Doing volunteer work every day is not easy. Now try it for 84 years straight. That's what farmer Richard Hendrickson has done since he was 18, and at 101, he's still at it. Hendrickson is a volunteer weather observer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a determined one. He's sent in more than 150,000 individual weather observations.
Twice a day he has walked to the weather station on his Bridgehampton, NY farm and recorded the temperature, precipitation, wind direction, and other factors with pencil and paper. He then calls the National Weather Service - on a rotary phone, according to WCBS-TV. Hey, the Internet didn't exist during the Herbert Hoover administration, and why monkey with something that works?
Hendrickson's interest in the weather has always been practical. As a retired chicken and dairy farmer, he was dependent on the outcome, and old habits apparently die hard. As Hendrickson told WCBS, he's yet to miss a day, although, "[w]ith a hurricane I might have been a little late."
Beyond having his own interest in the weather, Hendrickson felt that volunteering was a way to give to the community and country, "and that makes you feel a little good inside."
It meant a lot to NOAA, where I. Ross Dickman, meteorologist-in-charge of the New York weather forecast office, called volunteer observers "the bedrock of weather data collection." Hendrickson is officially the longest-serving volunteer and the only one to have kept up efforts for more than 80 years. A couple of weeks ago the agency gave him an award named in his honor.
According to NOAA, there are more than 8,700 volunteer observers sending information that is vital to the service. All the weather data becomes part of the record that helps scientists better understand climate and predict future trends. Volunteers may call in the types of information that Hendrickson provides or can offer other data, "such as snow depth, river levels and soil temperature."
Having the same person observe from the same spot using the same methods is particularly valuable, someone from the National Weather Service told WCBS. The consistency helps show true trends. A change in methods or locations could alter readings and make it difficult to know whether variations were part of a natural pattern.
It's not just NOAA that hears from Hendrickson, however. He writes a weather column published in two Long Island, NY newspapers and was the author of the 1996 book, Winds of the Fish's Tail.