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Thread: forecast for the higher summits

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    Default forecast for the higher summits

    In the weather section of Mountwashington.org where they list weather forecast for higher summits, are we just talking about the 5000+ foot peaks of the Presidential range or any mountain over 4,000 feet? How high is high enough to be considered higher summits?

    I'm thinking of peaks like Mount Osceloa, Mount Garfield and such. Are they higher summits?


    David

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    Good question David. The higher summits outlook is defined as peaks over 4000 feet in NH but the forecast itself is centered on Mount Washington since the numbers we use are for the summit station. While centered on Mt Washington, the numbers hold true for all other peaks that are above 4000 feet, especially those that are above treeline. Weather will typically improve the lower in elevation you go, not always, but typically. So, one can look at the forecast numbers being produced by MWO as the upper scale as to what to expect. To get numbers on the lower end of the scale, when I go out hiking, I use our numbers and contrast them with that of NWS's higher summits forecast (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/view/validPr...=REC&node=KGYX). Their numbers are for a larger forecast area and tend to be on the far lower end of the spectrum. So the best thing to do is take both into consideration (ours and NWS's). Odds are the summit conditions of any given peak will be somewhere between the two forecasts. Think of it as a best case vs worst case scenario then prepare for both. Heck, even take a computer forecast for Mt Washington or its zip code of 03589, like that provided by weather.com or accuweather.com (or others), for just another opinion. It will be the least accurate but when it comes to weather on the higher summits, the more opinions you have the better.

    Hope this helps and thanks again for your question.
    Ryan Knapp
    Staff Meteorologist/Night Observer, KMWN (Mt Washington Obs., NH)

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    You can also use the (near) real-time mesonet for other station indicators. The one on Cannon is particularly useful as a second (near) real-time data point to compare with the OBS, and at some 2200 feet lower.

    It has been said by many hikers, especially winter ones, that NOAA is pessimistic. I tend to agree. I will often make an attempt to hike on marginal days (staying home on bad ones) with the intent of turning back if things are worse than forecast, only to find they are often better than forecast. Care to comment on that, Ryan?

    It should also be noted that when the Mount Washington forecast is inhospitable, there are dozens of lower-elevation peaks which are more, if not completely, sheltered, that can be done both safely and comfortably. Garfield (your example) is above treeline, but for only the shortest of time. Maybe West Bond is the only one with open 360 views and even less of a retreat to the trees.

    Your direction of travel can also make a huge difference on the safety and comfort of the day. I've done the Southern Presidentials and Franconia Ridge on very cold (single digit), pretty windy (30-40) days. If the winds are prevailing (WNW) then heading up to Monroe and down towards Pierce, or up Lafayette and down towards Lincoln (Little Haystack) keeps the wind behind you, which is far more comfortable and less work than in your face.

    There are many factors to consider...

    Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    ...It has been said by many hikers, especially winter ones, that NOAA is pessimistic. I tend to agree. I will often make an attempt to hike on marginal days (staying home on bad ones) with the intent of turning back if things are worse than forecast, only to find they are often better than forecast. Care to comment on that, Ryan?
    It varies from day to day and system to system. Like I mentioned, NWS in Gray, ME is forecasting for most of NH and a significant portion of the western part of ME. Anyone living in these areas knows how varied the weather can be in a very short range. So to put out one product covering such a large area for two sets of elevations (0-4000ft and 4000+ft), its tough to be spot on all the time. And, when it comes to winter summit weather, I agree with them that it's better to side on the worst case scenario and have people be overly prepared only to be disappointed. And like I mentioned, between our forecast and NWS's, you can usually get a fairly good idea as to what to expect and prepare. But ultimately, it comes down to reality versus a forecast. Not matter what we or NWS or others say, it comes down to the end user to make descisions prior to their trip and then on the fly and adjust accordingly. Things can change quickly and they don't always go as we forecasted or as you plan. The key is to do as you say, turn back if things are worse than forecasted and if things are better, continue on and poke fun at the forecast after the fact. All any of us can do is try.
    Ryan Knapp
    Staff Meteorologist/Night Observer, KMWN (Mt Washington Obs., NH)

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    Thanks, Ryan.

    I will point out that the forecast from NOAA is only for about +36 hours (right Ryan?) and beyond that it is a computer model. This is why every winter hiker is all excited on Wednesday or Thursday when the weekend forecast is showing "Presie Day" and then Friday/Sat the wind is honking. I.e., if you look at the NOAA hourly weather graphs, beyond about 36 hours out, the wind (in particular) is not really accurate - and you can often see it will drop from 70MPH to 10MPH in an hour or two which is just not realistic. Do not be fooled by this. It made many a person unhappy this winter, myself included.

    Tim

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    Thanks, Ryan.

    I will point out that the forecast from NOAA is only for about +36 hours (right Ryan?) and beyond that it is a computer model. This is why every winter hiker is all excited on Wednesday or Thursday when the weekend forecast is showing "Presie Day" and then Friday/Sat the wind is honking. I.e., if you look at the NOAA hourly weather graphs, beyond about 36 hours out, the wind (in particular) is not really accurate - and you can often see it will drop from 70MPH to 10MPH in an hour or two which is just not realistic. Do not be fooled by this. It made many a person unhappy this winter, myself included.

    Tim

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    Yes, the NWS (a subset of NOAA) has the short term forecast which, like I already mentioned, is provided here: http://www.weather.gov/view/validPro...=REC&node=KGYX which forecasts for all summits in NH and western ME. And like I already mentioned, it's not as accurate since their forecast area is larger but it good for a second opinion 36 hours out. But, they also provide a "long term" model forecast (this is a preview of thier new layout: http://preview.weather.gov/wtf/MapCl...6&lon=-71.3047) like any other weather site you're comfortable with that might provide 5, 7, 10, or 15+ days out. And I do suggest using them, although, if you are going to use a modeled forecast for longer term, use our zip of 03589 and not "mt washington, nh" since our zip code provides a more accurate model translation than the "city" name which puts our location lower and more northwest than we actually are due to the algorithm they and others use. But even our zip code algorithm puts us in a lower elevation bracket. That is why conditions long term models are always milder and not as accurate overall. But, it is always good to use the computed forecasts for a rough idea of the big weather picture but it shouldn't be used for long term temperature and winds. What I mean is, if the computer models are saying 100% of rain/snow/thunderstorms/etc for the summit, Conway, and Berlin, odds are something will be coming for that day. However, the winds and temperatures will not be accurate until 36 hour out when humans at NWS and ourselves start fine tuning the numbers for the higher summits. So, do a mix of both, look long term, but continue to check until you reach that 36 hour window then start fine tuning as needed. And always have a plan B if you are determined to hike on any given day.

    But, I always suggest that the best way to know what the weather will be on any given day is to not look at the future but to look at the past. And there are several places to further anyone's research into what to expect on your future hiking dates so you make an informed decision on which day/days to venture out on the mountain tops. So the first place to check out is our normals, means and extremes page: http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/normals.php to give you a better idea of what is considered average and extremes that the month can provide. Next up are our monthly F-6's: http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/f6/. These are the weather stats for each month/day over past five plus years. This is the clearest view of what to expect on average. If a particular day over the past five or so years has been 30F with 50 mph winds, odds are, statistically, that it will be like that this year. And if you want to see what the forecasts were for those days were, you can check those at: http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/summit.php. This way you can see what weather was forecasted to produce that outcome. If a past forecast said a low was going to pass and caused that weather and the current forecast calls for something similar, odds are, again statistically speaking, that the weather outcome will be the same. And as always, on the days leading up to your trips, you keep an eye on our forecast for the summits here: http://www.mountwashington.org/weath...t_forecast.php and our extended forecast for valleys for a rough idea of what the weather pattern might be here: http://www.mountwashington.org/weath...y_forecast.php.
    Ryan Knapp
    Staff Meteorologist/Night Observer, KMWN (Mt Washington Obs., NH)

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