A Trusted Authority on Weather and Climate Information
The Nation needs a trusted authority on weather and climate information. Every day, governments, businesses, and individuals make long-term decisions—affecting lives and livelihoods—that require an accurate understanding of the natural environment. NCDC is well positioned to respond to this need by building upon sixty-one years of data and customer-focused science, service, and stewardship.
NCDC develops national and global datasets, which are used to maximize the use of our climatic and natural resources while also minimizing the risks caused by climate variability and weather extremes. NCDC has a statutory mission to describe the climate of the United States and it acts as the "Nation's Scorekeeper" regarding the trends and anomalies of weather and climate. NCDC's climate data have been used in a variety of applications including agriculture, air quality, construction, education, energy, engineering, forestry, health, insurance, landscape design, livestock management, manufacturing, national security, recreation and tourism, retailing, transportation, and water resources management.
From Petroglyphs to a National Climatic Data Center
People have observed and recorded the weather for thousands of years. Native American petroglyphs often depict rain, the sun, or lightning. Much later, colonists from Europe began recording journal entries about the weather and natural environment they observed. By the late 1700s, accurate weather instruments, such as thermometers, were available to professional and amateur scientists. Historical figures, such as Thomas Jefferson, routinely recorded daily weather conditions.
For the next two centuries, these weather observations accumulated in archives scattered across the country. In 1951, the Federal Government moved all weather records to Asheville, North Carolina, where the archives at the U.S. Weather Bureau, Air Force, and Navy combined to form the National Weather Records Center (NWRC).
In Asheville, the Federal Government was already using one of the largest buildings in the South, the Grove Arcade. It was a desirable location to house millions of pages of weather observations and a rapidly expanding database of computer punch cards. Asheville was also relatively isolated and inland thereby protecting these critical records from both foreign enemy attack and tropical systems, which were more likely to impact coastal locations.
After the NWRC moved to the Arcade, the archive grew until nearly 150 million paper records were kept in the basement and thousands of trays of punch cards were stored in filing cabinets throughout the building. At one point, it was feared that the combined weight of the filing cabinets and punch cards would cause architectural stress to the building.
The organization was incorporated, with all civil weather entities, as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1970. That same year, the NWRC changed its name to the National Climatic Center. Twelve years later, in 1982, the organization was renamed the National Climatic Data Center. NCDC moved into its current location, the Veach-Baley Federal Building, a block from the Grove Arcade, in 1995.
Today's National Climatic Data Center
Today, data come to NCDC from not only land-based stations but also from ships, buoys, weather balloons, radars, satellites, and even sophisticated weather and climate models. In the past 10 years, NCDC’s digital archive experienced a six-fold increase from 1 petabyte to 6 petabytes. (A petabyte is written as 1,000,000,000,000,000 or 1015 bytes). With increasing sophistication of data collection equipment, such as new satellites and radars, data is expected to exceed 15 petabytes by 2020.