Feb. 9, 1870: Feds Get on Top of the Weather

Feb. 9, 1870: Feds Get on Top of the Weather

1870: President Ulysses S. Grant signs a bill creating what we now call the National Weather Service. Forecasting models were simple but generally effective.

It had been obvious for centuries that weather in North America generally moves from west to east, or southwest to northeast. But other than looking upwind, that knowledge was little help in predicting the weather until you could move weather reports downwind faster than the weather itself was moving.

The telegraph finally made that possible. The Smithsonian Institution in 1849 began supplying weather instruments to telegraph companies. Volunteer observers submitted observations to the Smithsonian, which tracked the movement of storms across the country. Several states soon established their own weather services to gather data.

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