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1. Origin and Purpose

The Weather Bureau was created as a part of the Department of Agriculture July 1, 1891.1 Its mission is to collect climatic data, study and deduct laws governing atmospheric phenomena, and to forecast for the benefit of agriculture, commerce, and industry, and, in short, for the benefit of the whole people.

2. History

Professor Cleveland Abbe, director of Mitchell Astronomical Observatory at Cincinnati, Ohio, conducted a weather service between the years of 1868–1870.

The bureau now have some 6,000 meteorological observation stations in the United States at its service. It co-operated more or less with 25,000 other meteorological stations throughout the world, more than 200 of which are manned by regular commissioned personnel, and the remainder by co-operating observers, who serve without compensation or receive a nominal amount, based on the number of observations taken. Then, more than half a century ago, Col. A. J. Myer, the Chief of the United States Army Signal Service, submitted a scheme of weather reports and storm signals to the War Department for a peace-time employment for his branch of the military establishment. About this time Prof. I. A. Lapham, of Milwaukee, was attempting to organize a system of storm warnings for Lake Michigan. These two efforts resulted in legislation 4 providing "for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the states and territories of the United States, and for giving notice on the Northern lakes and at the seacoast, by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms.” The Weather Service was thus a part of the Signal Service (later Signal Corps) of the United States Army. Observations were made by Army personnel, but civilian assistance was had in forecasting.

The original objective of the Weather Service was to aid coastal and Great Lakes navigation, but its benefits soon came to be recognized by transportation and industrial enterprises generally dependent upon weather, and this popular demand found expression several years later in the reorganization above mentioned in 1891.

The area of the weather map was enlarged in 1871 by the adoption of a system of international exchange between the Weather Bureau of Canada and the United States.5

1 Act Oct. 1, 1890 (26 Stat. 653), superseding R. S. 88 221-223.

2 Heiskell, H. L. The Commercial Weather Map of the United States Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, February, 1912, pp. 537-539.

3 Institute for Government Research, Service Monograph No. 9, 1922, p. 1
4 Act Feb. 9, 1870 (16 Stat. 369)
B Institute of Government Research, Service Monograph No. 9, p. 13.

The Chief Signal Office, in 1873, succeeded in obtaining the approval by the First International Congress of Meteorologists at Vienna of his plan for one daily uniform simultaneous observation at as many stations as may be practicable through the world. Reports of such observations were received at Washington, and a Bulletin of Simultaneous International Observations was published for several years. 3. Activities

"The Chief of the Weather Bureau, under the direction of the Secretary of Agriculture, shall have charge of forecasting the weather; the issue of storm warnings; the display of weather and flood signals for the benefit of agriculture, commerce and navigation; the gaging and reporting of rivers; the maintenance and operation of seacoast telegraph lines and the collection and transmission of marine intelligence for the benefit of commerce and navigation; the reporting of temperature and rainfall conditions for the cotton interests; the display of frost, cold wave, and other signals; the distribution of meteorological information in the interest of agriculture and commerce and the taking of such meteorological observations as may be necessary to establish and record the climatic conditions of the United States, or are essential for the proper execution of the foregoing duties.” 7

These functions are classified as the following activities:
(a) Weather reporting and forecasting.
(b) Climatological work.
(c) Marine meteorology.
(d) Agricultural meteorology.
(e) Aerology.
(f) Reporting effects of weather on highways.
(g) Reporting and forecasting river stages.
(h) Solar radiation studies.
(i) Maintaining and operating telegraph lines.10
(i) Instruments equipping and testing.
(k) Evaporation observations at 55 stations.
(1) Meteorological physics.
(m) High altitude snowfall surveys.

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6 Report of Signal Officer of United States Army, 1873.

7 Act Oct. 1, 1890, $8 1, 3, 9 (26 Stat. 653), and section 4, as amended by Resolution of July 8, 1898, No. 57 (30 Stat. 752).

8 See Bigelow, F. H., Work of the Meteorologist for the Benefit of Agriculture. Department of Agriculture, Yearbook 1899, pp. 71-92. Hermann, C. F. von, How Farmers may Utilize the Special Warnings of the Weather Bureau. Department of Agriculture. Yearbook 1909, pp. 387–398.

9 Act June 30, 1914 (38 Stat. 415, 417); Act May 12, 1917 (40 Stat. 43).

10 These lines are to communicate with isolated stations not reached by commercial lines.


4. Organization

A. ADMINISTRATION IN WASHINGTON The Chief of the Weather Bureau, Assistant Chief, and Chief Clerk, supervise the following divisions :

(a) Administrative and Scientific Division.-Stations and Accounts Division 11 “This division transacts all business relating to the finances of the bureau; audits, adjusts, and prepares for payment all accounts and claims against the bureau; prepares advertisements; issues transportation requests; and supervises the construction and repair of Weather Bureau buildings outside of Washington.” Head, Chief of Divisions of Stations and Accounts, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(b) Supplies Division.—“This division purchases and issues the supplies of the bureau both in Washington establishment and at the stations, and charged with the safe-keeping of all property belonging to the bureau.” Head, Chief of Supplies Division, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(c) Printing Division.—"This division prints and mails the daily weather map, the Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, the Weekly Snow and Ice Bulletin, and the various charts and miscellaneous printed matter pertaining to the bureau, and has the custody of and distributes station forms." Head, Chief of Printing Division, Weather Bureau, Washington, D. C.

(d) Telegraph Division.—"This division receives, transmits, and records all telegrams to and from the central office, supervises the telegraph work performed at field stations, arranges telegraph circuits, maintains and repairs Weather Bureau telegraph lines and submarine cables, and examines all telegraph and field telephone accounts.” Head, Chief of Telegraph Division, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(e) Library.—“The library, containing the world's largest and most complete collection of meteorological publications, includes standard works of reference, complete file of the publications of meteorological and climatological services in all parts of the world. It contains a catalogue, prepared in the library, of the meteorological contents of all the principal scientific periodicals of the world, including proceedings and transactions of societies. Translations from foreign languages, required in the bureau, are made in the library." Head, Librarian, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(f) Office of the Editor.-"This office has general editorial supervision over semiscientific papers submitted for publication by the bureau, calling attention to such of these as seem appropriate for the Monthly Weather Review, for the Journal of Agricultural Research, newspapers, etc.; it prepares summaries, indexes, abstracts, and notes concerning the progress of meteorological science; and it edits and supervises the publication of the Monthly Weather Review." Head, Editor, Editorial Division, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

11 See Institute for Government Research, Service Monograph No. 9, 1922, pp. 38–44, for quotations in sections (a)-(p).

(g) Forecast Division.-"This division supervises the receiving and charting, twice daily, of telegraphic reports of the prevailing weather conditions, and distribution of information as to current weather conditions and forecasts of impending weather changes in all parts of the country; also warnings of storms, hurricanes, cold waves, frosts, heavy snows, etc., for the special benefit of agriculture, commerce, and navigation, including aviation. It checks up the verifications of the forecasts made by the district of local forecasters.

“The division is subdivided into the office of the Meteorologist in Charge, the Clerical Section, Map Section, Observatory, and Verification Section.” Head, Meteorologist in Charge, Forecast Division, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(h) Forecasting.--"This is the central office of the largest of the five principal districts into which the country is divided for forecast purposes. Being located at the headquarters of the Weather Bureau, it is not regarded as one of the stations, but as a part of the central office. The forecasts made cover all the , states east of Michigan, and Indiana and east of the Mississippi Valley, from and including Kentucky southward.” Head, Forecasters, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(i) Climatological Division.—"This division has charge of the collection, study, and publication of climatological data for the United States. It has general supervision of the work of about 4,500 co-operative stations and about 35 special meteorological stations, from which are collected by mail the records of dạily observations of temperature, precipitation, and other meteorological conditions, necessary to establish the history of the climate of the various portions of the United States. It supervises the equipment and personnel of stations maintained in connection with the principal agricultural activities of the country. The division supervises the issue of a weekly bulletin during the winter months, showing the depth of snow on the ground and the thickness of ice in rivers and harbors, and from time to time it issues special bulletins or papers bearing on climatological subjects. It prepares the climatological portions of the annual reports of the bureau, and supervises the monthly and annual summaries and other publications of the climatological services of the various states. The division has charge of the barometry of the United States, and the preparation of the normals of pressure, temperature, precipitation, etc.” Head, Climatologist in Charge, Climatological Division. Weather Bureau Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(j) Division of Agricultural Meteorology.—“This division conducts studies concerning the relation of weather to crops, and collects statistical data required in such studies. It directs and supervises the co-operative relations of the Weather Bureau with the state experiment stations and other contributing organizations. The division supervises the work of about 400 special stations maintained in connection with the corn, wheat, cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, fruit, and cattle industries, and supervises the distribution of special warnings for the benefit of growers. It collects and publishes weekly, as the weather and crop bulletin, data showing the current weather conditions throughout the country and the effects of these conditions upon important crops, and supervises the issue of weather crop summaries at the various state centers." Head, Meteorologist in Charge, Division of Agricultural Meteorology, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(k) Marine Division.—"This division supervises the work of securing and collating reports from marine observers containing information pertaining to the ocean, prepares charts of the meteorology of the ocean, and supplies the information concerning the paths of storms published by the Hydrographic Office of the Navy Department on its pilot charts." Head, Chief of Marine Division, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(1) Aerological Investigations.—"The work of this division includes supervision over the making of observations at certain field stations by means of kites and balloons, and the reduction, study, and publication of data thus obtained, with the view of extending knowledge concerning the dynamics of the atmosphere and making useful and practical information available to artillery, aviation, and other interests. Data of the upper atmosphere are received in this division by telegraph from observing stations for use in diagnosing general weather conditions, and for furnishing information on conditions in the free air for the use of aviators. Reports are received from six stations at which upper air observations are made by means of kites and balloons, and from eight others where balloons only are used." Head, Meteorologist in Charge, Aerological Investigation Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(m) Solar Radiation Investigations.—“Measurements are made in this division of the rate at which heat is received at the surface of the earth by radiation, during the day, from the sun and sky combined, and from each source separately, the heat lost at night, and the relation of these measurements to atmospheric conditions." Head, Meteorologist in Charge, Solar Radiation Investigations, Weather Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

(n) River and Flood Division.—“This division has charge of the collection of information as to stages of water along the navigable rivers, the issue of flood warnings, and the study of the physical characteristics of the rivers of the United States; information on the depth of snowfall in the mountains of the West, for a study of the flow of water in the streams supplying irrigation projects; and information on the rate of evaporation from ponds and lakes, in the interest of water storage for irrigation, power development, and navigation; and it supervises, on the part of the Weather Bureau, the experiment station maintained jointly by the Weather Bureau and the Forest Service. It has administrative control of the entire river and flood service of the bureau, and has general supervision of the installation and upkeep of river gages, the collection and publication of statistical data, and the preparation of rules for flood forecasting. The geographic unit of the field service is the river district center, one to each watershed, except in the case of the largest rivers, where it becomes necessary on account of the size of the watershed to create a number of district centers, all of equal rank, and each having a definite stretch of the river under its charge.” The total number of river district centers is 67. Daily gagings are made for some part of the year at about 5,000 stations. “The officer in charge of each district center is responsible to the central office


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