Colorado weather watcher tracked climate, ecology for over 40 years

World Today

Colorado weather watcher tracked climate, ecology for over 40 years

It’s one of the most picturesque towns in America, and it has just one full-time resident. Billy Barr of Gothic, Colorado is a unusual character who’s kept detailed weather records for over four decades, work that’s helped give him a measure of notoriety.

CGNT’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

“I got here when I was 21, in 1972, and I haven’t gone anywhere. I haven’t experienced much. I just like this so much that I stayed,”  Barr said.

He lives by himself in this remote cabin, keeps plenty of food and wood stocked and grows his own vegetables. He’s become extremely self-reliant.

“Where I live, the weather dominates my life” 

It was during the harsh winters of the 1970’s that Billy began keeping track of that weather and animal sightings.

“It was mostly just curiosity. What was going on around me. So I would write down anything I saw,” Barr added.

He noted data in great detail in notebooks. High temperatures, low temperatures, snow totals, snow depth. He installed these instruments to help with his measurements.

That information directly relates to these hummingbirds at David Inouye’s property just down the road. Inouye studies the birds and the wildflowers upon which they feed. He says Billy’s long-term data has helped document how climate change has affected the flowers and the migration patterns of birds.

“So, now we have a 44-year record of how flowering is changing. There are not many people that have the good luck that we’ve had to have a personal weatherman right here living the same place for decades,” Ecologist David Inouye said.

Billy, who does part-time accounting at nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, says weather patterns have changed since he began keeping records.

“All of a sudden, 48 percent of the record highs have been since 2010 and 47 percent of the record lows were in the first 10 years that I did it,” Barr said.

In the past year, word about Billy’s exploits has finally gotten out. He’s been the subject of several news stories.

But he’s modest about the impact all his work has had.

“You’ve got data at the same site, in a remote site by the same person in the same location, using the same methods, and there’s something scientifically that’s valuable about that.” 

Billy Barr is 66-years-old now. He realizes his daily routine will change eventually.

“Anything can happen at this point. Alls I have to do is fall and break a leg, and I’m in town for the winter,” Barr said. 

Until then, he’ll keep his eyes on the skies and continue charting the weather that’s been so much a part of his unique existence.