Fifty Years of Weather Watching is a Real Honor

By Julie Z. Lee on December 18, 2007

Share this

The National Weather Service presented a 50-Year-Length-of-Service Award to the physics department at Pacific Union College on Thursday, March 1. Four representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce flew into Angwin from their headquarters in Monterey for the informal ceremony.

The institutional award was given to Bill Mundy, professor of physics at PUC and official weather observer for the National Weather Service Cooperative Observing Program, formally established by the Organic Act of 1890 with the purpose of taking meteorological observations to establish and record the climate conditions of the U.S. The award commemorates the voluntary service which PUC has provided the community, state, and nation since 1950. Dr. Mundy has been tracking Angwin weather for the program for 25 years.

At 5 p.m. every day, Dr. Mundy and a hired student check the low and high temperature of the day with an electronic instrument provided by the National Weather Service. On rainy days, they climb to the roof of Chan Shun Hall, the chemistry and physics building on campus, where they keep a special bucket to measure rainfall. At the end of each month, the recorded information is sent to the headquarters in Monterey.

The data not only serves as official temperature and precipitation records for the U.S., but also helps provide information for agricultural interests, such as water management, drought assessment, presidential disaster declarations, and crop yields forecasts.
Cooperative weather stations are usually located at firestations or universities. In rural areas, the organization sends representives to scout the area and seek new recruits. Many farmers and ranchers serve as weather observers in the program.

As early as 1797, Thomas Jefferson envisioned a nationwide network of weather observers with at least one observer per county. Today, the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observing Program consists of 12,000 volunteer citizens and institutions observing and reporting weather information on a 24-hour basis.