Yarmouth teenager makes weather his passion

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YARMOUTH — Jack Sillin’s Wednesday weather forecast for the top of Mount Washington wasn’t too unusual.

“We’re probably looking at winds of 40 mph at the summit gusting to 60 mph with light rain on and off,” he said.

What isn’t ordinary is Sillin. 

He’s only 16 years old and a senior at North Yarmouth Academy. He and his blog, forecasterjack.com, have gained recognition and praise from meteorologists across the globe. 

From interviews with news media and an invitation to Atlanta to tour the Weather Channel’s headquarters, to being named Maine’s Best Meteorologist of 2015 by Down East Magazine, Sillin’s expertise – and following – continue to grow. 

“It was nice to be in a place with like-minded individuals,” Sillin said of his 2013 trip to Atlanta. “It’s a small pool (of like-minded high school students) in Maine.”

To add to the list, he was invited to the Mount Washington Weather Observatory by Research Director Eric Kelsey to tour the facility and “talk shop.”

“They get some pretty crazy weather up there. It’s kind of a rare confluence of various factors that magnifies everything,” Sillin said on Monday. 

For Sillin’s hike up the summit – what he called a destination for weather folk – he was accompanied by Ian Ramsey, director of the Kauffmann Program for Environmental Writing and Wilderness Exploration at NYA, and photographer Brian Beard of Creative Images Photography.

The trip only took a day, and Sillin expected to back in time for class on Thursday morning. 

As if balancing school work, his blog, and after-school sports wasn’t enough to keep Sillin busy, he has also added two part-time jobs to the mix. 

He writes a monthly weather column and, since February, has been writing daily national weather updates for the Swiss-based company Meteologix, as its only U.S.-based employee. 

“It’s early mornings and long days,” Sillin said. “But I’ve learned so much.” 

A passion like his is what Sillin admits is “abnormal” for someone his age. He said his infatuation with weather began when he was 7, watching The Weather Channel on a cross-country flight.

“About 25 hours of Weather Channel later, I thought ‘this is kind of interesting,'” Sillin said. His curiosity for all weather systems was solidified during the Patriots’ Day nor’easter of 2007. 

Sillin and his family were sitting inside their Yarmouth home when a tree came down in their yard, missing their home by 10 feet. 

“I was in awe,” Sillin said. “As a little kid you look up at these trees that are 60- to 80-feet tall and think ‘these are unstoppable,’ and all of the sudden it splinters like a twig. I thought ‘What kind of power can do that?'”

The answer, Sillin said, was simple: weather.

“I’ve been asking questions ever since then,” he said. 

Sillin this week said his friends, teachers, and family have all been incredibly supportive through the years as these questions and dreams have developed. 

His father, Peter, was the first to suggest Sillin create a Twitter account when he was only 11. Since, Sillin has racked up almost 2,000 followers – including WCSH and WLBZ chief meteorologist Todd Gutner, The Weather Channel’s senior digital meteorologist Jonathan Erdman, and CBS Boston’s chief meteorologist, Eric Fisher. 

“A lot of (my meteorological knowledge) has been self-taught, (but) I’ve (also) been lucky enough to interact through Twitter with a lot of really knowledgeable people,” Sillin said. 

Part of the learning process, Sillin said, is making mistakes. He learned that the hard way on Feb. 15, 2015 – a date that is “burned” into his memory. 

“We had a nor’easter coming in and the weather service forecast was for 1 to 2 feet (of snow),” Sillin said. “I saw a few things that may have pointed to lesser snowfall amounts, so my forecast was only 8 to 12 (inches), but we got 1 inch. For a 12-hour forecast, that’s pretty bad.” 

Sillin allowed himself to be upset for a little while, but then went back to the drawing board to figure out where he went wrong and how he could ensure the same mistake wouldn’t be made twice. 

“I wrote a blog post explaining to everyone how I messed up,” he said. “Weather prediction is inherently imperfect … the nature of the atmosphere is a chaotic and nonlinear system … Mother Nature is always going to win, you just have to make sure she doesn’t run up the score.” 

Looking toward the future, Sillin said he plans to apply to colleges in the northeast with meteorology programs in pursuit of a career in the field. He said he’s never been drawn to the broadcasting side, and would like to work more behind the scenes, focusing more in-depth on the math and science behind weather patterns. 

“I try to bridge the gap between all of the data we have and people who are interested in that data,” Sillin said. “I’ve dug deeper than a lot of people would think to dig, so I try to show people that it’s really not as complicated as it sounds … there’s a level ( to meteorology) that most people can understand.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Yarmouth’s Jack Sillin, 16, known as “Forecaster Jack,” toured the Mount Washington weather observatory on Wednesday, Sept. 20.