History of Meteorological Observations at Penn State's University Park Campus

As one of the oldest land grant institutions in the United States, The Pennsylvania State University began keeping comprehensive weather records in 1882 (25 years after its establishment as the Pennsylvania State College). The records include daily maximum and minimum temperatures, rainfall and snowfall along with wind speed and direction at the time of observation. Observations of cloud amount and type were also taken routinely. Barometric pressure traces date from 1934 to 2019. Since about 1980, an automated observing system has logged barometric pressure, temperature and winds at 1 to 5-minute intervals with relatively few gaps in the data.

Drs. J.T. Osmond and W.S. Swetser were the first team of weather observers in the agricultural college. In 1896, they handed off the responsibility to Prof. William Frear. Dr. Frear faithfully kept the weather observations until 1922. During the 1920's and 1930's, weather records were kept by Prof. C.A. Kern, who was present at the formation of the Department of Meteorology in 1935.

Just prior to World War II, Dr. Helmut Landsberg, the first chair of the meteorology department and a renowned atmospheric scientist, took the weather observations from July 1940 through June 1941. During World War II, Prof. Hans Neuberger, the second head of the meteorology department, kept the weather records. His fastidious record-keeping included some of the first routine measurements of ultra-violet radiation in the United States. Dr. Neuberger relinquished the reins of observing in October, 1946 when F.B. Stephens, a retired Navy commander, joined the department to work on his doctorate relating seasonal solar radiation to electric utility consumption.

In September 1947, Charles Hosler began his distinguished career at Penn State as a graduate student studying the role of aerosols in the atmosphere while regularly taking weather observations. During the next decade, Dr. Hosler finished his doctoral thesis, joined the faculty and later became department head. His tenure as an observer ended in June, 1956 about the same time that his career as a weather broadcaster began. Between work as a professor, a hydrographer for the Federal-State Flood Forecast Office and a burgeoning career in the media (as one of the first meteorologist tv-broadcasters and as a host of a weather-related radio talk show), Dr. Hosler kept a close eye on the quality of the observations.

While an instructor, Dr. Hosler trained numerous other weather observers including Ferdinand de Percin, John Sherrod, who later became the chief librarian for the Department of Agriculture, Charles Weintraub, Henry Marx and Richard Hallgren, who later served as the Director of the National Weather Service and is the current director of the American Meteorological Society.

During the 1960's, Dale Koons coordinated the weather observations as the site was moved from the Mineral Industry Building, where the special Landsberg instrument shelter resided, to the roof of Deike Building, where a traditional cotton shelter was placed. By the early 1970's, the weather observations became a routine chore for students studying synoptic meteorology. Walt Lottes, Bob Cross and Bob Konchak maintained the weather observatory.

When the meteorology department moved to Walker Building in 1977, a three- year transition project of taking observations at both Deike and Walker Buildings began. Fred Gadomski was joined by Paul Kocin and others to make certain that no biases were being introduced into the data set because of the relocation. From the middle 1980's until 1995, Jonathan Merritt faithfully oversaw the observations, and since 1995 Bill Syrett has maintained the quality of the reports.