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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about the National Weather Service.


CURWOOD: Groundhog day, and a young person's fancy turns to thoughts of ... the weather. The Punxatawney rodent's place in the weather business is part of an ancient and honorable American fascination. The first recorded weather observations in North America were taken in 1644, near what is now Wilmington, Delaware. Many of the founding fathers were weather buffs as well. Benjamin Franklin discovered that winds circulate around storms and began to track and predict them. Thomas Jefferson unsuccessfully pushed for the establishment of a national corps of weather observers. Although various government entities did keep weather records following Jefferson's efforts, it wasn't until 1870, 126 years ago this week, that President Grant ordered the Army to create a weather service. The National Weather Service has since migrated from the Army to the Agriculture Department to its current home at the Commerce Department. And, despite technological advances that include satellites and computers, the Weather Service still relies on more than 10,000 volunteers around the nation to measure rainfall, temperature, wind, and river levels. It seems Jefferson had the right idea all along.



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