One of the most frequently discussed topics on the island is “Where do you get your weather?” Everyone has their trusted app, website, or local weather forecaster that they depend on to give them accurate predictions. Nantucket has always had unpredictable weather patterns; one day, torrential downpours may be predicted, but then the winds will shift, and the storm will bypass the island completely, leaving only clear and sunny skies. There is also Nantucket’s famous fog, the Grey Lady, who is known to either overstay her welcome or disappear without even saying goodbye. One of my co-worker’s favorite sayings is, “If you want to experience all four seasons of weather in one day, head to Nantucket.” Since the weather can change so dramatically, it is best to prepare as much as possible in advance.
Sailors and fishermen alike need to be ready for the weather ahead. There is a vast difference between calm waters and stormy seas, both for safety and enjoyment purposes. “Red sky at night, sailors' delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning” is a famous saying that has been recounted by sailors for longer than anyone can remember. Today, skilled mariners will monitor the marine forecast issued by NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) on their VHF radios, which gives the weather, wind, and wave height. The NOAA weather website is also a great way to stay on top of the local forecast. If you are curious about wind speed and direction, many people trust Ventusky, which has interactive maps about the wind and other parameters.
The Linda Loring Nature Foundation (LLNF) contributes data to NOAA, which feeds into their weather predictions through our NOAA COOP station, the Cooperative Weather Observer (COOP) program. More than 10,000 volunteers take daily weather observations around the country through the COOP program. The COOP program is the nation’s largest and oldest weather network. It was established in 1891 to formalize the collection of meteorological observations and record climate conditions in the United States based on the ideas of Thomas Jefferson.
Before the advancement of scientific weather instruments and radar, many relied upon the predictions in the Farmer’s Almanac. They use a “mathematical and astronomical formula that considers various factors, including sunspot activity, tidal action of the Moon, positions of the planets, and proprietary equations” for their extended forecast. For 2023, The Farmer’s Almanac has predicted that our region, the Northeast, will have a scorching dry summer. Everyone better stock up on sunscreen and make sure your plants get extra water.
For those of you that enjoy gardening or want to know more about precipitation, CoCoRaHS is a collaborative network that has been documenting rain, hail, and snow for years. The Linda Loring Nature Foundation was the first site on the island, and we have been contributing to this program since 2014. Since then, a few other sites have popped up, including one at the Nantucket New School and one in ‘Sconset. You can join the project for free (plus the cost of a certified rain gauge) or check out their website for maps of precipitation locally. LLNF is also a National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) Collection Site. As part of this project, staff from the Nantucket Land Council collect a rain sample every week from the station at the LLNF property and ship it off the island for chemical analysis. It’s just as important to know what’s in the precipitation as well as how much there is.
Wunderground is another excellent weather source, and the information is collected from over 250,000 Personal Weather Stations globally, giving real live data information. “A personal weather station is a set of weather measuring instruments that you can install at your own home or business. The number of instruments can vary, but most personal weather stations include instruments to measure temperature, relative humidity, pressure, rainfall, and wind speed and direction.” We recently installed our own weather station at LLNF, and we have joined the Wunderground Network! To access our latest weather information, search our weather station: KMANANTU111; make sure to save it as a favorite.
Now you know all the latest apps and websites you can choose from on the island. You should always be prepared for rapid weather changes, and who knows, maybe you, too, will get to meet the famous Grey Lady.
Stay tuned for more editions of Current Nature, a bi-weekly column featuring seasonal topics, natural history information, and advice on the outdoors from the staff at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation.