Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

I know that it has long been an axiom to say “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute,” but come on. This winter has been surreal.

Even the “normal” days have been weird. There was a day last week that had literally just about everything you could imagine: fog, clouds, sun, rain – and as I write, my news feed is full of various predictions about what we should expect to hit us this week.

Having an accurate prediction matters. Think about the big storms we’ve seen this winter, the rivers flooding their banks and the coast being ravaged. As bad as the damage was, imagine what it would have been like if we hadn’t been warned.

Meteorology is a fascinating science and as we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I want to give a nod of grateful acknowledgment to one group who pioneered advances in the science: the Tuskegee Airmen.

Honestly, we can never give enough credit to these men and what they accomplished.

Despite facing not only the horrors of war, but open hostility and discrimination on the home front, this troop excelled. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “992 pilots graduated … flew 1,578 missions and 15,533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft and won more than 850 medals.” Along the way, they also created the Tuskegee Weather Detachment, a group of (originally) 15 men who had to quickly complete the rigorous course of study for accurate weather prognostication in order to create safe, reliable flight plans for their comrades.


One of these men, Charles E. Anderson, went on to become the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in meteorology. He was a trailblazer.

Shockingly close in terms of timeline was the astounding June Bacon-Bercey. Fascinated by weather science as a young girl, she attended UCLA where, according to an interview with her daughter published by the CW39 Houston TV station,  her college adviser suggested she drop out of her major and study home economics instead. Thankfully, she did not.

Instead she went on to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the Atomic Energy Commission, returning to meteorology in the 1960s. She then became the first female African American meteorologist to be “on air” when, in a bizarre twist, the regular weatherman at the TV station where she worked was arrested for robbing a bank and they needed someone to take over quickly. When the moment presented itself, she rose to the challenge.

Last February, The Washington Post profiled three astounding women of color following in Bacon-Bercey’s footsteps and changing the landscape of meteorology: Veronica Johnson, Karlene Chavis and Betty Davis. These amazing women are advancing science and dedicated to making climate news understandable.

Reading the profiles, of course I am inspired. These women are smart, educated, visionary and profoundly bold in determining their lives and direction. They are amazing.

I am also really discouraged. Their stories highlights again and again how much harder than their peers they have had to work to get where they are. There is nothing equal about their experiences getting into their profession, or their current day-to-day.

There are so many challenges facing our world. The weather is certainly one of the biggest. Climate change is making storms bigger, more intense, more destructive. Sea levels are rising and weather patterns are changing. The seasonal shifts we have taken for granted for so long are now less dependable.

If we are going to navigate this hot mess, we are going to need all the smart science-minded people we can get. So, I offer my thanks to all those out there doing the work. I offer my admiration to those who first carved space for people who had been excluded, and I offer my hopes we will do better.

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