Our Stories

A Half Century of Service
Dr. Francis W. Reichelderfer

A Half Century of Service

By NWS Heritage Projects Editorial Staff

Dr. F.W. Reichelderfer, Weather Bureau chief, issued the following circular letter on January 2, 1941, to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Weather Bureau (70th anniversary including the Signal Service years). Much of this still applies to the operations of the National Weather Service today.


During the new calendar year, the Weather Bureau will reach its fiftieth birthday. If we include the original Government weather organization under the Signal Corps, an organization which became the Weather Bureau on July 1, 1891, the lifetime of the regular weather service in this country extends over a total of more than 70 years. During this period the Bureau has developed into a national institution responsible for a daily service touching the lives and affecting the fortunes of almost every citizen. The Bureau’s meteorological reports and advices contribute greatly to the national welfare. Its work calls for constant attention to detail and its workers have been and are characterized by faithful devotion to duty and loyal service to the public, Responsibilities have increased many fold and duties have multiplied as new  demands have arisen from aeronautics, agriculture, business and other lines of commerce and industry.

This year the demands upon the Bureau are greater than ever before. In addition to its previous responsibilities it now has a place in the general
national defense program, particularly that part related to civil and military aeronautics. For decades the Bureau’s service has been of great importance in safeguarding life and property from damage by storm or flood. Since air transport has become a vital factor in the life of the Nation, meteorological information and service have taken on still greater daily importance. Our relation to this field is so direct that every observation and every report carries the possibility that it may be an element in safety of life in the air as well as a means of protection and benefit to life and property on the ground. In illustration, a change in cloud ceiling, in visibility, or temperature may be the key to an important decision; it must be observed promptly and reported accurately in accordance with authorized instructions. A report of direction of movement of upper clouds at an outlying station may be the index to future course of a hurricane and upon such report may depend a timely and accurate warning which saves many lives. An inadvertence may bring unnecessary risk to life and property. The meteorologist’s broadened  responsibilities, whether he serves at city or airport office, at supervising center or small sub-stat ion, call for the highest standards in vigilance arid accuracy. His opportunities for contributing to the public welfare are exceptional. With the completion of a half-century of service benefiting many fields of activity and with increasing fields of usefulness ahead, the Weather Bureau has reason to look forward with confidence, renewed vigor and enthusiasm to its future role in the life of the Nation.