U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Volume 88, Issue 7 (July 2007). DOI:10.1175/BAMS-88-7-1015


Historic weather, climate, and ocean observations from as far back as the mid-1700s are being made easily available on the Internet for use in studying global climate variability and change and for helping to improve mitigation and response. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Database Modernization Program (CDMP) began in 2000 with a major emphasis on imaging and keying worldwide climate and environmental records from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. This multimillion dollar program is an ongoing effort to process data from the United States and elsewhere, improve its access, and maintain a permanent data archive. The CDMP, now in its eighth year, is a product of the extraordinary efforts of both NOAA personnel and the private sector. Initiated by the U.S. Congress, the program is managed by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The keying, imaging, and database development needed for the CDMP projects have created new private-sector jobs in several economically challenged areas in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Maryland. An invaluable NCDC on-site contractor prepares much of the data for shipment and performs extensive quality control on returning data products.

The CDMP acquires, digitizes, and provides access to the climate and environmental data held in various national and international archives. In earlier data rescue efforts of U.S. weather and climate records, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilmed and catalogued their 1819–92 climatological records in 1952. These data were recorded using the many different formats existing at that time, including monthly and quarterly reports received by the U.S. surgeon general from 1819 to 1859; monthly reports of volunteer observers for the Smithsonian Institution from 1849 to 1859; weekly and monthly reports of Signal Office and Weather Bureau stations from 1870 to 1892; and monthly reports from volunteer observers from the Signal Office and Weather Bureau from 1874 to 1892. All of these records have been scanned and are available as part of the CDMP, with image access available via the Internet. Selected records from this collection are being keyed and made available in digital format in various NCDC databases. CDMP supports NOAA’s core mission to archive, store, and manage environmental data and information under data stewardship for the United States.