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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Weather Observer Recognized

Weather observer Wayne Roop

By Karen Knight

COLD SPRING – Is there really a Cape May weather bubble, whereby it looks like it’s going to storm any minute, yet it doesn’t? The storm usually goes east or west, but sometimes in other directions as well.
According to Wayne Roop, a member of the National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative  Observer Program (COOP) for 44 years, “there seems to be enough evidence to indicate there might be something to a bubble. But why? I don’t know.
“We certainly get our share of rain,” he added, “but a lot of times it goes east or west and misses us. We do get snow, but we have fewer big storms than before. Still, there must be something to the Cape May bubble since it happens enough for people to notice it.”
With his weather-observing equipment in his backyard just south of the canal, Roop measures daily precipitation and observes the temperatures, recording the highs and lows, then reporting the numbers to the National Center for Environmental Information for the NWS. He is the only observer in the county, joining a network of 8,000 observers nationwide across 4,000 observing stations on behalf of the NWS.
“As a part of the Cooperative Observer Program, these observers take observations at national parks, seashores, mountaintops, and farms, as well as in urban and suburban areas across the country,” explained Valerie Meola, meteorologist and COOP and climate team leader, Philadelphia / Mount Holly NWS. “COOP data usually consists of daily maximum and minimum temperatures, snowfall, and 24-hour precipitation totals.”
It may include additional hydrological or meteorological data such as evaporation or soil temperatures, she added.
“The data we receive from the COOP network is invaluable,” Meola explained. “It helps us learn more about floods, droughts, heat and cold waves that affect all of us. The data are also used for agricultural planning and assessment, engineering, environmental-impact assessment, utilities planning, and litigation.
“Additionally, research from COOP data continues daily across the country and plays a critical role in efforts to recognize and evaluate the extent of human impacts on climate from local to global scales,” she said.
While Roop provides data daily to the NWS, he also has received calls from lawyers, looking for weather information at the time of an accident, and has shared his knowledge in newspaper articles over the years.
“In general, the weather has changed,” he pointed out. “The winters are definitely milder, and the summers are definitely warmer. We have less days of prolonged cold and more 90-degree days. We’ve had a couple of days in July 2011, of 102-degree temperatures, the highest ever recorded in over 100 years. A few days have been below zero, but that occurs so rarely.
“But don’t ask me why,” he quipped. “That’s above my pay grade.”
For Roop, his interest in the weather started as a youngster. “Part of it is family-oriented,” he said, “because my mother’s mother tracked the weather and her mom tracked the weather.”
In high school, a teacher had a weather station to track the weather, and Roop’s interest grew into a hobby. Roop returned to his hometown here after a stint in the Air Force, picked up some used weather-monitoring equipment from the NWS that was in the area, and installed it in his backyard. He took it with him when he moved to his current home in 1971.
“I do have a regular job, so this is definitely a hobby for me,” the 72-year-old said, as he looked over the tower, rain gauges and thermometer he uses to track and record the weather. “I’ve gotten much more equipment over the years as well.”
Roop chuckled when asked if he had undergone any training to be a weather observer. “It doesn’t take much to read a thermometer or rain gauge,” he said.
The hardest aspect of measuring the daily precipitation, according to Roop, is when it’s snowing and windy. “It’s hard to find a depth that is representative when the wind is blowing and the snow is drifting,” he said. “It’s also not much fun in the pouring rain and bitter cold.”
When asked which weather events stand out over the years, Roop rattled off three:
* The “Big Snow” of February 2003, when the area received a record-breaking 24-inches of snow;
* The February 2010 North American blizzard, commonly referred to as ‘Snowmageddon,’ which was a paralyzing and crippling blizzard that had major and widespread impact in the northeastern U.S. The storm’s center tracked from Baja California Sur Feb. 2, 2010, to the East Coast Feb. 6, 2010, before heading east into the Atlantic Ocean.
* Superstorm Sandy in 2012. “I’ve never seen rain that hard and that long,” Roop said. “I had been through Hurricane Camille in 1969, but I was in a building without windows so I never saw the storm. And we were on the downside of Sandy.”
Roop’s ability to provide weather data over the years earned him the John Campanius Holm award, one of two given to COOP observers.
“Wayne was awarded the Holm Award for superior service in measuring temperature, rainfall and snow depth from Cape May,” Meola said. “His remarkably accurate daily records that span over the years are a valuable resource to the nation’s climate program and his timely reports are a vital service to the Weather Forecast Office in Mount Holly.
“This award recognizes all the years of Wayne’s dedicated service to providing this data to the NWS, through winter storms, nor’easters, tropical storms, severe weather, and so much more over all of these years,” she added. 
The award is named for a Lutheran minister, the first person known to have taken systematic weather observations in the American Colonies. Rev. Holm made observations of climate without the use of instruments in 1644 and 1645, near the present site of Wilmington, Del.
No more than 25 Holm awards are given annually.
“Over the years, I’ve been helped by many people,” Roop said, deflecting any praise for his work. “It’s nice to be recognized, but this is something I earned with a lot of help. Including the technology, which has been a big asset.”
To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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