Fact Sheet - Kentucky Climate Stations
Glen Conner
State Climatologist Emeritus for Kentucky
 
In 1825, climate observations were made by the Army's surgeon at Newport Barracks in Kentucky. These and daily temperature and precipitation data from about fourteen other posts in other states were published. By 1853, 97 Army posts were reporting weather data.

In 1848, the Smithsonian Institution started observations with a network of about 150 voluntary observers. By 1861, the network had 600 observer stations in the United States (1) including two in Kentucky. In Arcadia in Lincoln County, Kentucky, Howard Shriver was an observer who was a prolific writer of remarks. Among his many remarks were informative notes of "fire flies first seen" (2). On one occasion, he recorded that the ice harvest had begun with ice six and a half inches thick (3). Sometimes his remarks gave an insight to his love of weather: "Thick mist or fog .... walls of house dripping with the moisture which trickled down and ran in little streams on the porch floor" (4).

In 1874, the responsibility for the Smithsonian Institution's network of 383 stations was transferred to the Army's Signal Corps. The Signal Corps' telegraph network provided a means for transmitting data rapidly to Washington. In 1891, the network was placed under the Department of Agriculture and farm related data became of central importance. When the Department of Agriculture's Weather Bureau issued instructions in 1899, weather expanded to new definitions. The general phenomena of climate were to include: "Time of plowing in the spring, time of planting and seeding various crops, time of appearance of same above ground, time of flowering...., time of.... haying, time of .... harvesting...., time of ripening .... , time of migration of wild fowl and birds ...., time of leafing and fall of leaves in deciduous forests, the date of breaking up of ice in large rivers and bays, the date of greatest rise and lowest water in important streams " (5).

In 1940, the Weather Bureau was transferred to the Department of Commerce to support the rapidly growing aviation interests (6). It has remained in that Department although its name has changed to the National Weather Service. The role of the voluntary observer remains the primary one in climate data collection.

The map below shows the locations of the known climate stations in Kentucky for some period between 1825 and 1997. Data are not available from some of these stations, available for only short periods for many others, and available for long periods for just a few.
 
Kentucky Climate Stations.
 
Kentucky Climate Stations
The earliest weather observations in Kentucky were made by the U.S. Army at Newport Barracks, Kentucky beginning in July 1825. Growth of the observation network was slow:

Year

Number of Kentucky Stations
1840 1
1850 2
1860 7
1870 7
1880 4
1890 35
1900 42
1910 44
1920 60
1930 85
1940 94
1950 174
1960 167
1970 157
1980 168
1990 166