Historical Summary of the State Climatology Office

The first written descriptions of South Carolina's climate record were intended to educate her citizens about the general long-term averages of seasonal temperature and precipitation. Climatology describes the climate as well as analyzes the causes and consequences of climatic differences and changes. Someone who documents weather observation values in a statistical manner, prepares summaries and describes weather phenomena is known as a climatologist. Climate information proved valuable to the State's industrial and agricultural sectors as well as to those considering making South Carolina their home.

The first printed weather observation record, a state monthly weather summary, was prepared by J.W. Bauer in October 1889 for the Columbia, SC, Climate and Crop Service, US Department of Agriculture's Weather Bureau. In January 1901, Charles F. Von Herrmann is credited with the same responsibility which included the South Atlantic States and East Gulf States. The Climate and Crop Service reference is absent for that period and expressed as only the US Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau. In 1910, Harry O. Green, Section Director, prepared the 1910 South Carolina Annual Summary. Mr. Richard Sullivan, Section Chief and meteorologist with the Columbia Weather Bureau Office, prepared the annual summary of 1913. In a written testimony upon his retirement in 1933, it was revealed he began his reports in March 1913 and they continued uninterrupted through October 1933.

Following Mr. Sullivan's extended service, G.C. Marchant, Section Director, Columbia, SC, assumed these duties and prepared the "General Summary" with the December 1933 issue. The July 1940 publication includes a name change from US Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau to US Department of Commerce Weather Bureau. In November 1949 the report became known as the "Weather Summary". Nathan Kronberg became Acting Section Director with the June 1953 SC Monthly Weather Summary. His service continued through April 1954 when Charles B. Carney, Section Director with the Raleigh, NC, Weather Bureau, took charge of the monthly summaries for South Carolina. The weather summaries of November and December 1954 are credited to J.E. Stork. Starting with the January 1955 summary, Franklin W. Long prepared the State's monthly weather summary. The 1955 annual summary was credited to J.M. Mitchell.

The first official recognition of "Climatologist" was given to Franklin W. Long, Climatologist, US Weather Bureau Weather Records Processing Center, Chattanooga, TN, with the published South Carolina July 1956 monthly weather summary. In August 1956, J.T. Beard is credited for the summary as "Climatologist", although in September the task returned to Mr. Long. The South Carolina annual summaries for 1956 and 1957 were prepared by Harold S. Lippman, Climatologist, Weather Records Processing Center, Chattanooga, TN.

Nathan Kronberg assumed these duties in January 1958. Mr. Kronberg is listed on the US Department of Commerce's South Carolina "Climatological Data" April 1958 as "State Climatologist", the first known official documentation of such title. Limited summaries, some containing only numerical data, were prepared until September 1960. Beginning with the January 1961 annual summary, editorial credits are given to Mr. Kronberg, Weather Bureau State Climatologist, West Columbia, SC.

The September 1961 monthly summary lists John C. Purvis as "Acting Weather Bureau State Climatologist". Mr. Kronberg returned in October 1961 and continued through October 1964. The December 1964 Special Weather Summary was prepared by Norton D. Strommen, Weather Bureau State Climatologist, Weather Bureau Airport Station, Columbia Airport, West Columbia, SC. John C. Purvis is given credit again as "Acting Weather Bureau State Climatologist" for the March 1966 Special Weather Summary. Beginning with the April 1966 summary, credit is given to Mr. Winston L. Hurst, Weather Bureau State Climatologist, Weather Bureau Airport Station, Columbia Airport, West Columbia, SC. Credit for the monthly compilation of weather observations changed in February of 1967 and is given to H. (Holbrook) Landers, ESSA (Environmental Science Services Administration), Weather Bureau State Climatologist, Plant and Animal Science Building, Room F-148, Clemson University, Clemson SC.

Beginning with the published April 1973 South Carolina Special Weather Summary, John C. Purvis, Meteorologist In Charge, Weather Service Forecast Office, West Columbia, SC, began providing the monthly summaries. From 1976 until March 1982, limited appropriations and staff within the National Weather Service local offices required an initiative by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC, to designate Dr. Richard Silvernail of the University of South Carolina's Department of Geography as State Climatologist and to share in acquiring the State's climate observations. In 1979, a memorandum of understanding moved the State Climatologist's office from USC to the South Carolina Budget and Control Board's Office of Geographic Statistics. That office's director, Alfred (Freddy) H. Vang, appointed Mark Perry as acting State Climatologist. Mr. Perry served through a name change to the Division of Research and Statistical Services until early 1982 when John Purvis's retirement from the National Weather Service led to his appointment as State Climatologist.

The April 1982 South Carolina Special Weather Summary gives editorial credit to John C. Purvis, State Climate Office, 1028 Sumter Street, Columbia, SC. The May 1982 summary gives editorial credit to John C. Purvis, State Climatologist, Division of Research and Statistical Services, 1028 Sumter Street-Suite 202, Columbia, SC. This is the first known use of the "State Climatologist" title supported by the State of South Carolina. The April 1983 edition of the South Carolina Special Weather Summary lists the editorial source as John C. Purvis, State Climatologist, South Carolina Water Resources Commission, 1001 Harden St, Columbia, SC. A change of address was noted for the month of May 1984, indicating the office of the State Climatologist's relocation to 3830 Forest Drive, Columbia, SC.

On June 9, 1986, Governor Richard W. Riley signed legislation establishing the South Carolina State Climatology Office (Chapter 25, Title 49) within the South Carolina Water Resources Commission. John C. Purvis became South Carolina's first officially appointed State Climatologist. Mr. Purvis faithfully served in this capacity until his retirement in 1991. David J. Smith served as State Climatologist until 1995. In 1994, the State Climatology Office became a part of the newly formed South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. In 1995, Dr. Michael R. Helfert became State Climatologist and directed the office through September 2002. Milton Edwin Brown, former Meteorologist In Charge, National Weather Service, Columbia, SC, was appointed State Climatologist in December 2002, serving until his retirement in October 2003. Dr. Hope Mizzell was named South Carolina State Climatologist in October of 2003 and serves in that capacity today.