The agency was originally established in December 1949 as the Central Military Commission Meteorological Bureau. It replaced the Central Weather Bureau formed in 1941. In 1994, the CMA was transformed from a subordinate governmental body into one of the public service agencies under the State Council.
Meteorological bureaus are established in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, excluding meteorological services at Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. 14 meteorological bureaus at sub-provincial cities including 4 cities which have been specifically designated in the state development plan), 318 meteorological bureaus at prefecture level and 2,300 bureaus (stations) at county level.