Sunday Story: The long history of wx abbreviations


I hope you enjoy this last Sunday in March! I also hope you like that I’ve now started adding the forecast for the week ahead to the Sunday Story blog.

And now for your Sunday story!

Abbreviated Weather

You may have seen the word weather abbreviated “wx” and wondered how that came about. I did some research and I have an answer for you!

Long before the days of cell phones or email there was the telegraph. In 1836, Samuel Morse showed that the telegraph could transmit information over wires. Using a series of electrical signals, in the form of dots and dashes, one could transmit a message over great distances in a short period of time.

One of the greater challenges with Morse code was that it wasn’t easy having to spell out whole words or sentences using dots and dashes. To make it easier to communicate, using shorthand versions of some words became necessary.

One such word that became abbreviated was the word weather. It was easier to use only two letters, “w” and “x”. Thus, the shorthand version of weather was born.

It’s not really clear as to why the “x” was chosen, since the word weather doesn’t have an “x” in it. Nevertheless, the abbreviation stuck and is still being used today.

Even after the days of the telegraph, the need to abbreviate was felt by the Ham radio community. Then, NOAA came out with weather radios and the need for the abbreviation struck again. This time it was used to describe the weather channel buttons: wx1, wx2, and so on. Weather radios that had FM and AM radio station capability could now say AM/FM/WX, to show weather radio capability.

Folks today sometimes criticize those of us who use abbreviations to send a text message. Some abbreviations have become so commonplace they’ve practically been adopted into our language. Just remember that we’ve been shortening words since the days of Morse code.

I’ll cya next week with another wx article!

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