Sunday, February 5, 2012

Is "National Weather Person's Day" Legit or Did Somebody Just Make it Up?

When I first heard of "National Weather Person's Day" some years back I thought it was just a random day that had been created by one of the greeting card companies to bring in some extra cash before Valentine's Day.  Or perhaps it was created by a shameless "Weather Person" somewhere that was just looking for breakfast in bed one day per year.

Alas, I was wrong - there is actually some historical significance involved!  So, all of you history buffs out there - turn off The History Channel HD for a minute and check this out:

John Jeffries, circa 1784

On this date back way back in 1745, a man named John Jeffries was born in Boston.  He later became a physician, serving as a surgeon with the British Army in Nova Scotia and New York during the American Revolution.

Not only was Jeffries a skilled physician and surgeon, but he also had a "thing" for the weather.  He loved to take and record weather observations wherever he was stationed.  In 1784, he flew the first known "weather balloon" to a height of 9,000 feet over London, taking readings on a thermometer, barometer and a hygrometer (a device used to measure humidity).

Rendering of Jeffries Over the English Channel

So, National Weather Person's Day was created to commemorate Jeffries' birthday and celebrate his feats as one of the world's first weather observers.

We've certainly come a long way in weather science since Jeffries' trip over London in the 1780s!

Weather balloons are now launched at least twice per day at over 800 locations all around the world.  The data is then fed into giant supercomputers that perform millions (or even billions) of calculations per second and spit out detailed forecast models of what the weather is likely to do anywhere from one hour to 360 hours in the future.  It is up to your local weather person to interpret that data and develop an accurate forecast so that you can plan your day, your birthday party, outdoor wedding, etc.

We now have sophisticated weather radars powerful enough to detect a flock of birds on a clear day and the rotating winds of a supercell thunderstorm about to spawn a tornado on a stormy day.  Severe weather warnings issued by your local weather person (or persons) are saving lives, giving some 20+ minutes advanced warning in many cases.

So, if you're in the neighborhood of Amherst College today, be sure to stop by the Archives Section of the library and sign the guest book for the John Jeffries collection.

On the other hand, I guess you could take the easy way out and just shoot an e-mail or send a tweet to your favorite local weather person and thank him or her for their service today.  They get lots of negative press when things don't go quite as expected (although that doesn't happen as often now as it did even 10 or 15 years ago), so I'm sure they'd appreciate some positive feedback on this special day that they share with John Jeffries...

Oh, and to my dear wife:  how about waffles instead of pancakes next time?

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Shamrock said...

Happy National Weather Person's Day, my favorite weather person by far.

Rob White said...

Shamrock, thank you very much! I appreciate that!