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The Snow Guardian

Billy Barr observed the snow in a Colorado town for 40 years to pass the time. Then researchers stumbled on his data.

Scientists love him.

Every day for 40 years, Billy Barr has collected data about snow in the town of Gothic, Colorado, where he lives. He does it just to pass the time, but his data has been invaluable to climate scientists. Researchers at the Gothic-based Rocky Mountain Biological Lab stumbled upon Barr’s data and used it to find clear evidence of climate change.

The short film “The Snow Guardian,” from Day’s Edge Productions, centers on this fascinating man and the data he’s collected. He lives by himself in a remote cabin in Gothic, a town always hit hard by winter. Every day, he records figures like temperature and height of snow in a notebook. Through this firsthand experience, Barr has made long-term observations about climate change, too. “The trend I see is that we’re getting permanent snow pack later, and we get to bare ground sooner. We’ll have years where there was a lot of snow on the ground, and then we lose snow sooner than years that had a lot less snow just because it’s a lot warmer now,” he says.

In a typical winter, it’s normal to have four or five record-high temperatures. Last year, Barr recorded 36.