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MWO Celebrates a Big Anniversary in its Blustery History

Mount Washington, NH - Looking back to the meticulous recordings of Mount Washington Observatory’s mountaintop staff, April 12,1934 remains a remarkable event to be celebrated. On this date, forceful winds roared as Observers recorded an astonishing gust at 231 mph; a speed that still claims the World Record for the fastest surface gust on the planet.

The ability to measure accurate data is an essential component to the responsibilities of the Observers who live in the “world’s worst weather.” Recognized for having cold temperatures, deep snows, dense fog and heavy icing- it is actually the wind that brings the mountain to the record books. With such extreme conditions and such a rich history of data, keeping weather instruments in tact is crucial to generating accurate recordings. The historic April event was no different as the staff climbed onto the Observatory’s roof in winds over 160 miles per hour, knocking ice off the instruments guywires.

“It’s important to celebrate the anniversary of the world’s fastest surface wind gust, for both science and the Observatory as a non-profit organization,” states Scot Henley, the Observatory’s executive director. “April 12th serves as a reminder of the power of Mount Washington’s elements, and the dedication of Observatory staff to accurately record and document these elements for scientific purposes.”

Today’s mountaintop staff appreciates the efforts of those before them, and strives to emulate their commitment. “We take our duties very seriously, performing hourly observations to continue the record keeping at the summit,” explains Observer Jim Salge. “It's exciting, knowing that the weather can get that extreme, and that any developing storm could bring on the next world record.”

With decades of such precise data continuing to be compiled, the Mount Washington Observatory has established an imperative climatological record. With this strong foundation, the non-profit organization is able to analyze and understand climate change on a factual level. Among other innovative atmospheric and climate research initiatives, the Observatory is collaborating with the University of New Hampshire to research the interrelation between weather and climate by assessing levels of various air pollutants.

Despite the changes to equipment and development of research scope over the decades, the harsh weather on Mount Washington remains as fierce, and impressive, as ever. The Observatory’s Director of Summit Operations, Ken Rancourt, has nothing but respect for his predecessors on the mountain. “By the standards of today, the equipment they had – not to mention their living conditions here – were pretty primitive. But they really excelled at their job; the fact that they could help design and maintain an anemometer that proved accurate in measuring the highest wind on earth speaks volumes about their efforts."

Doubtless, on April 12th, the summit’s weather station Observers will stop for a moment of thought to pay their respects to their predecessors who clocked the fastest surface wind ever – and then get back to their mountain top duties tending to, what they loyally call, the “world’s worst weather.”

Mount Washington Observatory is a private, non-profit, member-supported organization with a mission to advance understanding of the natural systems that create the Earth's weather and climate. Since 1932, the Observatory has been monitoring the elements in one of the most extreme locations on Earth, using this unique site for scientific research and educational outreach. For more information visit, MountWashington.org

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