As appeared in the
November 2015 Edition of Up Portland

      
For Jack It’s Not If Or When, But Weather
by Peter Michalakes

Each morning, a high schooler at North Yarmouth Academy rises early enough to see the stars above him on a clear day. One might think — as one would of any typical high schooler — that he’s only up so early to catch up on overdue homework or because he wants time to watch television before school starts. But think again: this high schooler is not typical. He is Forecaster Jack.
“I’m an amateur weather forecaster,” he said in an interview this past Saturday. “I’m really focused on not hyping forecasts – I give people objective analysis.”

He is Jack Sillin, a sophomore at the Yarmouth-based private school and the brains behind the forecasting blog, forecasterjack.com, which services all of New England. He is a self-taught forecaster, and has already been featured on the Weather Channel and WCSH6 as well as in a larger newspaper in Portland. Additionally, he is an integral part of amateur forecasting agencies, such as Western Maine Weather in Florence, Maine.


























“I have access to all of the same data as the big-shot meteorologists,” Jack said. In forming a fore- cast, meteorologists take special notice of regional tempera- tures, patterns of high and low pres- sure systems, and the pressure of the atmosphere on any given day. Sillin syn- thesizes all of this information himself, and every morning, far before the sun has even began to rise, he posts his forecast on his blog for any New Englander’s use.
“I want people to learn stuff while they’re getting the weather from me, too,” Jack said. “I provide more than just 65 and sunny.”

A LONG-TIME PASSION
Jack started forecasterjack.com in October 2011, and as of a couple years ago, he has been making daily predictions and posting occasional lessons on his website. However, Sillin’s passion for weather started well before his website went live.
“You don’t need to go back that far in time to get into the world of excited seven- year-old me, saying, ‘Hey, a snowstorm!’” Sillin said. “I did have one less formal, less professional project before, but forecasterjack.com is what I’ve turned into a helpful resource for people.” Sillin’s interest in meteorology was a gradual development during his formative years. For example, on long cross-country plane rides to see his extended family, the only in-plane television show his mom would let him watch was the Weather Channel. “It was also really the blizzard of Patriots Day, 2007, that set off a deep passion for meteorology in me,” Sillin said. “It was the rst storm I remember watching on the radar: it was all really exciting for a kid, and I just wanted to know why!”
What started on that Patriots Day has since evolved into what Sillin hopes is a lifelong career. For now, though, it is just a hobby — forecasterjack.com is ad- free and does not generate revenue. “It’s honestly just really fun, and that’s why I do it. It’s really fun.”
























THE GROWING OF A METEOROLOGIST
Sillin wakes as early as 5 a.m. to make his predictions every morning before school, and spends an additional two to three hours each day learning more about his craft.

“If it’s 75 and sunny, I’m not really gonna devote three hours to guring out 75 and sunny,” Jack said. “But if it’s a big storm — that’s where I really rack up the hours, guring everything out,” emphasising that there is no other way that he’d rather spend his time.
In his pursuit of meteorology, there are a few experiences that Jack expects to stay with him as he pursues the eld further. The most recent was Hurricane Sandy, in 2012: a category three hurricane at its peak that tore up huge sections of many Atlantic islands and the East Coast.

To a meteorologist, hurricanes are the jackpot, the créme de la créme of natural disasters from a scienti c standpoint: they are some of the most exciting and most powerful storms on record. When Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a tropical storm as it approached Maine, when Jack was still in middle school, he felt con icted. The meteorologist inside of him wanted to experience the brunt of the storm rst-hand, yet he realised that the destruction the storm in icted on other parts of the country was a tragedy for many families.
“We were really lucky to be spared that tragedy,” Jack said. “Back then, I was a little disappointed when it didn’t hit in its full glory in Maine. But today I know that we were lucky.”
Jack’s rst real-life experience with a superstorm wouldn’t come until over a year later, in the much-less-damaging blizzard of 2013 that dumped huge amounts of snow across New England. “I really devoted an insane amount of scienti c energy to that blizzard,” Jack said. “I was helped a lot by my family. They’ve really been supportive of what I’ve done, and they’ve really helped me become curious about what I love.”

THIS UPCOMING WINTER
As the months grow colder here in Maine, there has been an increasing amount of chatter about the severity of the upcoming Winter season. The Old Farmer’s Almanac — a source loathed by meteorologists, being based more on folklore than on observational science — has predicted a severely cold and snowy Winter in New England. This contrasts sharply with many climatologists’ predictions, who generally predict a more mild winter, partly due to the El Niño cycle which the world is experiencing. The El Niño and La Niña cycles have to do with the temperature of a speci c part of the Paci c Ocean, which has been observed to have distinct effects on climates throughout the globe.

“The Farmer’s Almanac is not based on science, and it shouldn’t really be trusted,” Sillin said. “The science of long-term forecasting is very new — we can’t predict sunny, cloudy, snowy, or rainy with any accuracy beyond seven days,” but he emphasised that we should trust those who have devoted their lives to these predictions.
“My knowledge resides more in day-to-day forecasting,” Jack said. “Look at the National Weather Service, the Climate Prediction Centre — those guys
know what they’re doing.”

MOVING FORWARD

In between cross-country running, hiking, and yes — high school classes — Jack looks forward to expanding on his initial success in forecasting. This year, Jack has created another digital medium for his forecasts, delivered by video daily to anyone who adds his username on Snapchat. Additionally, he intends to continue another project he started last year for North Yarmouth Academy classmates, which is to keep his school constantly posted on the chance of a snow day if there is an impending storm.
“Everyone really appreciates the snow days — it turns out that you really do get credit for getting the forecast right,” Sillin said. “I actually had a fan club at one point, after we had more than a few snow days...People do love it when I predict a snow day.”
To see Jack’s impressive work for yourself, click the Forecaster Jack link on our website, www.upportland.com. For Snapchat users, you can add @ wxguysillin for a daily weather update to your phone that is more accu- rate than some professional meteorologists. Additionally, watch for Jack’s weather column in future issues of Up Portland as well as his daily forecast, starting in December on our web page so you can say, “I read him before he was famous!”.

Peter Michalakes can be reached at pmichalakes16@wayn ete.org