At 7a.m. every day, whatever the weather may be, someone at the Beatrice Municipal Airport measures the precipitation amount in town for the National Weather Service.
In the fall, airport manager Diana Smith and staff received a 35 year service certificate for being the official National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer for Beatrice.
Smith said it made sense for the airport to record the weather, because they’re open every day. And at the time they started recording, all the airport employees were already required to be certified weather observers.
“Through the years, we were replaced with an AWOS, which is out Automated Weather Observation System,” Smith said. “That AWOS gives all the information that a certified weather observer used to give to the pilots.”
Despite the change in systems, the airport continued measuring precipitation and calling it into the Weather Service.
Smith explained that there’s a container near the runway that collects snow, and with added metal attachments the container collects rain, as well, before being noted with a measuring stick.
“In the winter time, not only do we measure the snow, but we measure precipitation,” Smith said. “Since it’s in snow form, we have to melt it down.”
Smith said there’s not an exact measurement when melting snow from solid to liquid. Due to the density difference between wet and dry snow, the snow always has to be melted.
She said that the precipitation containers can be inaccurate, as well, because of the angle the snow is falling. In those cases, they have to find an average amount of snowfall at the airport and record that.
The National Weather Service also provided the airport with a solar-powered electronic measurement container that collects information a month at a time before Smith sends it back to them.
“It’s a measure twice kind of thing, but it doesn’t measure snow,” Smith said.
According to Jennifer Clason, an Administrative Support Assistant for the National Weather Service Omaha/Valley, there are over 250 official volunteer cooperative weather observers in Nebraska and nearly 10,000 nationwide.
Observers are located across private residents, ranches, farms, municipal facilities, utilities, dams, parks, game refuges, radio stations, among other locations, and the next closest observers are in Adams and Virginia.
The data provided is used by the National Weather Service, state climatologists and numerous others, and eventually becomes a permanent part of the climatic record for the local area and nation.