Although I've never been an umpire or referee, I think I know what it must feel like. It's been said that nobody ever notices the umpire when he does a fine job. However, when the ump makes a bad call, everybody's on his back. You see, I was a television weather forecaster for southwestern Connecticut for the last 25 years. I never heard a word from anybody when the forecast was "right on the money." But, if my forecast was off the mark, the phone didn't stop ringing and the emails kept coming.
Today is National Weatherperson's Day. It's the one day during the year to acknowledge the work of weather forecasters across our country. The day commemorates the birth of John Jeffries in 1744. Jeffries was one of America's first weather observers. He actually began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774, and he took the first balloon observation in 1784.
Jeffries was an American physician and scientist who pioneered the use of balloons in scientific observation. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge in 1763 and studied medicine in Boston and abroad. After receiving his medical degree from Marischal College in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1769, Jeffries returned to Boston and practiced medicine there until 1771.
Much to the chagrin of this modern-day weather forecaster, Jeffries supported England during the American Revolution. He served on British naval vessels and in British military hospitals, and he fought alongside British troops in the final campaign of the war. After the war, he moved to England and resumed practicing medicine.
Jeffries became interested in the possibility of using balloons to observe the upper winds and the atmosphere at various altitudes. On November 30, 1784, Jeffries and French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard made an ascent from London, reaching a height of 9309 feet and taking a series of air samples.
A few weeks later, on January 7, 1785, they made the first aerial crossing of the English Channel, traveling in a balloon from Dover to the Forest of Guines, near Calais. Jeffries paid all expenses for the two ascents and provided a number of the best available observational instruments, including a thermometer, a barometer, an electrometer, a hygrometer, and containers of distilled water. The air samples taken on the first ascent were the first scientific data ever obtained from these altitudes.
Many of us take weather information for granted. Turn on a light switch, you get light. Turn on your television or radio, or check a web site, and you get the weather forecast. It’s easy to forget that around the clock, dedicated meteorologists and weathercasters are creating forecasts to help you plan your day and issuing warnings to help keep you safe.
Happy National Weatherperson's Day!