Lifelong Mainer, Arlene Cole has been working with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and tracking the weather for almost 60 years! The weather observer, who is 92, considers the task “part of her life,” telling WGME, “I’ve always been interested in the weather. I grew up on a farm, and farm weather is very important.”
How It All Started
In the 1950s, one of Cole’s friends worked as a weather observer for NOAA, and Cole took over the job after she died. Cole, who is from Newcastle, is one of over 8,700 volunteers in the United States who observes the weather and reports the information to the agency.
According to an interview Cole gave to the Maine Climate Council in 2022, she records the temperature and measures precipitation levels every day at 5 p.m. She sends her data, by mail, to NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) once a month.
For nearly 65 years, a Newcastle woman has been a weather watcher for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.
— WPFO FOX23 (@FOX23Maine) March 9, 2023
In her briefcase is a record of all the weather conditions she has reported, which includes temperature, rain, and snow. Cole has steadfastly stuck to using a pen and paper to make her recordings, but she concedes that most of her fellow trackers, who are members of The National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program (COOP), probably use computers.
Cole Can’t Be Stopped
COOP was established in 1890 to record temperatures, snowfall, and 24-hour precipitation totals “to define the climate of the United States and to help measure long-term climate changes.” Observational data from the volunteers was initially designed to “support forecast, warning, and other public service programs of the NWS.”
Believe It or Not!, Cole still has the original weather equipment from her friend in her yard, but she was recording temperatures for several years before she started working with NOAA. She explained, “I had a 5-year diary I had started in 1957 with my own thermometers. When Nancy Rawlings died in 1965, her husband Charles (Chuck) Rawlings suggested my name to NOAA.”
After Cole inherited the position, she would check the temperature outside every day. She received updated equipment in 1984 and currently keeps a receiver on her kitchen counter, which transmits the temperature from outdoors. She also uses two rain gauges, two white boards, a 24-inch measuring stick, and a 60-inch stake.
Cole records the high and low temperatures of the past 24 hours and writes down precipitation levels, if applicable. “If it happened when I was sleeping at night, I mark a wavy line when I estimated it occurred. I record the depth of snow on the ground, any fog, thunder, hail, or damaging wind,” she explained.
As for how long Cole plans on volunteering for NOAA as a weather tracker, she says she takes it “a day at a time,” aware that she may eventually have to pass the torch when she can no longer fulfill her duties.
By Noelle Talmon, contributor for Ripleys.com