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Weather Observer Honored for 45 Years of Service

A weather observer in the Champlain Islands is being honored for 45 years of service.
SOUTH HERO, Vt. - Each day since 1969, Ray Allen treks through his seventh-generation orchard to take weather observations. Just this week, the National Weather Service honored him for 45 years of service.

"These are the old original thermometers, with the mercury one," Allen said while showing off his equipment shelter.

He logs high and low temperatures, snowfall in the winter, and rain on wet days like today.

"It's funneled down into the inside tube," he says.

The South Hero data is recorded on forms, which are sent to the weather service monthly.

"It's just part of the routine before you go to bed so it doesn't get forgotten," he adds.

His first observations were made during a UVM agricultural project.

"Then the weather service heard I had a weather station here so they said, why don't you just keep going and do it year round?"

He did just that on a volunteer basis.

Now his station is one of 37 in Vermont tracking the state's climate. In fact, his temperature and Macintosh blooming stats were used in the just released Vermont climate assessment.

"Bloom is now seven days earlier on average than it was 40 years ago, so that's a pretty good indication of climate change," he says.

The decades worth of weather data collected at Ray Allen's apple orchard isn't just useful for scientists. Snow Farm Vineyard has also benefited.

“Ray actually really helped the vineyard get started," wine maker Patrick Barrelet.

Owners chose the vineyard's location based on the local records, which showed the island's lake-influenced climate was perfect for business.

"We had temperatures that resembled the Burgundy area. We had late springs- in other words, we didn't have frost," he said.

Allen says making a difference like that is part of what drives him to keep watching the sky.

"It's nice to be recognized, that it’s useful because there's some nights coming out here in the snow, and it’s drifting, winds blowing. It’s not a fun thing to do."

The oldest volunteer run observing site is in Cornwall. It started in 1887. St. Johnsbury goes back to 1894, and Enosburg Falls goes back to 1896. The weather service is still looking for an observer to continue tracking Essex Junction weather, after the current observer retires soon.
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