NOAA honors New York farmer for 84 years of service as
volunteer weather observer

July 21, 2014

When Richard G. Hendrickson logged his first weather observation for the U.S. Weather Bureau, the precursor to NOAA’s National Weather Service, Herbert Hoover occupied the White House. Since then the Bridgehampton, New York, farmer has filed twice daily reports, tallying more than 150,000 individual weather observations - playing a critical role in building our nation’s climate history.

As part of the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program, Hendrickson collects data from the weather observing station on his farm and calls in his observations – temperature, precipitation, wind and any other significant weather factors – to the weather service.

On July 27, Hendrickson, age 101, will receive an award for his long standing service – 84 years – to the nation. Since Hendrickson is first in the history of the program to serve for more than eight decades, the new 80-year service award will be named in his honor.

Richard G. Hendrickson looks out over the Atlantic Ocean on a stormy day in Bridgehampton, New York (1930s). Photo: D.L. Hendrickson.

Richard G. Hendrickson looks out over the Atlantic Ocean on a stormy day in Bridgehampton, New York (1930s). Photo: D.L. Hendrickson.

“Volunteer observers are the bedrock of weather data collection,” said I. Ross Dickman, meteorologist-in-charge of the New York weather forecast office. “Richard has contributed thousands of weather measurements to build the climate record for Long Island, and after 84 years, holds the title of the nation’s longest-serving volunteer weather observer. With this award, we honor Richard for his selfless dedication to his community and the country.”

Hendrickson started volunteering as a weather observer when he was 18 years old. His lifelong commitment stems from personal interest in weather and a sense of patriotism. "I enjoy observing the weather, it's what I do for my country,” he said.

Hendrickson’s enthusiasm for weather extends beyond collecting data. In 1996 he authored, Winds of the Fish’s Tail, which highlights his years of observing the weather on Long Island's east end. Hendrickson also writes a column on weather that is published in two eastern Long Island newspapers.

Richard G. Hendrickson, 101 years old, gathers weather data for the National Weather Service after a snowstorm in Bridgehampton, N.Y. (2014).  Photo: Sara Hendrickson.

Richard G. Hendrickson, 101 years old, gathers weather data for the National Weather Service after a snowstorm in Bridgehampton, New York (2014). Photo: Sara Hendrickson.

The award presentation will take place before an open house at the weather forecast office in Upton, New York. Throughout the day; residents are invited to tour the forecast operations floor, meet meteorologists and learn how forecasters track storms and issue warnings. The open house is an opportunity for the public to learn how to become weather-ready, become a storm spotter and see a weather balloon launch.

AWARD PRESENTATION:
Sunday, July 27, 9:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. EDT
New York Weather Forecast Office
175 Brookhaven Avenue, Upton, NY 11973
NOTE:  Media must register with Tim Morrin to attend the ceremony 631-924-0227

The National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program has given scientists and researchers continuous observational data since the program’s inception more than a century ago. Today, over 8,700 volunteer observers participate in the nationwide program to provide daily reports on temperature, precipitation, and other weather factors such as snow depth, river levels and soil temperature. Long and continuous weather records provide an accurate picture of a locale’s normal weather and give climatologists a basis for predicting future trends. These data are invaluable for scientists studying floods, droughts, and heat and cold waves.

Richard G. Hendrickson taking weather observations at his farm in Bridgehampton, New York. Photo: NOAA, 2008.

Richard G. Hendrickson taking weather observations at his farm in Bridgehampton, New York (2008). Photo: NOAA.

The first extensive network of cooperative stations was set up in the 1890s as a result of a Congressional Act that established the U.S. Weather Bureau. Many historic figures maintained weather records, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between 1776 and 1816, and Washington took weather observations just a few days before he died.

The National Weather Service forecast office located in Upton, New York, is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for about 18.6 million people in southeast New York, northeast New Jersey and southern Connecticut. Visit us at weather.gov/nyc and join us on Facebook and Twitter. For more on how to become weather-ready, visit Weather-Ready Nation.

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