January 26, 2012 | Vol. 42 No. 4

Vandals are likely culprits in destruction of weather station

As if the snow gauges and meteorological equipment didn’t have enough to deal with this winter, the weather station at the Haines School suffered a likely vandalism attack over the weekend that rendered it broken and useless.

“This was really vicious,” said Pam Randles with the Takshanuk Watershed Council.

Monday morning when students went out to the weather station, located at the far end of the playground, they found the thermometers, rain and snow gauges and other instruments gone. Randles said she dug around in the snow and found broken thermometers, leads to the thermometers and gauges yanked off their posts and other pieces missing.

The equipment was intact Friday morning, so Randles said the damage occurred late Friday or over the weekend. She believes the damage was intentional and not caused by wind or an animal.

“Moose don’t have thumbs to pull off leads from the digital thermometer,” she said.

Randles helps coordinate the weather station with teachers and students who use the instruments to record data for the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. It’s an international partnership between scientists and 1.5 million students around the world who track environmental and meteorological data used for scientific studies.

“But it’s also real stuff for kids to be learning from,” Randles said.

Students check the weather station each day. The fourth-graders are using the weather station observations in their clouds and contrails curriculum, the fifth-graders for their precipitation studies and the eighth-graders for their work with temperatures.

The GLOBE program provides the equipment but the school constructed a fence around the weather station so students could measure snow depths on untrampled ground.

Randles said she’ll have to order more equipment and the students will lose weeks of weather data.

But Randles is more upset by the senselessness of the damage. The school has been part of the GLOBE program since 1999 and the only other time Randles said the equipment was damaged was in the first year. Occasionally rain gauges will go missing, she said, because they are used by some as drug paraphernalia.

Randles reported the damage to police. Police Chief Gary Lowe said there is an active investigation ongoing. He said while he is assuming vandals caused the damage, he has not ruled out natural causes.