National Weather Service - Elko - Coop Program
The National Weather Service Cooperative
What is the job of a cooperative observer?
Being an NWS cooperative observer can be a demanding
job. To provide accurate and complete weather data, the
NWS requires observations seven days a week, 365 days
a year. This does not mean that someone has to always
be monitoring the weather; the NWS provides instruments
to monitor temperature and precipitation. However, someone
should be available to record the daily maximum and minimum
temperature, the daily precipitation total, and other
hydrometeorological data. This generally is done around
7:00 a.m., but the observer can shift observation times
to fit his/her schedule.
The observers record the information on a form that they
mail monthly to the local NWS office. NWS personnel review
the data for quality assurance and then forward it to
the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville,
Why is the Cooperative Observer Program needed?
In protecting life and property, the National Weather
Service (NWS) issues severe weather watches and warnings.
Thus, the collection of timely and accurate weather data
is vital. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA ), of which the NWS is a part, maintains a database
of climatic weather information. The NWS also uses this
climatic data to prepare medium and long-range forecasts.
The Cooperative Observer Program or "coop program,"
helps NOAA and the NWS with the severe weather program
and the maintenance of the long-term climatic database.
The coop program is the backbone of the United States
climatological database. Cooperative observers also frequently
act as severe storm spotters, telephoning in reports of
hazardous weather in the winter and summer.
What equipment does the cooperative observer use?
Depending on how much service is expected, equipment
can vary from an 8-inch, non-recording plastic or metal
rain gage, to a full coop station with an electronic thermometer
and recording precipitation gage. The NCDC determines
the placement and type of Cooperative Weather Observers
(CWOs) as requested by the NWS Representative (NWSREP).
Generally they evenly space cooperative stations in relatively
flat terrain (more than 30 miles apart) but may be closer
together in hilly terrain or under special circumstances.
The most common stations are the "C" order stations,
which support real-time and near real-time severe weather
operations. Typically, these observers have had severe
weather spotter training and have a non-recording rain
gage. "A" and "B" order stations are
for longer-term climatological and hydrologic operations
and have less contact with an NWSREP.
The NWSREP will deliver, set up, and maintain the necessary
equipment. Typically, the Cooperative station consists
of a set of Maximum/Minimum thermometers or a Max/Min
Temperature System (MMTS) and a rain gage. There are two
basic types of rain gages - recording and non-recording.
Non-recording rain gages consist of a metal tube approximately
8 inches in diameter and 3 feet tall, and contain a removable
funnel and measuring tube. Placing a calibrated stick
into the tube measures precipitation, by observing where
the water marks the stick and recording the data.
A recording rain gage has either a drum that holds a paper
chart or a drive mechanism that punches holes in a strip
chart to record precipitation. At the end of each month,
the observer sends the charts to the local NWS office.
NWS personnel check the data for quality and accuracy,
and then forward the reports to the NCDC.
What happens with the daily information collected by
The observers transmit the data to the local NWS
office via telephone using a PC based system called PC-ROSA,
or telephone the information in via a voice system. NWS
personnel use the near real-time data to support the day-to-day
operations of the NWS in its forecast and warning decisions.
What kind of training is involved?
Training consists of on site, hands-on instruction
with the designated cooperative observer and their backup.
An NWS employee usually provides training on the same
day of the equipment installation. The training takes
about one hour to complete. If necessary, the NWS coop
representative provides additional training upon request.
Advanced training includes discussions on basic equipment
maintenance. The NWS employee also provides the observer
with a name ("point of contact") and a phone
number for assistance for maintenance and repair issues.
If you have any more questions or would like to get involved
in the Elko COOP program, please give us a call at (775)
778-6716 or Email us and we will gladly obtain
the information you request.
US Dept of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Elko Weather Forecast Office
3720 Paradise Drive
Elko, Nevada 89801
Tel: (775) 778-6716
Freedom of Information Act