By: John Shepler
Just 3 days after the most watched weather prognostication all year, it’s time to celebrate the real weather forecasters. You know, the people working behind the scenes and in front of the TV cameras to tell us exactly what to expect in the next few hours, days and weeks. While the famous marmot of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and his ilk across the country take the glory, the real celebration of all things meteorological belongs on February 5, not February 2. Happy National Weather Person’s Day!
Why February 5?
National Weather Person’s Day is celebrated every year on February 5 for a special reason. No, it’s not a clever attempt to upstage forecasting Phil and remind everyone who’s really doing the work. It’s actually the birthday of Dr. John Jeffries, who is considered to be America’s first weatherman.
Jeffries was a medical doctor in Boston who had worked as a surgeon tending wounded soldiers during the Revolutionary War. He started taking daily weather measurements in 1774 in Boston and later collected weather data in a balloon flying over London in 1784. During the flight, he carried a thermometer, a barometer and a hydrometer and flew as high as 9,000 ft. Dr. Jeffries continued keeping records until 1816.
Who Are The Weather Persons?
When we think of a meteorologist or weather person, the first one to come to mind is your friendly forecaster on the TV news. These men and women are the most visible members of a team that may involve thousands from the time the first data is gathered to when tomorrow’s forecast is presented on the screen.
Most of the behind the scenes work is done at the National Weather Service, part of the larger National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the US Department of Commerce. The NWS has 5,000 employees who are focused on providing us with weather forecasts, storm warnings, fire danger warnings, and aviation forecasts. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma is where the scary, but critical, severe thunderstorm and tornado watches originate.
That’s just the start of it. There are also over 11,000 volunteer observers that gather temperature, rainfall and other measurements, plus nearly 300,000 volunteer storm spotters, including amateur radio operators, who are trained by NWS to keep a eye out for tornados that might come sneaking in during the night.
In addition, many private weather services have popped up in the last few decades to create customized forecasts for airports, farms and television stations. Creating these specialized weather reports employs thousands more people.
Thank a Weather Person Today
While the TV weather people often have to put up with abuse from a disgruntled public that just doesn’t like the way nature is playing out, the fact is that we’ve never had more available and more accurate weather forecasts. Think about it. You can get up to the minute conditions and hour by hour predictions for any place you happen to be… on your smartphone! Longer range forecasts go out 5 or 10 days and are a pretty decent look at what is actually going to happen. Sure, things change day to day, but that’s the nature of nature. Even so, how long has it been since we were caught unaware by the approach of a hurricane or even a major blizzard?
Any day, but especially on February 5, is a good time to thank the hard working weather people who make it so easy for us to know what to wear and when to head for the basement. Without their diligence and the advancements of computerized atmospheric modeling, we’d be getting caught in the rain (with or without a Pina Colada) a lot more often than we do. You can use the tag #Weatherpersonsday when you say something nice on social media.
Just to be decent, let’s also say a belated Happy Groundhog Day to the furry forecasters that do their best to let us know whether we’re having an early spring or another six weeks of winter. Thanks a lot, Phil…. I think.