(ARIZONA'S WEATHER AUTHORITY) -- You always hear your favorite weather person saying the records in Phoenix go back to 1896.

Yes and no.

First Weather Records Phoenix

This worn out book contains the first weather records taken in Phoenix in 1896.

Records kept by the U.S. Weather Bureau, as the Weather Service was known, began on Jan. 1, 1896. That beat-up book to the right is the repository of those first weather notations.

So, what do the first weather records from the Weather Bureau look like inside? They’re in storage at Arizona State University, and it’s obvious the books are more than 100 years old.

We were allowed to delicately photograph a few of the pages under the watchful eye of Arizona State Climatologist Nancy Selover.

The records were handwritten, of course. And the penmanship is exquisite. 

First line of the first Weather Bureau statistics for Phoenix

All the records were handwritten.

While we think the weather observations were taken three times daily, only one set of numbers was recorded in this book. It shows current temperature, high and low from the past 24 hours, barometric pressure and wind readings.

First few weeks of weather records

Some of the data appears to be copied from the previous date or time. Perhaps that was what reporters were required to do if they could not make an actual reading.

On that first day, Jan. 1, 1896, the high was 65.5 degrees with a low of 29.5. At the time of the reading, the sky was clear and there was no wind. The next two days the low was 30 degrees, so to start off the Phoenix weather record, we had three days in a row below freezing.

Times have changed. When is the last time we had a reading in the 20s at the official weather station for Phoenix? That answer: Jan. 15, 2013.

Wind was pretty hit and miss. What was recorded was, generally, what was occurring at the time of the observation. Now we have 24/7 reporting of wind speed so we never miss a gust or a zephyr.

Then every month there's a summary, much like we get today. Except these summaries were hand calculated and must have taken some time.

First monthly weather summary

This information was telegraphed to the Weather Bureau offices in Washington.

I see that we had just under a 1/2 inch of rain in January 1896. Can you catch any other data?

Full January Summary

Check out the signature of the weather reporter. Am I reading a last name of Hayden there? That's a famous name in these parts.

And just for fun, look at the full page of the summary. Note the signature. Does that say "Hayden" as in Hayden Mill? That was a pretty famous name around these parts back in the 19th century.

3TV Chief Meteorologist Royal Norman always has his eye on the radar and how weather conditions might affect the people of Arizona.  He also loves telling those quintessential stories that are uniquely Arizona. With 35 years of experience forecasting weather and his vast knowledge of Arizona and its micro climates, Royal is an Arizona Weather Authority. 
 
 


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Recommended for you