Every morning, Chris Taylor takes a walk in his back yard, rain or shine, snow or hail.
It doesn’t matter how harsh the weather is or how cold it is outside.
By Brad Mosher
Meanwhile, a federal agency in Bismarck is eagerly waiting for what the Killdeer resident reports seeing on his morning walk.
They have been waiting for Taylor’s reports for 20 years.
Taylor, a retired engineer and pilot, recently received an award for being a volunteer weatherman for the National Weather Service.
Taylor has been recording daily minimum and maximum temperatures, rainfall, snow fall and snow depth from his home in Killdeer and reporting it since 1998.
He has been recording the daily weather information and sending it to the Cooperative Weather Observations program. “It only takes about 10 minutes or so. It gets you going in the morning.”
According to a spokesman for the Bismarck office of the NWS, the information that Taylor regularly provides is vital for defining area climate and improving forecast models. There are approximately 10,000 weather volunteers across the nation who volunteer their time to report the daily weather information.
On a recent visit to his back yard weather station, Taylor found evidence that a recent warm front had passed through Killdeer.
“They want you to record the amount of snow on the ground … the new snow and how much was recorded when it melted,” he said. “You do that every day.”
What wasn’t an everyday occurrence was Taylor making a trip to Bismarck to receive the 20-year award for his two decades as a volunteer from the Warning Control Meteorologist John Paul Martin.
To measure the rain or snow, Taylor brings a tube inside the house. “You record that for rain in the summertime. In the winter, you melt the snow.”
Looking at the side, the measurement can be made to the nearest hundredth of an inch.
In the logbook, he adds other observations, like whether there is fog. “If you have fog, you have to make a little check mark. If there is frozen precipitation like hail, they want to know that.”
The one of the most unusual weather readings he has seen is a recent one – two straight 106 degrees days in June. “I have never seen it that warm here since 1981.
“Then we had our infamous hailstorm in July 2016,” he said, noting he still drives his ‘battle-scarred’ truck. “North Dakota is a state of weather extremes.”
According to Taylor, there are thousands of people in the United States who have weather stations and record their findings with the local offices of the National Weather Service.
Technology has changed since Taylor started in 1998.
He has two indoor systems interconnected to display the current conditions outside, including the the feed from a windspeed indicator upstairs.
An online weather website, Weather Underground, takes the information from a number of local individual weather stations and creates a ‘picture’ of the weather.
“They take all the data that you have with your personal weather station and do all sorts of number crunching and gives you a pictorial view of the weather,” he said.
He also noted that a new weather station near the Medicine Hole Golf Course has been added to the network. “It has been there for about three or four months.”
Online, there is a site called ‘weather coder’ that is part of the National Weather Service, he added.
“We use the computer now and it is within five minutes that it is stored in Maryland at the National Weather Service.”
Taylor, who still is a pilot, uses the weather station information to help plan for trips.
It was an interest in weather which prompted Taylor to become even more involved years ago.
“It is part of flying. I still do a little bit of flying. I had my own plane for 30 years or more and keep it down in Dickinson.
“Weather is important. You need to check the weather before you go moving off into the wild blue yonder,” he added.
After doing it for two decades he admits it is a ‘big-time hobby.’
“That is what I do everyday. They like me to do it before 9 a.m.,” he added. That way, the NWS can put it in its morning report, Taylor explained.
After meeting with the NWS office in Bismarck for his volunteer service award, the weather service must have agreed with him.