My interest in weather began in 1944 when a vicious Hurricane swept up the east coast. Then a youngster, only seven years of age, I was completely astounded by the power and devastation of the maelstrom. I now had the "bug". Mother Nature's tantrums - high winds, heavy rains or snows, thunderstorms and hail, became my fascination. The tougher they became the better I liked it.
Upon college graduation I began teaching Earth Science. In 1962 I initiated a very unique high school weather station. The United States Weather Bureau, extremely interested in the program, deemed it the most advanced high school weather program, not only in the entire United States but also in the entire world. Even in those very early years, we possessed a state-of-the-art Teletype machine, which brought current weather data directly into the school. We knew where it was snowing and when it would reach our area. This generated great excitement. We also had our own Weather Radar. This was donated, installed and repaired by Air Weather Service located in Lakehurst, New Jersey. In addition, we had access to computers; yes, even that far back we had use of computers, and the students used these constantly.
Graduates of this weather program went on to get their doctorates in Meteorology and Computer Sciences and are now making their mark in prestigious positions such as: Director of Research of the National Hurricane Center, The Lead Forecaster for the NASA manned flight center, The Executive Vice President of Accu-weather, The Head Scientist and Director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Another student has written the computer program which all meteorologists in the world use each day to make their weather forecasts.
As you can see, making youngsters think and making them do research really paid off. With their help I continued to do research, especially in long-range weather forecasting. Always fascinated with the moon and sun, I worked tirelessly to determine if they, in some way, were linked to our weather and climate. Finally, while working for NASA, with the assistance of some of the scientists, it all began to make sense.
In September 1966, a meteorologist named Harry Geise, announced on CBS-TV there would be a major snowstorm on December 24th-25th, 1966 in New York City. Everyone made fun of him. "It's impossible to forecast a snowstorm three months in advance!" Well, on December 24th-25th 1966, New York City and surrounding areas received approximately 17 inches of snow. I wrote Mr. Geise a letter congratulating him on his forecast and telling him about our weather program at Lakeland High School. To my surprise he read my letter on TV and invited me to visit him at the CBS studio. After a very cordial meeting, I asked him what his method was. He said since I was a teacher and seemed to inspire students, he would give me a start and then encouraged me to continue with the research and also to involve the students. Now, over 40 years later, we have not only expanded on his methodology but have gone deeper and deeper into the field of long-range weather forecasting.
Improvement in our accuracy has increased dramatically with the onset of the computer explosion. One of my students, Neal Townsend, a specialist in weather computing, has continued to work with me on long-range weather forecasting to this very day. In fact, without him, this website would be impossible. As a result of his fine efforts, we also produce a Long-Range Weather Calendar for the northeastern section of the United States. These Calendars are sold and every penny raised goes directly to children who are seriously or terminally ill or who are physically or mentally challenged. To date, we have distributed over $1,700,000. As you can see, although very difficult and painstakingly slow, long-range forecasting has already paid off big time.
We will continue to upgrade and improve our system in the coming years. Jim Witt