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CDMP 19th Century Forts and Voluntary Observers
Database Build Project

The Climate Database Modernization Program (CDMP) is working to preserve and place on-line a wide range of observations about the climate from the last three centuries.  The CDMP 19th Century Forts and Voluntary Observers Database Build Project aims to digitize U.S. daily weather observations from the 19th Century.  The U.S. Army forts recorded daily weather observations starting in the early 1800s.  In the mid- to late 1800s, volunteer observer networks were managed by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  These station networks eventually evolved into the Weather Bureau's Cooperative Observer Network, which continues to collect data today for the National Weather Service.  In other projects funded by the National Climatic Data Center, daily data have been digitized back to about 1900 for all U.S. stations.  The creation of a digital database of the daily Forts/Volunteer Observer data from the 1800s will allow for extension of the analysis of daily climate variables back into the 19th Century and will provide a link between the more recent instrument records and paleoclimate records such as tree ring reconstructions.  The National Archives and Records Administration holds the 1800s records on microfilm.  These records have been scanned and indexed, and are available on-line through the National Climatic Data Center's web archive site, WSSRD. 

Thirty-nine distinct data types have been identified for digitization, including various observations of temperature, pressure, precipitation, wind, clouds, state of the weather, river gauge height, and surface water temperature.  A series of quality control tests and procedures are being applied to the digitized data to assure the digitized data accurately represents the observations recorded on the original documents.  A comprehensive set of metadata is being developed to complement the data set.  These metadata help document changes in instrumentation and observation practices by identifying changes in the forms used by the observers.  The metadata includes detailed information about each station as recorded on the forms, such as station name and location, and barometer correction and other instrument adjustments, when available.

Three web tools are currently available through this web site:

  1. A monthly inventory of all records available for each station, as available in the web archive WSSRD, shows the extent and completeness of record for each station. 
  2. A list of stations selected for keying of the daily weather data shows the current status of the Project, including stations for which keying is complete. 
  3. A list of stations indicating the completeness of quality control and whether the data are available.
  4. A compilation of sample standard forms used in the 19th Century allows for searching based on desired weather observation types or period.
  5. Documentation of the Forts Data format.

In addition to the web tools, selected stations have observation histories in PDF format. These histories include maps of the observation stations, photos and illustrations, as well as chronology of locations and elevations.

Please contact Leslie Stoecker if you have questions or would like to obtain keyed, quality-controlled FORTS data





Station Keying

Quality Control