Former weather columnist sees change in climate

01/25/07 12:00AM By Steve Zind
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(Host) Long before weather data was recorded using sophisticated gadgetry; Vermonters were painstakingly gathering information in their own back yards.

Much of what we know about our weather over the past two hundred years is thanks to their records.

As part of this week's series on the changing climate, VPR's Steve Zind visited with a Vermonter who is part of a long tradition of recording the weather.

(Zind) Twenty-five years of weekly weather columns fill the scrapbooks that lie on Mariam Herwig's kitchen table.

(Herwig) "I think in all 25 years, I only said 'I' twice. I once said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the perfect week!' That was in the summer, you might know."

(Zind) From 1978 to 2003 Herwig's Weather Wise columns were regular reading in the local Randolph Herald.

Each listed the highs and lows, precipitation and wind speeds for the past week, all recorded at her Randolph Center home. Every day Herwig stepped from her door to collect information. She trudged out to take readings those ten days in 1979 when it never got above zero, she dutifully noted the 80-mile-an-hour winds that hit one day 1982, and she measured the 60 inches of snow that fell in March of 2001.

Weather facts and figures weren't the only attraction for Herwig's readers. She drew on her flair for writing by including a few descriptive lines about the past week's weather. .

(Herwig) "It was high summer when hawks soared in hot skies and skunks prowled on warm nights. Stuff like that." (she laughs)

(Zind) Herwig would sometimes push the limits and violate her editor's enjoinder against publishing poetry.

(Herwig) " and then I quoted Edna St. Vincent Millay. We could exclaim with her, 'Oh world I cannot hold thee close enough'."

(Zind) Herwig picked up a few fans over the course of her quarter century of weather reporting. Their letters, too, are saved in her scrap book.

(Herwig) "Genevieve Diggle said, ' I do so enjoy your colorful and descriptive weather reports in The Herald'."

(Zind) Herwig says her fascination with the weather springs from a love of nature acquired on the Williamstown farm where she was born and raised. Keeping weather records is a product of her interest in history.

In fact, this habit of recording the weather isn't so unusual in Randolph Center.

In 1829, a man named Squire Nutting began keeping weather records at his home across the street from where Herwig now lives.

After Nutting, neighbor Erastus Hibberd took up recording the weather beginning in about 1870. He was followed by his son and grandson. Then it was Herwig's turn. Even after giving up her column to a younger writer from Bethel in 2003, she continues to keep daily records. That's more than 175 years of continuous record keeping in Randolph center.

No one's studied all of the records, but from her own experience, Herwig believes the climate is changing.

(Herwig) "You see the approaching global warming over the years - later fall foliage, poorer fall foliage most recently. You know that the 90s were the hottest decade on record and it's continuing."

(Zind) Now in her 83rd year, Mariam Herwig continues to take temperature and wind speed readings, although it been more than three years since she bid farewell to her readers with these words in her final column:

(Herwig) "May the ever-changing skies and the bounties of nature increase your appreciation of this ever changing corner of the world which is ours."

(Zind) Selected columns from Hedwig's 25 years of weather reporting will appear soon in a book entitled "A Love Affair with Vermont Weather."

For VPR news, I'm Steve Zind.
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