Recognizing nearly 30 years of dedication and excellence to NOAA’s Cooperative observer program, the National Weather Service has named Bern, Idaho resident Steve Kunz as a 2020 recipient of the agency’s John Campanius Holm Award for outstanding service in the Cooperative Observer Program. This award, the agency’s second highest, is presented to twenty-five cooperative weather observers from around the country, each year. Vernon Preston, Meteorologist-in-Charge and Dan Valle, Observation Program Lead · from Weather Forecast Office Pocatello, Idaho, presented the award in a ceremony at the Kunz residence in Bern, Idaho on September 24, 2021.
Mr. Kunz began recording weather and climate observations in 1992. During his tenure, Steve has recorded observations of daily precipitation and temperature data nearly continuously. Mr. Kunz’s flawless and informative observations have been instrumental in providing the National Weather Service with critical weather information. Mr. Kunz reports critical storm spotter information like blizzards, flooding, thunderstorms and strong winds which helps the National Weather Service issue life and property saving warnings. Steve also provides his data to local media outlets each day so his data can be distributed quickly throughout the community. These weather observations have been used by the Federal Farm Service Agency to aid in crop damage and weather-related cattle deaths.
The National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program has given scientists and researchers continuous observational data since the program’s inception more than a century ago. Today, nearly 9,000 volunteer observers participate in the nationwide program to provide daily reports on temperature, precipitation and other weather factors such as snow depth, river levels, and soil temperature.
Weather records retain their importance over time. Long and continuous records provide an accurate picture of a locale’s normal weather, and give climatologists and others a basis for predicting future trends. These data are invaluable for scientists studying floods, droughts, and heat and cold waves. At the end of each month, observers mail their records to the National Climatic Data Center for publication in “Climatological Data.”
The first network of cooperative stations was set up as a result of an act of Congress in 1890 that established the Weather Bureau, but many Coop stations began operation long before that time. John Campanius Holm’s weather records were taken without the benefit of instruments in 1644-45, were the earliest known observations in the United States. Subsequently many persons, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, maintained weather records. Thomas Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between 1776 and 1816, and George Washington took his last observation just a few days before he died.
Two of the most prestigious awards given to Cooperative Weather Observers are named after Holm and Jefferson. Because of its many decades of relatively stable operation, high station density, and high proportion of rural locations, the Cooperative Network has been recognized as the most definitive source of information on U.S. climate trends for temperature and precipitation. Cooperative stations form the core of the U.S. Historical Network (HCN) and the U.S. Reference Climate Network.
Volunteer weather observers conscientiously contribute their time so that observations can provide the vital information needed. These data are invaluable in learning more about the floods, droughts, heat and cold waves affecting us all. The data are also used in agricultural planning and assessment, engineering, environmental-impact assessment, utilities planning, and litigation. Coop data plays a critical role in efforts to recognize and evaluate the extent of human impacts on climate from local to global scales.