College Weather Station Marks 50th Anniversary

On July 1, 1949, the Pierce College weather reporting station recorded a high temperature of 92 degrees, a low of 49, and clear skies. In short, the weather wasn't too different from Wednesday's, when the oldest station in the west San Fernando Valley celebrated its 50th anniversary a day early.

Todd Morris, a National Weather Service meteorologist, estimated that only 10% of the thousands of weather stations nationwide have records dating back 50 years. The only other Valley station with such a deep archive is in Burbank, he said.

The ceremony, which took place in the fenced-in weather station, was attended by about a dozen students, meteorologists and college administrators, including new Pierce College President Rocky Young.

As the guests spoke, instruments such as the evaporation pan, duration-of-sunlight recorder and maximum and minimum thermometers quietly performed their tasks.

Steve Woodruff, 24, of West Hills, has volunteered at the station since 1997, when he began tracking temperatures to help Los Angeles Community College District officials determine what sort of air conditioners to buy for Pierce.

The campus has an unusual weather pattern due to its setting in a "frost pocket"--an area where air rarely mixes.

"That means the minimum temperatures will be lower than other places in the Valley and the highs will be higher," he said.

Woodruff said interest in the weather has increased and will continue to do so as long as global warming persists.

"It will be a good field to go into as the weather gets more and more chaotic," he said.

Jim Vernon, 76, of Tujunga, was in charge of the station from 1971 until he retired in 1986--the second of only three men to head the station since its inception.

With the advent of the Weather Channel and full-page weather reports in newspapers, Vernon agreed that meteorology is heating up as an occupation.

Noting that weather remains a favorite topic among strangers, Vernon said: "I think we are all students of our environment."

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