Quantcast

This Man Has Been Quietly Collecting Invaluable Climate Data for More Than 40 Years

Climate
www.youtube.com

billy barr of Gothic, Colorado wears a lot of hats—literally and figuratively.

Sure, the reclusive mountain man (who prefers his name spelled in lowercase) has an impressive hat collection, but he's also a legendary citizen scientist who has been collecting a trove of invaluable data from his remote home in the Colorado Rockies for more than four decades.


The 66-year-old "Snow Guardian" has logged notebooks full of snow levels, temperatures and animal migration observations every day since 1974, providing a critical look at the area's long-term environmental and climate change trends.

barr's fascinating story was featured in a January 2017 short film from Day's Edge Productions, showing how the Bollywood-loving, cricket enthusiast with a great beard meticulously records his observations from his fully solar-powered cabin deep in the woods.

In the clip, barr amusingly recalls why he started collecting weather data.

"I lived in an 8-by-10 foot old shack. I had no electricity and no water and I had nothing," he says. "I was just there all day. The main thing I interacted with was the weather and the animals, so I started recording things just cause it was something to do."

barr's work has since appeared in dozens of climate research papers and now works as an "Accountant" at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory—one of the world's top phenology research sites.

But as CBS News reported, when barr first started collecting data, he had no idea how important his work would be:

In the early '90s, scientist David Inouye from the neighboring Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory needed data for his research on wildflowers. He had heard about Barr's notebooks, but was shocked when he saw how comprehensive they were.

"I said, 'Billy! You know those data are really relevant to how the climate is changing, and how animals are responding to the changing climate," Inouye said.

To which barr remarked, "I wasn't out to prove anything. I just recorded the numbers."

Ominously, barr's records show clear evidence of a changing climate.

"The trend I see is that we're getting permanent snow pack later, and we get to bare ground sooner. We'll have years where there was a lot of snow on the ground, and then we lose snow sooner than years that had a lot less snow just because it's a lot warmer now," he says in the Day's Edge video.

During a typical winter, it's normal to have four or five record-high temperatures. However, as barr recently stressed to National Geographic: "We have 67 record highs in the last three winters alone, and 48 percent of our record highs have been just since 2010."

"That's in 44 years of records. And 47 percent of my record lows are from the first ten years I did this," he said. "These are trends."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

American bison roaming Badlands National park, South Dakota. Prisma / Dukas / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Clay Bolt

On Oct. 11 people around the world celebrated the release of four plains bison onto a snow-covered butte in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

Read More Show Less
An EPA sponsored cleanup of the toxic Gowanus Canal dredges a section of the canal of industrial debris on Oct. 28, 2016 in Brooklyn. The Gowanus is a Superfund site from years of industrial waste spilling into the water, and it is listed in GAO's report to be at risk from a climate disaster. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis / Getty Images

The climate crisis has put at least 945 designated toxic waste sites at severe risk of disaster from escalating wildfires, floods, rising seas and other climate-related disasters, according to a new study from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Rob Greenfield pictured above is driven by the concept of "living a life where [he] can wake up and feel good about [his] life." Rob Greenfield / Facebook

For one year Rob Greenfield grew and foraged all of his own food. No grocery stores, no restaurants, no going to a bar for a drink, not even medicines from the pharmacy.

Read More Show Less
Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store. VioletaStoimenova / E+ / Getty Images

Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store, the company announced on Friday. The removal of the apps comes after thousands of people across the country have developed lung illnesses from vaping and 42 people have died.

Read More Show Less