weather forecasting more accurate. Now they are able to issue more timely warnings and more precise predictions.

Weather Map

The Service is dedicated to make use of all the information they gather to warn of storms coming from the lightest thunderstorm to the dangerous tornadoes and hurricanes that destroy property and take lives.

Now when you watch a weather report on TV, your phone or computer, remember the amount of work done by these dedicated workers. The NWS works twenty-four hours and all seven days to keep the public safe and informed.

What does having accurate weather predictions mean to you?

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to six. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years teaching Freshman English at the college level. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and serves as President of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive. 


  1. Thanks, Martha, for this interesting article! I consider myself to be a "weather nut." I have a couple of different weather services on my links to be able to quickly keep up with the forecasts and study the rader when storms are approaching. One of our local weathermen does a Facebook Live presentation during stormy forecasts or times of extended extreme weather. He shows the various computer models of the coming weather and explains why he chooses to go with one over the others. It's fascinating how different from the others some can be. Despite all the scientific advances the forecasts are still not exact and sometimes they miss the mark by a lot. Living in a 4-season area makes the weather around me interesting for sure. You live in Houston and don't get warnings of blizzards and sub-zero temperatures like we get in winter. We get a lot of tornado watches here in Chicagoland while Houston gets hurricane warnings. Our Creator sure made it interesting by varying the weather so much. Great post!

    1. Yes, our Creator is very good at making for interesting seasons around Houston. We had one grandson who loved to chase tornadoes and did when he was in high school and college and another one is at the NWS in Norman. When you have a large area to cover it isn't always easy to be accurate.

  2. Thank you for posting today! I didn't realize that NOAA was so relatively new. The weather is one of the reasons I tune into local news, and especially in winter I like knowing what might lie ahead. I'm glad when it's accurate, but I chuckle to myself when the forecasters get it wrong because it proves that not everything can be predicted. And life with surprises is more interesting, most of the time anyways.