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San Juan, Puerto Rico

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The history of the National Weather Service in the Caribbean dates back to the past century when it became evident that hurricanes which affected the Continental United States had their origin in the Caribbean and the Tropical Atlantic.

At that time, back in the 1870's, support was given for the collection and processing of meteorological data across the Caribbean Islands. The collection of this data across the Caribbean led to the first study of the San Felipe Hurricane of 13 September 1876. With the support of the U.S. Weather Bureau, this study was published and disseminated throughout the United States and led to an understanding of the hurricane vortex and its behavior. The actual establishment of the U.S. Weather Bureau in Puerto Rico was in May of 1899. This was the year after Puerto Rico was given over to the United States by Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898. At that time a network of rain gauges was placed around the island and the collection and dissemination of daily weather observations began.

Initially the Weather Bureau Office was located in Old San Juan in a building next to La Fortaleza and the meteorological observations were administered by the Department of Public Works. In 1913 the weather office was moved to another location in Old San Juan in Puerta de Tierra. The office was destroyed by the San Felipe Hurricane of September 1928. It was rebuilt and used by the U.S. Weather Bureau then under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, until 1946, when the Office was relocated a few miles away at the Isla Grande Airport. The original building is still in place and forms part of the old San Juan structures protected by laws. It is now being used as a museum by the Puerto Rico’s National Guard.

In the 1940's, as the importance of commercial aviation grew and the demand for aviation weather, there was a movement of the U.S. Weather Bureau offices to the airports. Therefore, in 1946, the San Juan office was moved from Puerta de Tierra to Isla Grande, the commercial airport at that time. After the Munoz Marin International Airport was constructed in 1954, the office the office was relocated again and remained there for almost 40 years.

In 1970, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was created under the U.S. Department of Commerce and the US Weather Bureau was administratively moved under it and renamed as the National Weather Service.

In 1990’s with the implementation of the Modernization and Restructuring of the National Weather Services, as it is known today, a new Office was built within the airport premises and operates from its current site, since April 1994.

The role of the U.S. Weather Bureau in Puerto Rico in the first half of this century was mainly for hurricanes and the collection and dissemination of climatological data. The San Juan Office was the Hurricane Forecast Center for the entire Caribbean from Hispaniola eastward up until the 1970's, when the National Hurricane Center was established in Miami, Fl.

In the late 1930's, with the advent of commercial radio, routine daily weather transmissions from the U.S. Weather Bureau were initiated via WKAQ, the first radio station in Puerto Rico. This role was taken over by the NOAA Weather radio in the 1970's.

The Weather Forecast Office at San Juan PR has transitioned into a modernized facility. The 24 hours observations are now taken by an automated system, the previous radar was replaced by a Doppler Radar, new satellites and computer systems and weather forecast models have been developed and are being used in our daily operations. This year (2004) the Office has entered the digital era providing gridded forecasts and graphics to our users.

The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, hydrologic and climate forecast and warnings for the United States, its territories and adjacent waters and ocean areas, for the protection of life and properties, and the enhancement of the economy. The NWS operates the most advanced weather service in the world.

Special Thanks to Dr. Jose Colon, former Meteorologist in Charge of the Office from 1963 to 1986, for his assistance with the historical information.


National Weather Service
San Juan Weather Forecast Office
4000 Carretera 190
Carolina, PR 00979
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Page last modified: July 1, 2008
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