A History of the National Weather Service in Medford, Oregon
March 11, 1911 – A special meteorological observer station was established in connection with the County Pathologists Office (County Agent’s Office) in room 418, fourth floor of the Garnett-Cory Building located on the southwest corner of Main and Grape St. in Medford. This building was later named the Liberty Building and is now known as the Leverette Building. A self-registering thermometer, a rain gauge, and wind equipment were brought and installed by forecaster E.A. Beals of Portland and located on the roof of the building. A weather flag was flown from the flagpole of the building and this flag was visible from all over town. A daily weather chart was posted on the ground floor window to be visible from the street. These reports were telegraphed to Portland in the afternoon. The next morning a telegram from Portland was awaiting the observer which gave him the weather forecast for the day. A flag was raised at the Medford Post Office to describe the predicted weather conditions of the day. Frost forecasts were also given to the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company which made the forecast available to farmers and others after 630 pm. Professor P.J. O’Gara was the first observer. In July 1911, a mercury barometer was placed into service. Daily observations continued at this location through July 15, 1927.
December 11, 1926 – The Dept. of Agriculture Weather Bureau Office opens. Delbert M. Little established the Pilot Balloon (Pibal) upper air program in Medford providing wind speed and direction aloft for the new air mail service through Medford. On December 15th, 1926 instrumentation such as hydrogen tanks, scales, a plotting board, balloons, forms, and supplies arrived to support the new Weather Bureau Office. The official opening was December 22, 1926 and the first Pibal observation was taken at 7:20 am. The building was a lean-to located at Newell Barber Field, which is now the location of the National Guard Armory and South Gateway properties on the south side of Medford.
January 1st, 1927 - The Weather Bureau Office moved from Newell Barber Field to the Garnett-Corey building in downtown Medford. However, Pibal upper air observations continued at Newell-Barber Field until June 23rd, 1927.
June 24th, 1927 - The Pibal program at Newell Barber Field was moved to the Weather Bureau Office in downtown Medford. The Pibals were released from the roof of the Liberty building.
July, 16th 1927- The Weather Bureau staff officially took over the climatological observation program from the County Agent observers.
November 1st, 1929 – The Weather Bureau Office moved to the present day airport location on the 2nd floor of the Administration building. They began taking hourly surface observations as well as Pibals.
November 7th, 1929 - A teletype circuit replaced telegraph and telephone service as the primary method for communicating weather information. The Medford Weather Bureau could now send weather reports directly to Portland.
August 31st, 1939 – The first radiosonde balloon flight occurred at 930 pm to supplement Pibals.
June 30th, 1940 – The Weather Bureau switches from the Dept. of Agriculture to the Commerce Dept. The agency was becoming much more focused on aviation than agriculture. The Medford weather report is added to the national “Daily Weather Map” and Roseburg is deleted.
May 20th, 1953 – The Medford Weather Bureau Office remains at the present day airport location but is moved to the Union Terminal building.
June 1st, 1957 – Radiosonde balloon flights change times from 06Z (Zulu time) and 18Z to 00Z and 12Z.
January 21st, 1969 – The Medford Weather Bureau Office remains at the present day airport location but is moved from the Union Terminal building to its own Weather Service building.
1970 – The Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) becomes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Weather Bureau becomes the National Weather Service (NWS).
June 30th, 1971 – The WSR-57 radar was commissioned. The radar was located at the top of Mt. Ashland and controlled by the Medford National Weather Service Office through a microwave link.
August 15th, 1979 – NOAA Weather Radio was commissioned. NWS employees could broadcast observations, forecasts, and warnings. This system used 8-track tape technology. A special NOAA Weather Radio receiver was needed to receive these broadcasts.
1980 – The Automated Field Operations and Services (AFOS) communication and computer system was commissioned. This system utilized minicomputers, video displays, and high-speed communications to replace teletype and facsimile machines.
August 15th, 1984 - The Medford National Weather Service Office was moved to its present day location on the northwest side of the Rogue Valley International Airport.
March 20th, 1995 – The Medford National Weather Service Office was expanded for extra staff and equipment necessary to take over the forecasting and warning services for Southwest Oregon and Northern California.
April 30th, 1996 – The WSR-88D Doppler Radar, also known as the Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) was commissioned. This radar was the first to detect both precipitation and wind speed and direction. There was no radar in service for around one year due to the dismantling of the WSR-57 radar and the construction of the WSR-88D Doppler radar at the same location.
January 1st, 1998 – The Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) was commissioned. This system was capable of taking completely automated weather observations at the Rogue Valley International Airport. This system replaced manual observations by the NWS staff.
November, 1998 – Medford received the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS). This advanced computer and communications system replaced AFOS and revolutionized weather forecasting by allowing multiple graphical (color) and text data displays, radar images, and satellite loops, as well as a much faster landline and satellite telecommunications system.
December 8th, 1999 – The NOAA Weather Radio Console Replacement System (CRS) was commissioned. Broadcasts went directly from text to speech using a synthesized computer voice. Recorded and live broadcasts could still be performed by the NWS staff.
March 16th, 2009 – A GPS based radiosonde system was commissioned. This system allowed for a higher resolution data set and required less operator interaction and maintenance. There was a gap of 10 days with no official radiosonde balloon launches between the decommissioning of the old MicroArt system and the new GPS based system.