Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weather history at experiment farm

The sign at the weather observation site at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

When the 100th anniversary of weather observations in Alaska is celebrated at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm Thursday, a look back at the history of the site will be an important element.

Rick Thoman of the National Weather Service sent this information about the history of weather observing in Fairbanks:

Weather, being important for agriculture, was regularly recorded at all the early 20th century agricultural stations in Alaska (Kodiak, Rampart, Kenai, Matanuska), so it was to be expected that once the Fairbanks Ag Station was up and running that weather observations would be part of the duties.

As the Fairbanks Station had been up and running for a few years, it is possible that the weather observations were being done before July, 1911. There is certainly nothing on that July 1911 form that indicates that this was something new. However, the original forms archived by the National Climate Data Center clearly show that the Fairbanks observations from June 1911 and before were being taken by staff of the Episcopal Church downtown. A summary of Alaska climate published in 1924 uses this same data, so if observations were being done at the Ag Station before July 1911, they evidently never made it to the Weather Bureau.

The Weather Bureau would have wanted to maintain only one weather station per community, so my guess is that once the Ag Station was in business, the downtown station was closed.

Incidentally, the reliable weather observations being done at the Ag Farm may have contributed to Fairbanks not having a full-fledged Weather Bureau Station until the summer of 1929. At a number of other communities (in northern /interior Alaska these included Nome, Barrow, Tanana and Eagle), part-time Weather Bureau stations were opened shortly after World War 1. Happily, when the Weather Bureau finally did open an office in Fairbanks, the Ag Station continued to take weather observations. This "duplication" was probably permitted due to the Ag Station status.

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