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Iowa has new state climatologistIowa has new state climatologist

Justin Glisan is hired as new state climatologist at Iowa Department of Agriculture.

Rod Swoboda 1

June 14, 2018

3 Min Read
WEATHER TRACKER: “The state climatologist monitors the weather to create weekly, monthly and annual reports, providing helpful information for Iowa farmers and others,” says retired state climatologist Harry Hillaker.

A new state climatologist, Justin Glisan, has been hired by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. He started May 29 and replaces Harry Hillaker, who retired earlier this year following a 37-year career with IDALS.

“The weather is always a lively topic of conversation and we are excited to have Dr. Glisan on board in this important role,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “The state climatologist ensures we have comprehensive weather records for the state, so we can put current weather events in the correct historical context.”

As state climatologist, Glisan will compile and process Iowa climate data for current and future weather data research needs. This includes preparing the weekly weather summary for the Iowa Crop Progress and Condition Report from April 1 through Nov. 30, and the monthly Iowa weather summary.

Justin Glisan

Glisan, a 2012 Iowa State University graduate, continued as a postdoctoral atmospheric scientist until he was hired as a weather research scientist by ISU. He’s participated in many research projects at ISU and the University of Missouri, including in-depth research on extreme precipitation and temperature extremes and their causal mechanisms.

Harrry Hillake

Hillaker was only the second person to hold the position of state climatologist for Iowa. He became state climatologist in 1988, succeeding Paul Waite who served from 1976 to 1988. A Texas native and University of Texas graduate, Hillaker left his resume with Waite in January 1981.

“Paul called me six months later and asked if I was still looking for a job,” Hillaker says. “He asked if I was interested in a three-month research project. I said yes, and much to my surprise that led to a second, third and fourth grant. They were rather small, but it kept me employed for about six and a half years.”

Keeping track of unusual weather
Hillaker recalls years of unusual weather events in Iowa. “The drought really got going in the warm and dry spring of 1988, and lack of water got worse in 1989,” he says. He received many calls from news media and others seeking information. “There were times when I came in at 7:30 in the morning, worked all day and all night, and didn’t go home until the second night just trying to keep up with all the data requests.”

Those were pre-Internet years. As reporters, ag leaders and others around Iowa and the nation fretted about the failure of corn and soybean crops, it was Hillaker who kept and dispensed the crucial data.

He says the floods of 1993 involved more areas of the state, but weren’t as severe as the Cedar River flood of 2008, which drowned parts of Cedar Rapids and other eastern Iowa areas.

“The Parkersburg and Little Sioux tornadoes in summer of 2008 were probably the two biggest fatality-producing storms in the time I’ve been here,” Hillaker says. “We also tied the state record for lowest temperature when Elkader got down to 47 degrees below zero on Feb. 3, 1996.” Atlantic set an Iowa record when 13.14 inches of rain fell on the Cass County town on June 14, 1998.

Hillaker, who became fascinated with weather when he was in elementary school, still does some climate research, even in retirement. He started keeping weather records when he was 10 years old and is continuing as one of two state coordinators for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. The network of volunteer weather observers in the U.S., Canada and Bahamas takes daily readings of precipitation and reports them to a central data store via the Internet.

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda 1

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Rod, who has been a member of the editorial staff of Wallaces Farmer magazine since 1976, was appointed editor of the magazine in April 2003. He is widely recognized around the state, especially for his articles on crop production and soil conservation topics, and has won several writing awards, in addition to honors from farm, commodity and conservation organizations.

"As only the tenth person to hold the position of Wallaces Farmer editor in the past 100 years, I take seriously my responsibility to provide readers with timely articles useful to them in their farming operations," Rod says.

Raised on a farm that is still owned and operated by his family, Rod enjoys writing and interviewing farmers and others involved in agriculture, as well as planning and editing the magazine. You can also find Rod at other Farm Progress Company activities where he has responsibilities associated with the magazine, including hosting the Farm Progress Show, Farm Progress Hay Expo and the Iowa Master Farmer program.

A University of Illinois grad with a Bachelors of Science degree in agriculture (ag journalism major), Rod joined Wallaces Farmer after working several years in Washington D.C. as a writer for Farm Business Incorporated.

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