Just in case you didn’t see it on your calendar, Friday was National Weatherperson’s Day. What a perfect opportunity to stop and think about the importance of the network of people who work together to make life happier, easier, and safer through an understanding of what’s going on around us in the atmosphere. Along with love, friendship, and the arts, weather is one of those universal unifying things to which all humans can relate.
Weather forecasts are what we find most helpful. Whether you’re filing a flight plan or deciding what shirt to wear today, an accurate forecast can make all the difference. But as a pure science, understanding why things are the way they are is what meteorology is all about; the useful stuff, like accurate forecasting, are helpful spin-offs of the science. And the people like me who get to refine those forecasts for a particular location and deliver them to the community are spin-offs of the spin-offs. But whatever your spin, here’s to all the weather people out there who work together, each doing their part in the big picture.
Many people have said that they were successful because they stood on the shoulders of giants. Nothing illustrates that better than trying to understand why the weather does what it does. It probably started with ancient people trying to figure out where and when the best hunting and fishing would be, and later, the best times and places to grow crops. Using the natural clocks in the sky, sun, moon, planets, and stars, people tried to make predictions about when and where you’d have the best chance of a successful hunt or growing season. That was the beginning of weather forecasting. Closely tied to the need for food, today we use weather forecasting to know when to stock up on our Cheetos.
Early weather people watched and recorded weather patterns, noted how the wind usually blew, remembered the drought years, the stormy times, and the ice ages. As soon as they recorded these things somehow, on papyrus or stone or oral tradition, they became weather scientists.
The watching and recording of weather patterns continue today using satellites, computers, and radar. Still, the point has always been the same: to gain an understanding that leads to a better life in many ways.
So this week, here’s to all the weather people involved in the effort, starting with the professional meteorologists. They are the giants on whose shoulders we all stand today. In my day, they were the ones with the slide rules on their hips who had managed to pass their calculus classes and had a strong working knowledge of the physics that applies to their field. These days, there are probably more computers than slide rules in college meteorology labs; time marches on.
But let’s not forget the rest of us: the volunteers, hobbyists, and weather enthusiasts who share their resources, observations, and knowledge to everyone’s benefit, the trained Storm Spotters, CoCoRaHs volunteers, the people who contact the National Weather Service office to report a notable weather event. And let’s be sure to include all of the people who learn and share a tremendous amount about the weather in the performance of their livelihoods, growers, sailors, pilots, construction workers, parents, first responders… too many to mention. And finally, there are those of us who do our best to transmit all of that knowledge to you in a way that will be helpful. Sometimes it’s radio or television that’s used to do that, but here in Teton Valley, a special shout out has to go to Teton Valley News. As far as I can tell, back in 2012, they pioneered the idea of using Facebook to reach a relatively small area with specific weather information important to them. Today, the Teton Valley Weather Facebook page has thousands of followers from all over the world. Come join the fun and contribute your observations and thoughts about the weather in your neck of the woods.