Joe Lundberg's column on on April 22, 2002


   Sunday evening one of the true gentlemen that has ever graced the doors of AccuWeather passed away. Norm MacDonald, whom many of you probably remember, had been battling cancer, and while he fought the good fight and managed to continue his career and more than passing interest in the weather well beyond his first diagnosis, finally lost the war to that evil disease. But I'm here not to cast gloom and doom. I'd much rather celebrate the man himself, one who was a clear leader in the field.

   I got to know "Uncle Normie" as he was affectionately known as by many in the early 90's as Norm reached retirement. In fact, it was his very radio schedule that I took over in the fall of 1991, dealing primarily with radio stations in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. Some of the clientele he worked with then I still have the privelege and honor of serving today. Even more so, two of those individuals, Todd Steward in Williamsport, and Wayne Norman (color analyst for UCONN football and men's basketball), I remain in close contact with to this day.

   More importantly, Normie really blazed a trail for those of us in radio and television today. Not only was he an excellent meteorologist, (easily one of the top ten who has ever worked here), but he communicated that information in a warm and friendly manner, a style I'm still trying to get better at to this day! He worked in television for a number of years in the Boston area (WBZ-TV), that after having worked in research at MIT for a number of years. He also owned his own weather company for a time, and brought all of that talent and expertise here in his 50's. Following his retirement, Norm remained active in forensic meteorology, and still kept his hands in other weather-related projects. I learned many things in the short time I got to study under him, and I owe him much more than I could ever repay in terms of what I know now about the industry, the business, and the science. He could tell a story like no one, and had so many different characters he used! But you would always get a top-notch weather forecast regardless, though sometimes you did have to pay closer attention!

   Norm, you are already missed!

   If you care to send you best wishes, I will gladly provide the home address of his surviving wife Carol. I'm certain she would appreciate the support and encouragement!

   Quickly on to the weather. My buddy Wayne Norman alertly pointed out to me an interesting little tidbit on the Northeast heat wave this past week. It now ranks as the earliest heat wave on record (at Bradley Field, just outside of Hartford, Connecticut; Boston only reached 90 degrees once last week, with a severe oceanic influence keeping it much below that level other days). In other words, 4/16-4/18 2002 is the earliest 3-day spell of 90-degree plus temperatures ever recorded there. Number two, 4/17-4/19 1976, which I referred to often last week. But here's the point Wano made. Number three is May 2-4, 2001, and number four is May 7-9, 2000. Three of the four earliest heat waves in just the last three years! Now you know I'm not a big global warming fan. At least not the way the media portrays it. But you DO have to wonder what's going on here when this stuff pops up. Makes you think, at least.

   My take on it? We're in a period of greater climatic variability, and have been for over a decade. What do I mean by that fancy term? The weather tends to go more toward the extremes rather than the middle of the road. In other words, more record-type events. Hotter, colder (remember the Antarctic cooling???); drought; floods; snow fall records (both high and low). Could man-made influences be directing this? Maybe. I would argue that we simply don't know enough about the whole weather machine to definitively say for sure. There's much to be learned about influence on the weather, such as solar flux, sunspot cycles, air-sea interaction, El Nino, La Nina, etc. The weather machine is very complex, and the more we find out about it, the more we discover we DON'T know! Sure, conservation measures are probably the prudent thing to do, but to say we, mankind, is the sole source of global warming I think is absurd. And Uncle Normie wrote on the subject along similar lines!
I was planning on doing an exhaustive map discussion this morning, but the passing or Norm MacDonald simply occupied my thoughts more this morning. I will dive in head long to a topsy-turvy weather pattern that will cause much busted forecasts for the feint of heart in the days to come!

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