The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium has been a weather observation site continuously since March 1894. Even before Franklin Fairbanks founded the Museum, he kept meticulous weather records at his family home in St. Johnsbury, Vermont during the 1850's and 1860's. Shortly after the Museum doors opened in 1891, Museum staff kept recording daily weather statistics for the newly formed Weather Bureau.
Data still kept at the Museum such as maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, relative humidity, wind direction and speed, barometric pressure and general character of the day represent the longest continuous record of weather at the same location in Vermont. In 1948, Fred Mold became the director of the Fairbanks Museum. Mold shared a passion for weather phenomena and natural history with the Museum's founder, Franklin Fairbanks. He took advantage of an important technology, newly available to the northern Vermont region – radio. WTWN was the first local broadcasting station, and Mold initiated three-minute weather reports three times a day. Together with his Museum staff, Mold brought the Museum's weather observation and reporting system to a more efficient, professional level.Part of the popularity of these early broadcasts came from Mold's folksy style, peppering his forecasts with local stories, bird calls, and nature lore. This tradition of bringing history and folklore into weather broadcasts continues today, with the addition of agricultural, recreational, and astronomical information, and remains one of its most distinctive features.
Meteorologists Mark Breen and Steve Maleski became familiar voices in December 1981 with the debut of "Eye on the Sky" weather forecasts, which launched the partnership between the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium and Vermont Public Radio (VPR).
"Eye on the Sky" provides region-wide detailed weather information complemented by science, history, astronomy, and lore. Meteorologists gather information from various online sources and from a network of dedicated weather observers to produce accurate, local weather forecasts covering the tri-state region of Vermont, New Hampshire, and northern New York, as well as parts of southern Québec, and northern Massachusetts.
"Eye on the Sky" is produced seven days a week at the Museum and broadcast by VPR, where it is heard by more than 150,000 listeners throughout Vermont and the surrounding region. The program continues to evolve and currently includes special features focusing on farm and garden information, seasonal recreation, storm coverage and a focus on what comes up when the sun goes down, "Eye on the Night Sky".
Mark Breen is the senior meteorologist at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, and for over 30 years he has been heard on Vermont Public Radio's an "Eye on the Sky" each weekday morning. Along with weather forecasting, his work at the Museum involves teaching weather and science, as well as serving as the Planetarium Director in Vermont's only public planetarium. You can now hear Mark weekday afternoons on VPR, as he guides listeners through observable stars and constellations in "Eye on the Night Sky", at 4:30 PM.
Mark Breen was involved with community theater while a student at Lyndon State College in the meteorology program. Friends and family in Vermont and his love of the outdoors brought him to the Fairbanks Museum in 198, where he and Steve Maleski embarked on what would become an institution for weather fans. "In Vermont, in particular, weather plays a big role in the economy," says Mark. "I enjoy wonderful conversations with farmers, skiers, factory managers, teachers, hang-gliders, bicyclists, hunters, hikers, just to name a few. They each help me understand the different parts of the weather that affect their activities, which in turn helps me to focus on certain aspects of the weather, say the wind, or humidity, or temperature."
Originally from Dannemora, NY, Mark has lived in Vermont since attending Lyndon State College, where he graduated in 1982 with a B.S. in meteorology. He has been featured in a number of magazines, including Vermont Life, where he contributes to the Vermont Life Weather Calendar, and has occasionally appeared on Vermont Public Television. He is the author of the popular kids book, The Kid's Book of Weather Forecasting. Lawrence Hayes first joined the Eye on the Sky team as an intern in the summer of 2008, while he was studying Atmospheric Sciences at Lyndon State College. His academic research topics included cloud microphysics, the effect of soil moisture gradients on thunderstorm development, and the climatology of cold-air outbreak over the northeastern United States. “I’ve been somewhat obsessed with weather from an early age,” he says. “So I took an affliction and turned it into a career. I really enjoy the eclectic mix of co-workers here at the Fairbanks Museum. I also enjoy being able to work in such a historic building.” When Lawrence isn’t forecasting the weather, he enjoys playing board games with his wife Julie, watching B movies, taking photographs, playing guitar (badly), and tending ornamental plants (jade trees are his favorite). For Steve Maleski, the journey to St. Johnsbury seems almost fated from an early memory when he was five and he witnessed an approaching thunderstorm with the same awe and wonder he brings to broadcasts today. "At that moment I remember thinking, 'I'm going to be a weatherman,' almost as if someone were speaking to me. From that time, I always knew what I wanted to do." Steve also found the meteorology program at Lyndon State offered the right mix of academic challenge in a beautiful setting. Except for a brief stint in Atlanta, Steve has lived in the Northeast Kingdom since 1978.