Meet the 92-year-old Maine woman who has been tracking the weather for nearly 60 years

Lifelong Newcastle, Maine, resident Arlene Cole will be 93 in July. She takes it one day at a time – recording the daily weather conditions, that is.

NEWCASTLE, Maine – It’s snowing in southern Maine. Just ask Arlene Cole.

The lifelong Newcastle resident will be 93 in July, and she just takes it one day at a time – recording the daily weather conditions, that is. 

She's likely the only person in Maine who has been doing it as long as she has. It's become routine in her life, just like waking up in the morning.

On May 15, Cole will have participated in the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program for 58 years for southern Maine and New Hampshire. Every day at 5 p.m., she records the temperature and measures precipitation levels.

"I keep track of the weather," Cole said. "I keep track of the temperatures and the precipitations or when it snows or rains."

She then sends her data to the NWS office in Gray at the end of the month.

"I find the weather very interesting. I thought most people did. They certainly talk with me a lot about it. Don't you like the weather?"

— Arlene Cole

In 2010, Cole received a letter from NOAA  thanking her for decades of service and providing an integral role in understanding the local, national and global climate. Her observations have been a lasting and important contribution to the NWS.

A NOAA weather station was installed on her property on May 12, 1965, after a neighboring resident who provided the same data to the NWS had died following years of service. Cole had an interest in the weather already with her 5-year diary she had started with her own thermometers at the time.


This lifelong Mainer loves the weather

Except for when she was away at college and when her late husband was in the Army, Cole has lived in Lincoln County all her life.

Her father’s ancestors came over to the U.S. in 1750. Cole's father inherited her family farm in 1912 with about 100 acres. It was growing up on a farm where Cole gathered interest in the weather.

"Look, it’s snowing here. This is interesting. The weather is interesting in Maine," she said. "I wouldn't want to live down in the Bahamas where the trees are all pointed in the same direction because the wind blows the same way, and they never have variety."

Maine is a wonderful place to live, according to Cole, and has very different weather.

"Whether you get up in the morning and the sun is shining or you look out now and see the snow. Weather is very interesting subject," Cole said.

She only took a semester of meteorology in college.

"I didn’t learn much about the clouds. The clouds are things I am weak on," Cole said. "I find the weather very interesting. I thought most people did. They certainly talk with me a lot about it. Don't you like the weather?"


'It’s as simple as that’

Cole does not own a computer or have email.

"I'm not interested," she laughs.

To measure the snow, Cole has a giant 60-inch measuring stick shown in tenths as opposed to 1/16 like the ruler we’ve all used in school outside her kitchen window.

"It's just a ruler. You measure it," she said. "At 5 p.m. tonight, I'm going to put my boots on, and I'm going out and see how much snow I've gotten since last 5 p.m. It’s as simple as that."

Through the advancement of technology, the temperature readings now come in from the outside into her kitchen.

"I can read that from the inside. I don't have to go out to do that. But at 5 p.m., I measure the high and the low and what it is at that time," she said.


Backbone of U.S. climate program

The NWS Cooperative Observer Program was established in 1891 and is essentially the backbone of the country’s climate program, according to Donald Dumont, a NWS warning coordination meteorologist in Portland, Maine.

"They do it day in and day out, 365 days a year, year after year," Dumont said.

About 11,000 volunteers, like Cole, are spread out across the U.S. every like 25 miles, preferably. The NWS provides and maintains the equipment as well as the reporting software.

"People want to know how the climate is changing, and without someone going out there and actually taking the records, we wouldn't be able to answer the question accurately," Dumont said.

After the NWS quality controls the data, it’s filed in a report and sent to become archived as official climate records.

If you live in the mid-coast of Maine and wanted to know how the average temperature has changed since the 1960s, guess what data the NWS is using to answer that question? Cole’s decades of observations, you got it. 

"The fact that we can answer that question is a testament to the work that these observers do, and it really helps track how the climate is changing," Dumont said.

Don't expect Cole to retire anytime soon. She said she will continue to volunteer for the NWS until she is no longer fit for the job. 

Until that day comes, you know where she'll be every night just before dinner, because it’s snowing in southern Maine. Just ask Arlene Cole.