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Chaco Celebrates 75 Years Of Weather Observations

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

National Park News

Maybe it’s the desert climate, where temperatures routinely swing 40 degrees in a day and every drop of rain is precious, that makes employees at Chaco so deeply interested in the weather. On Thursday, February 10th, the park received an Honored Institution Award from the National Weather Service for 75 years of weather observations and couldn’t be prouder. For decades, rangers and volunteers have carefully recorded highs, lows, and daily precipitation. The methods have changed – from turning thermometers in an outdoor box to a digital readout to a space age-looking automated system. 

While conferring the award, NOAA employees Earl Breon and Maxine Pacheco noticed that there had actually been a weather station in Chaco Canyon for over 100 years. It turns out Richard Wetherill, the enigmatic first excavator of Pueblo Bonito, was a meteorologist in addition to an archaeologist, trader, and rancher. After his murder in 1910, various other landowners and employees of the Chaco Canyon Trading Post monitored the weather station. The Park Service finally moved the station four miles and took official control in 1935.

Park employees have been paying close attention ever since. At the visitor center, interpreters field thousands of calls every year about the weather. Most can rattle off last night’s highs and lows from memory. While accepting the award, park employees were anxious to tell the NOAA representatives they endured a -26 degree night the previous week.

“It almost felt like we were getting an award for that, too,” said Chief of Interpretation Russ Bodnar.


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