“Christmas is not a time or season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
Tonight is the night… Filled with anticipation, we await the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Over the years the joyous event and spirit of the season have overflowed into other traditions, not primarily Christian in nature. On Christmas Eve children of all ages look to the skies hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive reindeer-pulled sleigh and its tireless jolly driver Santa Claus. This year a full moon may light the night sky and the lands beneath – with the exception of our location. A cold winter storm originating over the Gulf of Alaska is expected to spread across the Crescenta Valley foothills Christmas Eve and continue into Christmas Day. Along with gusty winds, much colder temperatures and a chance for rain and snow showers in the lower mountain elevations is forecast. A true gift… Christmas weather!
In the late 1950s two government agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) joined forces. Since in the late 20th century, NOAA maintained a satellite watch over the North Pole for weather conditions and other unusual activity. On Christmas Eve, NOAA helps NORAD monitor weather conditions and track Santa’s journey across the globe. One of the many ways NORAD tracks Santa is by using data from the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service’s two Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites. Because these satellites stay at a fixed spot and provide a complete view of the Earth’s surface, GOES are ideal for monitoring large-scale environmental phenomena. Most satellite images seen on the nation’s broadcast media and The Weather Channel are produced by GOES satellites. Usually, the infrared images they gather are “animated” to show the progression and movement of storms. On Christmas Eve, though, the infrared sensors onboard these satellites also pick up the heat radiation off of Rudolph’s red nose, thus allowing NOAA to assist NORAD in tracking Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. With national defense and weather under close surveillance, a calm holiday season is assured.
Why did a national defense agency (NORAD) begin tracking Santa? In 1955, as a result of a Sears Department Store misprint of Santa’s phone number, a child called asking for Santa Claus. NORAD’s Colonel Henry Shoup claimed, although not Santa, he could certainly track him. In the true spirit of Christmas, a tradition was born and continues on…
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.