Father Nature from Down Under

Anna Costa, Editor in Chief

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The newest sensation to rip through Warwick high school is the Twitter weatherman Ben Noll. He is on Twitter as @BenNollWeather and his following has only been growing since the beginning of this year. As of right now he has 12.5K followers, and has made over 4 million twitter impressions. Based out of New Zealand, though born in Valley Central, he tweets out if there is any chance of a delay or closure, we can always count on Ben Noll to be on the case. He goes to twitter to give tired students, wishing for a day off, a bit of hope. Though it’s not just students or Warwick that have taken to Twitter to look for updates regarding the local weather. Noll has been reporting on all of the Hudson Valley schools, holding down his roots, and has kept parents and teacher alike more updated on what may happen. We were lucky enough to be able to get in touch and below is what ensued.

(1) What college did you go to and what was your major-minor?

 

BN: “SUNY Oswego, 2009-2013. I majored in meteorology (of course) and have a minor in mathematics. For those who are interested in weather or climate as a career path, I’d certainly recommend SUNY Oswego or SUNY Albany in New York State. Further afield, there is Penn State in State College PA (I lived and worked there at AccuWeather for awhile immediately after I graduated). Although: there is A LOT of math associated with the degree. Strong communication skills are also a must nowadays.”

 

(2) Did you always want to be a meteorologist? And how did you achieve that profession? Why are you so interested in the weather?

 

BN: “Ever since I can remember. The first storm that I really remember and attribute to my interest in weather was the Blizzard of 1996 (January). Montgomery received somewhere around 2 feet from that storm and I have fond memories of climbing some most enormous snow piles.

My interest in snow steered my passion for weather early on in life. The passion was strong enough to try to make it into a career. So I chose to pursue a Bachelors of Science in Meteorology at SUNY Oswego in upstate NY. Four snowy- and math-filled years later (2009-2013) and I had my degree. In my junior year at Oswego I got offered and accepted an incredible internship at AccuWeather in State College, PA. Following the internship, I was set up for success in my senior year at Oswego and then was offered a full time position immediately following graduation. (It doesn’t always work like that, but here’s some advice to students about to embark on their college journey: seek out an internship in your field of study. The experience you gain will be priceless.) Almost 3 years later, I was ready for the next step in the journey and accepted a once in a lifetime offer to work for the Government of New Zealand as a meteorologist…”

 

(3) Why run a twitter account that tells students in the Hudson Valley school closing and delay?

 

BN: “The roots of my closing and delay predictions stem from my days at Valley Central High School in Montgomery (2005-2009), where I made predictions to fellow students and teachers.

My theory and motivation behind such predictions: anyone can go to a weather website or check their phone and see the forecast. But what wasn’t widely available then, and still isn’t today, is how precisely that will impact people’s day to day lives. To teachers and students (especially) it wasn’t the forecast of 1-3 inches of snow that mattered so much — what mattered was whether they’d have to set their alarm for the next morning or not! I feel that my school predictions help contextualize the forecast and allow people to connect the weather to its impact on them.

I do always recommend DOING YOUR HOMEWORK before a suspected snow day because … (1) I am sometimes wrong (side note: it is OK to be wrong and it is OK to make mistakes — that’s a natural part of life. But try and learn from them!) (2) if you do your homework the night before, you can have the whole day off the next day!”

Photo Courtesy of Ben Noll

 

(4) What are you doing in New Zealand? How long have you been there?

 

BN: “In mid-2015, a former professor of mine who had been working in New Zealand for several years emailed his former students about a few meteorologist openings in NZ. Most probably ignored the message: who is crazy enough to abandon everything they know, leave their loved ones behind, and start over 1000s of miles away?! But I looked at it as a very unique opportunity… so a few phone interviews later and boom: job offer. Then came The Decision.

This one wasn’t aired on ESPN. Spoiler: after days of deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I’d be taking my talents to the Southern Hemisphere. So in January 2016, I hugged my family goodbye, said sayonara to the states, hopped on a plane, and haven’t seen snow since. In the last 1.5 years, I’ve gotten used to: not having to refrigerate eggs, spelling tire as “tyre” and curb as “kerb,” and paying upwards of $5.00 for a cup of coffee, my amazing girlfriend named Kate. I haven’t gotten used to the small portions of food, however! As my weather forecasting responsibilities grew in New Zealand, I knew it was very important to stick to my roots: that is, the Hudson Valley! And all the cool people in it. That’s where it all began for me. That’s my home. So despite the distance and 18 hour time difference, I still put aside time to make snow day forecasts during the winter (which is actually New Zealand’s summer). What started as just a forecast for Valley Central has gained traction (no pun intended) and spread across Orange, Ulster, and Dutchess Counties in recent years — during April 2017 I even had a chance to speak with the Times Herald Record about my predictions. It’s actually a lot of fun and I hope that my followers enjoy seeing the predictions as much as I enjoy making them. I plan to keep doing it as time allows.”

 

(5) What do you love most about the Hudson Valley?

 

BN: “Its natural beauty, the diverse ge

ography in particular. Being so close to one of the world’s greatest cities but being far enough removed from its chaotic hustle and bustle is also great. To be included in the NYC media market (and all of its TV and radio choices) is also pretty cool and something that is often overlooked this far north of the city.”

 

(6) Have you ever been to Warwick?

 

BN: “I have! Many years ago. Cool town. My mom’s optometrist used to practice in Warwick, so I’d tag along sometimes. I’ve eaten at Warwick’s Taco Hombre before and I seem to recall a sports card shop that I used to enjoy going to many, many years ago on Main Street (probably out of business now).”

 

(7) What did you love most about high school?

 

BN: “The period I ate lunch 🙂 …not really! I enjoyed having such fantastic teachers who set me up for success in college. I took advantage of college-level and AP classes offered and essentially went into college with a full semester of work already completed. My advice to current high school students is to try and go above and beyond — whether that is academically, physically (i.e. sports), or some other extra-curricular activity (drama, band, etc) is up the individual.”

 

(8) What is the job of a meteorologist like? And how do you collect delay info for the Hudson Valley in New Zealand?

 

BN: “Fulfilling. Knowing that my decisions and calls can help save people’s lives, property, and profitability is why I get up every morning. On a daily basis, I: watch the radar (tracking rain, snow, severe storms), monitor satellite imagery (tracking clouds and weather systems like hurricanes and other large cyclones), and consult weather models (these help the forecaster understand how weather systems will behave). With all of that information at hand, I make weather forecasts for clients, provide 3-month outlooks for businesses whose operation depends on trends in the climate, record weather and climate forecast videos, do radio interviews, even occasionally appear on TV, and much more. It isn’t a perfect science and the forecast is sometimes incorrect. But before you scream at the weatherman next time, try to remember (the vast majority) of times when the forecast was actually good!  Just as I have access to New Zealand radar, satellite, and weather models, I have access to ones for the Hudson Valley. These days, everything is online and pretty easily accessible. Webcams also help me to see what is going on at the ground across the HV, and, if I’m really in a pinch, I can call home and get a live report. But one of the most important forecast tools is actually reports from all of my followers — the pictures that I ask for during snowstorms helps my mind bridge the 8836 mile gap from New Zealand to the Hudson Valley!”

 

(9) Have you been getting paid for running the twitter account?

 

BN: “Nope. I do it out of enjoyment. But I do accept Chipotle gift cards (my favorite place to eat when I’m home, after my mom’s cooking — we don’t have Chipotle in New Zealand) ;)”

 

(10) Have you ever thought of starting a YouTube channel?

 

BN: “I’d probably Periscope before YouTube. I already dedicate a lot of time (enough to get some unfavorable glances from my girlfriend!)

at Hudson Valley weather and posting on Twitter, so a YouTube channel would probably take it over the top.”

 

(11) Would you consider doing a live Q&A on twitter?

 

BN: “I have in the past. What makes things really difficult is that the time difference between New Zealand-New York varies between 16 and 18 hours through the year. I do most of my Hudson Valley predictive work during my lunch hour at work! So it might be tough to squeeze in. I’d like to do a Periscope of these days, but it would have to be on my Friday night and coincide with a snowstorm (since my Friday night in New Zealand is still Thursday night in New York).”

 

(12) How are you so accurate when it comes to your predictions?

 

“My crystal ball 😉

-It starts with a good grasp of the geography and terrain of the area in which you are forecasting the weather. In essence, that is half the battle

-Deep local knowledge (i.e. tendencies of certain districts’ decision making when it comes to dealing with snow)

-Good observations on the ground. My Twitter following is basically the best crowd-sourced form of weather observers that exist in the Hudson Valley. Being so far removed from the HV, the reports that (you all) send me allows me to connect what I’m see in terms of radar data, satellite data, and weather models to what is actually happening. This is the most critical step in good weather forecasting.

-Solid forecasting skills. In my senior year of college, I beat my two main professors in a semester-long forecasting ‘challenge.’

-Great weather models. Great access to weather models. These days, there is a plethora of weather data online. As a meteorologist, it is my duty to determine which weather model or models have the best handle on the situation and then use those particular ones to help make a forecast. That skill comes with time and years of practice.”

 

(13) Do you believe in Climate Change?

 

BN: “Indeed. The idea that our Earth is warming is indisputable. And its 7.442 billion inhabitants are very likely the main cause for that change. The future for not only the Hudson Valley will be about adapting and adjusting to changing weather patterns (for the Hudson Valley: warmer on the whole, especially at night, and probably more humid). While the frequency of storms is generally not expected to change, their intensity might, bringing large amounts of rain (or snow) in shorter periods of time. This could increase the risk for flooding or heavy, disruptive snowfalls.

This is why weather/climate is such a fulfilling career to have and why I recommend it as a potential career path. We are at the forefront of a global issue and new research is emerging all the time — though much more is needed.”

 

Photo Courtesy of Ben Noll

(14) Do you have any other hobbies or interests? Any information that might be interesting….

 

BN: “Lots! Basketball: I enjoy taking and making halfcourt shots. Food: pizza and subs are my favorites, but New Zealand’s pizza and subs aren’t in the same ballpark as New York’s. Fun fact: I can eat an entire large pizza very easily in one sitting. 20 hot dogs are no problem. I once ate 50 chicken wings in a sitting. I ate a 2 pound burger in less than one hour at Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield PA in late 2015 and my picture went up on the wall. I also enjoy panning streams for gold and other precious metals, exploring New Zealand’s secretive beaches, and hip hop music. In 2017, I bought a drone. Now I’m basically obsessed with it and the residents of Auckland NZ frequently hear it buzzing overhead — I occasionally post pictures and videos on Twitter, but many can be found on Instagram (@BenNollWeather).”

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Father Nature from Down Under