National Weather Service Training Center

decorative red line

What is the Cooperative Observing Program?

decorative red line

The Cooperative Observing Program has long history of service to the nation. Its mission is two-fold:

  • To provide observational data (usually consisting of daily maximum and minimum temperature and 24-hour precipitation totals) required to define the climate of the United States and to help measure long-term climate changes
  • To provide observational data in near real time to support forecast, warning, and other public service programs of the National Weather Service (NWS)
  • The cooperative observing program is the means by which the NWS obtains observational data to support both the climate program and its field operations. The program includes the selection of data sites; recruiting, appointing, and training of observers; installation and maintenance of equipment; station documentation; observer payroll; data collection and its delivery to users; data quality control functions; and the management of fiscal and.ASOShuman resources required to accomplish program objectives.

    A cooperative station is a site at which observations are taken or other services rendered by volunteers or contractors who are not NWS employees and who are not requried to take or pass observation certification examinations. Automatic observing stations are considered cooperative stations if their observed data are used for services which otherwise would be provided by cooperative observers. A cooperative station may be collocated with other types of observing stations such as standard observations stations, Flight Service Stations, etc. In these cases, that portion of the station observing program which supports the cooperative program's mission is treated and documented independently of the other observational and service programs.

    Cooperative observers may serve on either a paid or unpaid basis, depending on the type of services rendered and needs that must be met. These services frequently consist of taking and recording temperature and precipitation daily and reporting to the National Climatic Data Center or an NWS office at the end of each month. Many cooperative observers provide additional hydrological or meteorological parameters, such as evaporation, and may telephone or electronically transmit data to NWS offices or mail observations forms weekly. Equipment used at NWS cooperative stations may be owned by the NWS, by the observer, or by a company or other government agency, as long as it meets NWS equipment standards.

    Return to Menu

    Last reviewed or updated on 8/23/00