When most people are wondering if it might rain, Brian Mark Weber isgetting out his slicker.
The 22-year-old meteorologist tracks theweather 24 hours a day from his home in Long Point, watching clouds and cold fronts -- even plants.
"Weather goes way beyond the 11 o'clock news," says Weber, who reports temperature and unusual conditions to two TV stations at 5:30 every morning.
Since the 1950s, most forecasting has been done withsatellite and radar pictures, but for thousands of years, people used natural ways of predicting weather.
Animals act differently whena storm is coming, for example, and the earth releases an odor before a rain. Plants respond to weather as well. During the summer a rhododendron leaf is almost straight. When the temperature dips to 35 degrees, it starts to curve on the sides. At zero, the leaf curves to the width of a pencil.
Researching the folklore of weather, Weber found that even as late as the 1950s, weathermen consulted Indian tribes.
"Nowadays we rely too heavily on computers," he asserts. "Sometimes when it's storming outside, you'll hear them say, 'We're not sure about the forecast,' because they're waiting to see what the computers say."
Weather observation goes back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks built a Tower of the Winds outside Athens, where each day they would gather to discuss the weather and its causes.
Weber'sinterest in meteorology also started as basic curiosity about the forces of nature.
At 13, he wondered what caused rain. Then he beganrecording the weather, although for years he thought he was "the only one in the world doing it. Then I discovered the Association of Weather Observers and thousands of people around the country doing this."
Daily at Long Point in Pasadena, Weber records the low and high temperature, basic conditions, rain and snowfall. Twenty-four hours aday, he collects data from an electronic recording thermometer, which he records in a logbook. He resets the thermometer each midnight.
The data goes into a newsletter Weber sends out and also to the American Weather Observer, as well as to WBAL-TV in Baltimore and WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, Pa.
The Harrisburg station recruited his help because many residents drive to Baltimore and need information about road conditions. He also reports severe weather conditions to BWI Airport.
Weber's favorite weather condition is the cold front.
"I love cold fronts," he says. "They bring colder air, usually strong winds, and I love cold and snow. Too bad this year." So far, the winter iscoming close to setting an all-time record for no snowfall, Weber adds.
In addition to speaking at science classes in county schools, Weber takes meteorology classes by correspondence from Mississippi State University. He plans to transfer to a four-year college.
His life isn't all weather. Weber works a part-time job to stay solvent, he's active in sports and he volunteers hundreds of hours at schools and churches.
"I do everything from working in the media center to making posters to helping out with the school paper," Weber says.
"People today sit around complaining all the time, but they don't want to get involved and make an improvement. I can't sit here knowing people need help and do nothing."
But keeping an eye on the sky remains his first love.
"I emphasize how important it is to spend time outside, observing first-hand," he says. "And it's not expensive. You don't need much instrumentation to be a weather observer."
Anyone can observe cloud formations and general conditions, and a specialthermometer can be had for as little as $100, he says. The importantpart is taking the time to be curious about your environment. "Weather forecasting is an old tradition," he says. "I'm proud to be carrying it on."