I'm Dave Thurlow for the Mount Washington Observatory and this is The Weather Notebook. Around the beginning of this century, there were few scientists who had much of an idea about how rain, hail, sleet, and snow form. It was, and still is, easy to get the general process of water vapor turning to liquid water or ice, but what happens at the instant when cloud droplets floating in the air, become a raindrop or a snowflake.
In 1885, a farmer from Jericho, Vermont asked the same question. Forty years later, this man with no high school education, received the first cash research prize ever awarded by the American Meteorological Society and was known around the world as Wilson Bentley, the Snowflake Man. Bentley spent his life taking thousands of detailed and beautiful photographs of snowflakes, recording in detail the nature of the storm that produced them. By 1905, he had theories about the role of ice crystals in the formation of snow and rain, and established basic temperature profiles of the sky above by simply examining what falls from it.
To this day, after years of high tech study, his findings have proven largely to be true. But in the early 1900's nobody in the scientific community paid Mr. Bentley any attention at all. Because he wrote about his work eloquently and emotionally, scientists thought he was a nut. But while many of his critic's names are buried away in the footnotes of weather research history, Snowflake Bentley's name lives on.
The Weather Notebook is produced by the Mount Washington Observatory...funded by The National Science Foundation and underwritten by Subaru, maker of the all Weather Legacy. Subaru -- the beauty of All-Wheel Drive.