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SLC and History of Weather Observations

SLC and History of Weather Observations

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Can you find out for me what the earliest weather recording for the Salt Lake Valley was and what the weather was that day?

Chris H.


Great question and some of this info is way hard to find. The folks at the NWS in SLC sent me a CD of some of this information a few months ago and I haven't had time to look at it, so let's make time today.

There are two sources of info here, one says that weather observations 'unofficially' started in the summer of 1847 by W.W. Phelps who came along with Bringham Young and Company to Utah. During the 1850's and 60's W.W. Pehlps most likely took his weather observations in what's now downtown SLC. He used to live at the NW corner of 100 south and W. Temple which is now where the Salt Palace is.

One Henry Phelps was W. W's son. It is unclear who went to the legislature to get some funding. It appears that they did take observations together but it also says that Henry was the first weather observer and W.W. was the second. The beginnings of weather observations was described in the January 7th, 1857 Deseret News and says this....

" By the Meteorological Observations for December as furnished by brother Henry E. Phelps and printed on the last page of this number, it will be seen that an unusual amount of snow has fallen. It wil1 doubtless be gratifying to Professor Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and to all lovers of meteorological science, that the Honorable W. W. Phelps, at the request of His Excellency Governor Young, has consented, with the assistance of his son, Henry, to keep a regular set of meteorological readings. "

Professor Henry was the first Secretary of the Smithsonian and is not the same person as Henry Phelps.

Governor Young and Phelps and the Legistlature created the spot of Superintendent of Meteorological Observations and appropriated 200 dollars a year for that person.

Check out the link on the right in the photo gallery, I'll put the actual document up, this is some interesting Utah history!

Ok, so the first 'official' observation was Feb 1. 1857. I will put the climate page from that month on but I can't really read it too well even zoomed in so the weather on that day is undecipherable.

I do have one snippet from the Deseret Morning News from December 1857 and on the 1st it was: Cloudy, spitting snow, one inch.

If you are more interested in this interesting piece of Utah weather history, the link to the PDF file is on the right with the photo gallery links. You can read some or all of it, it's very long but has a lot of pictures.

Answered by KSL Meteorologist Dina Freedman.

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