Two Montezuma County weather observers have been recognized by the National Weather Service for providing local weather information for more than a decade.
Jim Andrus, of Cortez, and Wade Wilson, of Yellow Jacket, received “length of service” awards on May 11. Andrus has been a volunteer weather observer for 20 years; Wilson, for 15 years. Weather observers across the nation report daily on information such as temperature and precipitation to the weather service, and meteorologists then check the data and add them to the national archives.
John Kyle, a data manager at the weather service’s Grand Junction office, said there are about 80 volunteer weather observers in western Colorado and eastern Utah, who help provide long-term data about the region’s climate. Cortez has had an observation site since 1929; and Yellow Jacket, since 1962. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the observer program began in the 1890s and, by 2007, included 10,000 observers.
No meteorology experience is required, and weather observers come from various walks of life.
“These are just folks who are interested in weather and willing to make those daily observations,” Kyle said. “It’s based on desire over qualifications.”
Kyle said many regional volunteers quit after a few years, but some stay for the long haul. One has provided data from the Monticello area for more than 65 years, he said.
Wilson, a farmer, took over the job from his father, who had made daily reports for 33 years.
“When my dad retired, I took over because I think it’s important,” he said. “The National Weather Service is a very important, very functional agency, and we need them. They’re real good at what they do.”
He said he enjoyed his time as a weather observer but stopped this year so he could focus on other things. A Yellow Jacket report will continue, though, as he’s found someone to take over.
Andrus has a degree in meteorology and worked as a weather spotter in Grand Junction for about three years before moving to Cortez in 1997. His volunteer duties allow him to stay involved with physical sciences, he said.
“I like to think of what I do this way: I’m taking the pulse of the earth,” he said. “I’m helping document the state of the global atmosphere, just like a nurse takes the temperature of a patient.”