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Highland Home’s Charles Porter to be honored

Recognizing 45 years of dedicated service, NOAA National Weather Service officials have named Highland Home, Ala., resident Charles Porter as a 2008 recipient of the agency’s John Campanius Holm Award. This year’s coveted Holm Award is being presented to 26 people who have performed exceptional volunteer service as a weather observer.

Bill Proenza, regional director of the National Weather Service Southern Region, and David McShane, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service forecast office in Mobile, will present the award during a special ceremony at 10:00 a.m., October 9, at the Highland Home Fire Department.

“Cooperative observers are the bedrock of weather data collection and analysis,” said Proenza. “Satellites, high-speed computers, mathematical models and other technological breakthroughs have brought great benefits to the nation in terms of better forecasts and warnings. But, without the century-long accumulation of accurate weather observations taken by volunteer observers, scientists could not begin to adequately describe the climate of the United States.”

Porter began taking observations in 1963. For more than four decades, he has consistently provided a daily flow of precipitation and temperature data in support of the nation’s climate program. The quality and accuracy of his observations played a pivotal role in the Highland Home station’s selection as a Historical Climate Network site.

In addition to his dedicated support of the National Weather Service, Porter is a very active member of his community. He has served as a volunteer firefighter, auxiliary deputy sheriff, scoutmaster, baseball coach, high school football announcer and one of the founders of the Highland Home Baptist Church. He is also a “weather watcher” for WSFA-TV, the NBC affiliate in nearby Montgomery, Ala.

Weather records retain their importance as time goes by. 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” or “Hourly Precipitation Data.”

The National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer Program has given scientists and researchers continuous observational data since the program’s inception more than a century ago. Today, nearly 12,000 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.

The first extensive network of cooperative stations was set up in the 1890’s as a result of an 1890 act of Congress that established the U. S. Weather Bureau. Many of the stations have even longer histories. John Campanius Holm’s weather records, taken without benefit of instruments in 1644 and 1645, were the earliest known recorded observations in the United States.

Many historic figures have also maintained weather records, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between 1776 and 1816, and Washington took weather observations just a few days before he died. The Jefferson and Holm awards are named for these weather observation pioneers.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.