Nothing Fair Weather about These Fellas; Meteorology Is High-Tech Hobby

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Coxe, Times-Union staff writer

How's the weather?

Most people answer this question by watching the local forecast on television. For a few Northeast Florida residents, however, tracking the weather is a serious hobby. It's a hobby that can cost enthusiasts about $40 for a basic thermometer, hygrometer and rain gauge, and up to $1,200 or more for high-tech digital weather stations such as the Davis Vantage Pro Plus.

Robert Brookens, affectionately known as Barometer Bob, has been watching the weather since childhood. He said that during many saltwater fishing trips in South Florida he found the more he knew about the weather the better luck he had catching fish.

While recovering from a leg injury in 1982, the Baker County resident discovered he could tell when the weather was going to change by a throbbing in his knee. Headaches warned him of approaching thunderstorms.

He has since taken his weather tracking to new heights. He employs meteorological equipment, mainly computer-based forecast models and radar satellite imagery.

Joan Peterson, vice president of marketing at Davis Instruments, said the market for home weather stations like the Vantage Pro Plus has been expanding for the past few years.

"Wireless technology has made weather stations much easier to install, so people are either upgrading their original systems or are deciding to purchase one for the first time."

Other Jacksonville residents also are taking weather tracking into their own hands.

J. Michael Lenninger said he became fascinated with the weather after watching his mother photograph thunderstorms.

"I have been a weather watcher ever since I learned the difference between a cumulonimbus cloud and a cirrus cloud in elementary school," he said.

Lenninger uses a rain gauge to measure the day's rainfall and a thermometer to track high and low temperatures.

A Florida native, Lenninger recalls giving made-up forecasts to his childhood friends.

"I became Mr. Weather," he said.

For Kendall Bryan, studying the weather has become a family affair. When Bryan was earning his private pilot's license, he was required to take a meteorological course. He enjoyed the class and began to study the sky as a hobby.

Though he hasn't flown since 1979, Bryan maintains his interest in the weather.

Bryan uses a Davis weather station, whose sensors pick up and record temperature and humidity levels as well as wind direction and speed throughout the day. …