The Cleveland Abbe Award For Distinguished Service to Atmospheric Science

The Cleveland Abbe Award For Distinguished Service to Atmospheric Science

Cleveland Abbe (1838–1916)

Cleveland Abbe was a pioneering American meteorologist, who was named the first head of the US Weather Bureau upon its establishment by Congress in 1870.  Two of his greatest achievements while head were the inauguration of the use of daily weather forecasts and the initiation of the use of time zones in the United States.  

In order to organize and compile observations and information gathered from far flung weather stations, Abbe required a time-keeping system that was consistent between the stations.  To accomplish this he divided the United States into four standard time zones.  Field data was transmitted using a code designed to minimize word count, and at the designated times, observation information flooded Western Union transmission stations.  Clerks would then decode and record the messages, and manually enter data onto weather maps, which were then used to predict the weather.

Abbe demanded precise language in the forecasts, and made sure every forecast covered four key meteorological elements:  weather (clouds and precipitation), temperature, wind direction, and barometric pressure.  By the end of the first year of reporting, over sixty copies of weather charts went to Congress, the press, and various scientific institutions.

Abbe required that the weather service stay at the forefront of technology.  Over time, the instrument division tested and calibrated thousands of devices, and even began to design and build their own instruments.  By the end of the century, self-registering equipment came into use and the United States led the meteorological world with 114 Class I (automatic recording) observation stations.

In 1872, Cleveland Abbe founded the scientific journal Monthly Weather Review, published since 1974 by the American Meteorological Society.