The “Aerological” Office at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, is almost as old as naval aviation itself.  It was the first weather office established to support naval aviation.

The requirement for an Aerological Unit was identified on 8 May 1917 when a request was made to the Commandant of the Pensacola Naval Station to employ a competent civilian to keep records of air conditions and other meteorological phenomena at NAS Pensacola.  The necessity for a Meteorological Unit was further recognized when wind directions and velocities aloft to altitudes of approximately 1,500 feet were needed in connection with the dirigible, free balloon, and kite balloon work which was being carried on at that time.  This information could not be obtained from the Weather Bureau, due to the manpower shortage caused by the war.

Prompted by these requirements, the Bureau of Navigation was requested to furnish a meteorology officer, and on 17 April 1918, LT William F. Reed, Jr., USNRF, reported to NAS Pensacola, Florida for “Aerographical Duty.”  His superior was LCDR E. F. Johnson, Superintendent of Aeronautics.

The following summation of entries in the NAS Pensacola Meteorological Office Log document the early developments of meteorology and its history in the U.S. Navy (the original log book is now held at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola):

… During the month of April 1918, the meteorological observatory began receiving weather reports via the Western Union Office, at Pensacola, Florida; instrument shelters were constructed, and an anemometer and single register installed.  Plans were submitted to have a nephoscope and a gustograph built. The first weather maps were drawn and arrangements were made with dirigible officers for equipping a “Nurse” to carry instruments for upper air work and the construction of a gas kite. Authority was received from the Commandant to take cloud photos and make lantern slides for instruction work. LT Reed started giving lectures to advanced flying classes on ‘Exploration of the Air.’  It is noteworthy that the majority of the instruments used in the meteorological observatory were designed and built by personnel attached to the aerographic office.

In May 1918, LT Reed, with ENS Maxwell as the pilot, made the first weather reconnaissance flight over the Gulf of Mexico in an R6 aircraft.  Specific flights were conducted during this period to detect “bumps.”

In May 1918, upper-air work with a “Nurse” balloon and gas kites commenced.  In June 1918, the nephoscope designed by LT Reed was received from the machine shop and put to use.  Blackboard weather maps were completed and installed at the south entrance of the flying school.

In August 1918, the Aerographic Office began transmitting weather conditions to Miami, Hampton Roads, Cape May, and the Blue Hill Observatory.

In November 1918, drawings were completed for a “Pilot Balloon Aerograph.”  The blueprints were forwarded to the Bureau of Navigation with a request that authority be granted for the manufacture of two aerographs--one for the Aerographer and one for the use of pilots for navigation flights.

During this period, an altitude-recording anemometer designed by LT Reed and instrument maker Dean was received.  It was a half-size anemometer which mechanically recorded miles, ½ miles, ¼ miles, and 1/8 miles on a barograph sheet.  The barograph was encased with a clock drum geared to make one revolution in three hours.  The instrument was devised to be sent up on kites or held by hand in the basket of an observation balloon to get the altitude and wind velocity.  An excerpt from the 20th of November 1918 log entry states:

… The observation balloon was put up for an endurance test in the afternoon and a Robinson anemometer was sent up for wind rates, connections being made to a single register in the wind shed.  The circuit was completed by returning the kite cable through the circle of the pulley in the grounding block.  This enabled the kite to remain aloft at 300 feet all night.  Previously, a separate reel had been installed for the work, which was reeled in and out by hand, as the kite went up and down.

On 19 December 1918, a booklet on “Aviation Meteorology” was submitted to the Superintendent of Aeronautics.  This booklet was prepared by LT Reed, with suggestions from LT H. F. Farr, Naval Instructor, Royal Navy, and other British officers.  There was also input as to the needs of the service from the American flight officers under the direction of the Superintendent of Aeronautics.

On 20 January 1919, the Aerographic Office began taking winds-aloft observations utilizing the present method of determining them.  This system, now in universal use, was first developed at Fort Omaha, Nebraska during the period 28 November to 17 December 1917, and consisted of plotting pilot balloon positions as recorded by the use of a theodolite; assuming a given rate of ascent of a balloon of a given free lift.  Prior to this time, the only methods of determining winds aloft was by ascertaining the movements of various cloud formations by means of a nephoscope, or else by obtaining actual wind velocity records with an anemometer attached to a kite or balloon.

Even with the seemingly crude methods and lack of personnel (one officer, two rated men and one seaman) the value of the unit can be readily seen from the Questionnaire Pensacola WFR:AR:AB, Director of Naval Aviation dated 13 June 1919 which is quoted:

… The Aerographic personnel are of inestimable value to this station in its warnings of approaching squalls and general storms for use in the protection of aircraft and floating property.  The early preparation at this station, each day, of charts showing the general condition of the weather over the country, the Gulf of Mexico, and the western Caribbean Sea, and issuance of special bulletins on expected weather and winds has an important bearing on the general flight work of the station.  The forces of wind with direction are obtained for altitudes up to 5,000 feet during flight hours for seaplane and airship navigation, and special advises are given the seaplane and airship school by the Aerographic Officer when long flights are used.

On 24 June 1919, ENS L. H. Lovelace reported for duty as LT Reed’s assistant, until the lieutenant’s detachment.

The first known aerograph flights in naval meteorology were conducted in July 1919.  Log entries dated 17, 22, 23 and 28 July 1919 follow:

Thursday, 17 July 1919

… Received 1 Aerograph #75 made by Schneider Bros. Inst. Co. and shipped from the Naval Observatory.  Only 5 blanks were received with the instrument.

Tuesday, 22 July 1919

… Aerograph case swung between right wings on an N10 and flight made without the recording device but with weight equaling the recording device in order to test the method of suspension with screen door pull springs. The test was satisfactory.

Wednesday, 23 July 1919

… First aerograph flight was made between 1:58 p.m. and 2:28 p.m. in an N9 #2474, LT(jg) G. S. Mason, Pilot; LT W. F. Reed Jr., Observer.  A very satisfactory record was made by the aerograph only a slight broadening of trace by vibration.  The instrument was calibrated for temperature by taking it into the Power House where temperature was 90 and into the cold storage where the temperature 38.  The altimeter was read frequently during the flight.

Monday, 28 July 1919

… ENS Lovelace made flight with aerograph from 12:15 to 1:57 reaching an altitude of 7,300 feet.

On 8 November 1919, the first use of the terms “Aerology” and “Aerologist” was noted.  The terms “Aerographic,” “Aerography,” and “Aerographer” (for naval officers) were in exclusive use up until this time.

During this period, several notations were made in the log about officer students in training as “aerographers.”  On 1 December 1919, the first log entry was made concerning officer students and Naval and Marine enlisted students reporting aboard for instruction in meteorology.  It is significant that Army enlisted students were also enrolled in the Aerographer School during this period.  Specific entries mention Army officers being briefed on methods and instruments in the meteorological observatory.

The aerology training program continued with the indoctrination and training of both enlisted men and officers alike throughout the 1920s. As the aerological facilities in the United States Navy continued to expand, aerological officers began to be trained in postgraduate courses at several universities in the country.  On 15 May 1924, the Aerological School was closed and moved from NAS Pensacola to NAS Anacostia, Washington, D.C.

On 27 June 1924, the first entry mentioning the Aerographer rating was made in the log entry:

… John Dungan, Rating changed from CSM to CAEROG.

On 22 September 1941, a continuous, twenty-four hour watch was inaugurated.


In November 1942, the aerological unit was inaugurated at Bronson Field, and in December of that year, personnel were detached for duty at Barin, Corry, Saufley, and Ellyson Fields.  On 26 July 1943, ten days after NAS Whiting Field was commissioned, their Aerological Office was placed in operation with a complement of three Aerographer’s Mates.

During the period June 1941 to October 1944, the needs of the United States Navy for additional personnel trained in aerographic duties were greater than what could be provided from normal sources.  The monthly average of personnel under instruction at NAS Pensacola was ten officers and twenty-five enlisted men.


The original aerological office was located in the old sail loft building (Building 45), built in 1849, and located very near the seaplane hangars.  Originally, only seaplanes operated from NAS Pensacola; fixed wing aircraft operated from nearby Corry Field, but received their weather information from NAS Pensacola.  Building 45 was four stories tall and had a good view of the bay, the ship piers, and the air station in general.  It is said that the anemometer was blown off the roof of the building in the Hurricane of 1926.  The weather office remained in Building 45 until 1955 when it was relocated to the newly established Forrest Sherman Field, about five miles west of the original air station.

Of the many earlier outlying fields, only NAS Whiting Field, about 35 miles northeast of NAS Pensacola remains active.  Saufley Field, located about ten miles north of NAS Pensacola is now used only for practice landings and take-offs (“touch and go’s”) by training aircraft from other fields.  In addition, training aircraft from NAS Pensacola use an Outlying Field (OLF) about 35 miles west-northwest of NAS, called OLF Silverhill.


The growth of naval meteorology closely parallels that of naval aviation.  The Naval Air Station Pensacola Meteorological Office celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in April 1992.


The requirements placed on meteorology by the advances in aviation have resulted in equivalent advances in the Naval Weather Service.  Naval Meteorology has graduated from the early crude instruments and methods to electronic observational instruments, radars, and computers with correspondingly more sophisticated prognoses.


In 1985, as a Detachment, the office began operational evaluation of a Doppler weather radar to support forecast and warning responsibilities, primarily for thunderstorm development and movement.  It was a big success, improving both the accuracy and timeliness of thunderstorm warnings.  Operational in 1989, the radar became the first Doppler weather radar in use at a Naval Oceanography Command Detachment.

In 1987, personnel at the Pensacola detachment developed the first automated (desktop computer-based) program to provide remote flight weather briefings for local-area flights.  These briefings are assembled for various local-area training routes and delivered to aviators in their squadron’s ready rooms via remote terminals connected to the weather office computer.  The program was subsequently adopted for use Navy-wide.

The first meteorological office, the first aerographic school for officers and men, the first weather reconnaissance flight, the first aerograph flight, the first text on aviation meteorology, the first training department devoted specifically to the training of Meteorological and Oceanography Officers and Aerographer’s Mates, the first operational use of a Doppler weather radar by the Naval Oceanography Command, and the first development of an automated flight weather briefing system all happened here at NAS Pensacola.


The Aerological (later Meteorological) Office was part of the Air Operations Department until the Naval Weather Service Command was established in the early 1960s.  It then became the Naval Weather Service Environmental Detachment under the direction of an Officer-in-Charge.  In 1971, it was upgraded to a Naval Weather Service Facility with a Commanding Officer and responsibility for several other detachments in addition to reserve program coordination and training support for Aerographer’s Mates and meteorological officers.  In 1978, the Navy command organization became the Naval Oceanography Command, and in 1981 the NAS Pensacola weather office was downgraded to a Naval Oceanography Command Detachment again, with an Officer-in-Charge.

In August 1994, the Pensacola weather office was again upgraded to Facility status.  With a new name and expanded mission, the Naval Training Meteorology and Oceanography Facility (NAVTRAMETOCFAC) was commissioned.  The facility gained a Commanding Officer and 11 subordinate detachments, (NAVTRAMETOCDETs).  As an Echelon Four Command, the Facility reports to Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography Center at Norfolk, Virginia.

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