Missouri Basin River Forecast Center: Three Quarters of a Century Providing River Forecasting Services | Business

On October 1, 2021, the National Weather Service’s Missouri Basin River Forecast Center will celebrate its 75th birthday.  For three quarters of a century, the people working at the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center (MBRFC) have provided river forecasts for the protection of life and property in the north central United States.

In the early 1940’s, the US Weather Bureau had a vision to modernize river and flood forecasting services by establishing centers focused on hydrology.  In early September 1946, the US Weather Bureau announced that funds were available to begin implementing this vision.  Cincinnati and Kansas City were chosen to be the homes of the first two River Forecast Centers (RFCs) for the modernized river forecasting services.   These two centers were to be known as the “Ohio River Forecast Center” and the “Lower Missouri River Forecast Center.”  The Ohio River Forecast Center is older than what is now named the “Missouri Basin River Forecast Center” by about one week.

Over the past 75 years MBRFC has gone through several transitions relating to technology, science, and data.  The office has gone from making manual calculations with the aid of adding machines and slide rules, to using complex hydrologic and hydraulic computer models; from computing on remote, centralized mainframes to computer networks; and from batch-oriented computer models to interactive software.  In addition, there has been as explosive growth in both the availability and use of data.  Originally, weather and stream data were provided mostly by cooperative observers via telegraph, postcards, teletypewriters, and telephone. Today, MBRFC utilizes a vast data network composed of observers, telemetry, satellite and radar, all of which provide weather and stream information in near-real-time.  Various types of data are collected from more than 3500 sites across the Missouri River Basin.  Currently, MBRFC issues forecasts for more than 540 river and reservoir locations spanning ten states.