When Dr. Jon Schrage of the Creighton University Department of Atmospheric Sciences was a kid, his grade school would always have boxes of scratch paper that were donated by the local National Weather Service office. The front side of the papers were covered with strange codes that none of the students could read, but the back of the paper was fine for use in doodling or drawing or whatever. The pages were printouts of communications between various meteorologists–something like printing email today. What was going on that meteorologists in the 1970s were communicating in code rather than just typing messages directly? Today on Weather Break, Dr. Schrage takes a look back at that old system and finds that meteorologists still use most of these codes to communicate today.
This table summarizes the 100 most common codes meteorologists use to describe the present weather. To describe any given weather feature, find it on the table, and then add the numbers on each row and column. For example, “lightning visible but thunder not heard” is code 13.
To see some examples of coded communications between National Weather Service offices, go to this web page. Many of the products linked here are in strange codes.