Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Climate matters: Keeping track of a changing environment

Steve Forbes, who owns a hardware store in Wilmington, has recorded every plow job since 1987. Photo by Chloe Bennett

It’s week three for me at the Explorer and I have a few things to share with all of you. On top of learning how to live in the Adirondacks – like equipping my car with proper tires – I’m learning about how Adirondackers are keeping track of their changing environment. One longtime resident showed me her gardening journals that date back to the 1970s and have weather notes, bloom dates, wildlife sightings and more. I drove over to Wilmington and flipped through a hardware store owner’s log of snowplow jobs dating back to 1987. His take? Snow is coming later in the Adirondacks. Read the story here. 

This isn’t my first time in the region. Over the summer I interned with the Explorer and wrote stories about the Wild Center’s summer climate camp, the state’s newly appointed tallest tree, a turtle rehabilitator, and more. But I’m eager to connect with readers and find out what you’re hoping to see from our climate coverage this year.

In other news, reporter Mike Lynch found out that Whiteface Mountain set a record on Saturday, Feb. 4 for the coldest recorded temperature at the summit. At 3 a.m. Saturday the temp dropped to 40.2 below zero. In addition, researchers report there was a wind chill of about 91 degrees below zero. Read more here. 

Photo at top: Steve Forbes, who owns a hardware store in Wilmington, has recorded every plow job since 1987. Photo by Chloe Bennett

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Chloe’s weekly newsletter, Climate Matters. Click here to sign up for this new offering from Adirondack Explorer, and check out our other free weekly and daily newsletters.

Correction: The original post contained misleading information about the cold weather conditions on Whiteface. We have updated the post and regret the errors.

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Chloe Bennett is a climate change reporter based in Lake Placid, NY. Originally from North Texas, Chloe has always been drawn to the natural world. In 2022, she graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY where she focused on environmental reporting and audio production. She grew a deep appreciation for the Adirondack Park while interning for the Explorer in the summer of 2022.




15 Responses

  1. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Whiteface Mountain set a record last weekend for the coldest recorded temperature ever.”

    Whiteface saw a record -40 degrees on the 4th of this month. On that same morning I saw -17 degrees where I live above Albany, which is the coldest temperature I have ever seen. I took a walk in that cold which was very invigorating for me. There are some people who believe, and have been saying it for a few decades now, that the planet is cooling. Maybe we’re having both a warming and a cooling phase! If that’s possible.

  2. Randy Fredlund says:

    It would be interesting to see a graph or two of plow data showing first and last plow dates and plowing frequency.

  3. Mark Friden says:

    Mike Lynch, in his article, claims that a wind chill estimation of -91° is a “recorded temperature”. This is incorrect; what the thermometer shows is the recorded temperature.
    When Chloe writes of “coldest recorded temperature EVER” (my emphasis), this starts to get confusing. The coldest temperature ‘ever’ was recorded in Siberia, not in New York State. The recording she refers to could have been the ‘coldest ever’ for Whiteface, but herein lies the confusion.
    As far as accurate thermometer readings go, the Ranger School in Wanakena recorded -60° on the school’s meteorological equipment in late December 1933. Old Forge claims their -52° is a state record. But Wanakena’s and Old Forge’s recordings are actual thermometer readings, not wind chill estimates!
    My family has been in the Adirondacks for generations, and I remember my grandfather saying “Wind chill? That’s for flatlanders!”

    • Boreas says:

      “It ain’t the heat, but the humidity!”. Summer’s wind-chill debate.

      I agree. Scientists recording temperature typically record how those temperatures are recorded. Is the thermometer in direct sunlight? 90 degrees F in the shade on my porch is much different than 90 degrees in intense sunlight. Same in winter, removing wind from the equation altogether, radiation from the Sun makes a difference. As long as scientists recording data do it properly, reporters need to consider the actual data, only the data, and temper the headlines accordingly.

      • Boreas says:

        Not to beat a dead horse, but another problem with “wind chill” is the wind itself. It is essentially assumed the “wind” is the same temperature and humidity of the ambient conditions. We all know this is often not the case. Ever been outside and experienced a “warm” S wind or a “cold” N wind? These are moving air masses that don’t always have the same physical parameters as the standing air over a station. So, when it is 10 degrees F, does it feel warmer or colder with a 20 mph wind from the dry N or from the humid S? Wind Chill observers would lead us to believe it would feel the same. I disagree.

        Rant over.

    • Just to clarify, Mike’s original article listed the temperature and wind chill separately. Just wanted to make sure he’s not getting blamed for any errors….

      • Boreas says:

        Sorry. My rant was not aimed at anyone in particular, but to the attempt by journalists in general to add drama to a story with “feel-like” conditions.

        Yet another recent trend I see on national news outlets is “20 million people are under threat of winter storm (insert your favorite name here).”. Just another way to spice-up plain-old weather. Just give me the facts. I don’t need to know I am one of 20 million.

        Rant #2 over.

  4. Mark Friden says:

    What are now considered ‘official’ readings are taken with a host of specifications. For example, to record a temperature. a station has to use a box of certain dimensions that a stated height from the ground. The only open side of said box is supposed to face North, etc. There are specifications for other recording equipment as well. The average person will not meet these specifications at home, which is why (now) home readings are deemed ‘unofficial’. Ninety years ago, the New York State Ranger School was complying with the standards in place at that time, as best as could be done for an institution of higher learning. This justifies their -60, to me!

    • Boreas says:

      Plus, they likely measured it in-person and didn’t rely on recording thermometers. I have to give them credit for that as well!

  5. Jim Fox says:

    “Old Forge claims”… the record low in NYS. Actually it tied the record of -52 °F that damkeeper Carl Rowley recorded at Stillwater Reservoir on February 9, 1934.

    • JohnL says:

      Attached is an article about that February 1979 record low in Old Forge of -52 degrees. Not wind chill….. air temperature! We were in Lake Placid that weekend and were actually staying at a motel in Saranac Lake. The only persons car that started that next morning was a gentleman who went out every hour all night, started his car and let it run for 10 or 15 minutes. All night! The rest of us had to wait for tow trucks to come and ‘jump’ our cars the next morning. I’ve never experienced anything even close since. When I hear the temperature on TV, I only need or want to hear the air temp. Leave wind chill right out of it.
      https://cnycentral.com/news/local/the-coldest-temperatures-ever-recorded-in-new-york-state

      • Mark Friden says:

        As it was -60 in Wanakena in 1933, -52 can’t possibly be the “record”. It may be a record for Old Forge, but not for New York State!

  6. I always consider the wind chill temperature a “Standing naked in the middle of an open field temperature.”

    Some TV meteorologists just talk about the “feels like” or windchill temperature and hardly mention the actual temperature. I guess it’s because it sounds more dramatic. Just tell me the actual temperature and I’ll figure it out for myself.

  7. Sorry, everyone about the errors in this post. I have updated it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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