By Meghan Godby
Weather is all around us. It’s the fabric of small talk and the narrative of our morning coffee. But although we interact with it every day, it’s not something most people think about.
This isn’t the case for Ed Pearl, a Lakewood resident who has been practicing meteorology for decades. Ed grew up in Chicago but has lived in Lakewood since 1979. He’s drawn to the region for the same reasons many of us are - proximity to the mountains and convenience to downtown.
His interest in weather began in childhood.
“When I was 10, the forecast showed a high of 53 with a windy storm system to our north,” Ed remembers. “I was such an observer of weather, that I looked at the [clouds] outside [...] and grabbed my winter jacket.”
His schoolmates, dressed for warmer weather, gave him some strange looks. But Ed had faith in his early forecasting skills.
“When I got home from school, there was already four inches of snow on the ground.”
It’s a childhood dream that has blossomed into an extensive and impressive career.
“I started out at the University of Arizona - they had good courses in weather and climatology, which I found fascinating,” he said. “I basically set myself up to be a weather forecaster, but then I went to the University of Chicago and became a supervisory meteorologist in Ted Fujita’s group.”
If that name sounds familiar, it should. Over the course of several years, Ed and Ted developed what is known as the Fujita Scale, a sort of rating system for tornadoes.
“We would look at footage that people had taken while on the ground and measure objects flying around,” Ed explained. “Each frame is so many seconds apart, so we could use that to compute velocity.”
Based on velocity and wind speed data, they ranked tornadoes anywhere from an F1 to an F5, with F5 being the most severe. Photographs were taken both during and after the storm, which could later be used to correlate the damage associated with each step on the scale.
During that time, Ed accepted an offer for a position at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he worked on weather satellites that they were developing.
Shortly after, he moved to Colorado, where he began forecasting on radio and television (he worked on both Channel 4 and Channel 7 for a few years).
In fact, he knows all too well the crazy weather that Colorado can throw at us.
“The 1982 Christmas blizzard here, which was really amazing, [dumped] about two feet of snow at my house. About 36 hours before that, most of the weather forecasts were calling for snow showers. I kept looking at the charts going no, no, we’re going to have a major storm,” Ed recalls. “I called some of the major services including the National Weather Service and told them this looks serious.”
His passion and keen eye for detail eventually led him to a career as a consulting meteorologist, which he still does today.
And it’s given him the opportunity to work on some interesting projects - he’s done everything from forecast Broncos games to concerts at Red Rocks (which snagged him lunches with performers like Stevie Nicks and Willie Nelson).
But the most exciting?
“[Forecasting for] a trans-Pacific balloon flight from Japan to the United States,” Ed shared. “I met with their meteorological service - I was able to use some of their data and even taught them a few things. I worked on models of what type of weather pattern would get them across.”
The key was in finding the perfect jet stream - they needed enough force to make their journey, but not so much that they’d be flying into a massive storm. It was exciting but challenging.
“Trying to do that was really tricky,” Ed explained. “At times, I thought it was nearly impossible.”
But thanks to his accurate forecasting, the flight was successful and all passengers on board landed safe and sound.
In fact, Ed’s become known for his accurate forecasts. The clients he does work for are varied - one day he might be working for the Colorado Symphony (those fancy violins are very sensitive to weather), the next, an agricultural client. And there’s no need for elaborate advertising - lots of satisfied customers means he gets nearly all of his business through word of mouth.
He’s certainly busy, but manages to find time for other projects. He’s been working for the Harris Farmer’s Almanac since 1991, where he writes special articles and composes long-range forecasts. He also works as a meteorologist for Necrosearch International, a dedicated team of researchers that helps with unsolved murder cases.
And he doesn’t plan to change things anytime soon.
“I like what I’m doing,” Ed said. “I like my clients [...] If it’s running well, why ruin it? It keeps me nicely occupied. It’s an interesting business.”
There’s something to be said about doing what you love - especially if it’s a lifelong dream. While no one can say with 100 percent certainty what the future holds, with Ed’s passion, dedication and humor, the forecast is clear - his future is pretty bright.