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Observer Comments

March 2007

07:52 Fri Mar 30th

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Sad snowfields sunrise...

I think that this is the longest stretch of fogless weather that I’ve seen on the peak since October. Clear skies and clear horizons were the dominant (lack of) weather reported yesterday in our observations, and views extended right to Mount Whiteface in New York at sunset last night. No fog since our arrival midday Wednesday!

Having not caught a sunset in some time up here, it was amazing to me how far the sun has transited north on the horizon since the dead of winter. Whereas seemingly three sunsets ago in late January the sun was setting behind Killington and Pico from our vantage, it has now moved almost as far north at Mount Mansfield and Stowe. And the sun feels warm now, despite temperatures holding around 10 degrees yesterday; you couldn’t help but feel it a bit warmer as the sun shone brightly.

A warm sun, and general lack of snow, as seen in this morning’s sunrise picture above, has the crew up here thinking ahead to our big summer fundraiser for the Mount Washington Observatory. Seek the Peak, scheduled for July 27th through 28th this year, has a great new line-up, prizes and events, all while bringing people together who love the mountain and value the work of the member supported Observatory.

By visiting SeekthePeak.org, you can find out how you can participate, set up a fundraising page, and support others who are taking on the challenge. You can also talk to others about the event in our Seek the Peak Forum. We hope that you mark your calendars, start training, pledge support and we’ll see you at the event!

Jim Salge – Observer

18:22 Wed Mar 28th

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A bare stretch of road...

After a nice week in the valley, with mild temperatures, melting snow, corn slopes and a general spring like feel, we find ourselves in an alternate universe now back on the summit. Temperatures are plummeting from their overnight highs near the freezing mark, and windchills combine for temperatures near -30F. I’m not sure it’s a cure for spring fever, but it’s certainly a reality check for the upcoming crew.

Until today’s cold outbreak, the warm weather this past week really worked havoc on the slopes of the mountain. With little snow above treeline to begin with, we found the landscape along the Autoroad rather abnormal for this time of year. On the trip up today, we took the truck to 2 miles up the road, and beyond that, we found long bare spots usually covered with feet of drift. Moreover, lots of rock and exposed vegetation on slopes typically skied this time of year. It was very much a spring-like trip back to winter. The ravines are still good, but otherwise, the snow is all down in the trees. Very strange…

This week’s summit crew will be summarizing the March data over the coming days, and we’ll have a comprehensive report on this winter’s snow in a few days. However, we can’t count out April (or May). A lot can happen on Mount Washington between now and Memorial Day weekend, the traditional end of winter!

Jim Salge – Meteorologist

23:51 Mon Mar 26th

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The Citadel

It's important not to become complacent of the weather up here. We live in this citadel atop the highest peak in the northeast and go out every hour just to make sure it's still weathering out there, but we don't always stray too far. Every once in a while, it's good to remind yourself why people get lost and in trouble on this mountain (without doing so yourself).

Jon woke up this evening and asked if I wanted to go on a hike with him over to Clay. I had nearly asked him the same question last night, but got to doing work instead so tonight I was more than ready. Since mid-afternoon we have been in wicked thick fog – visibility limited to a mere 20 feet at times. Heading outside, we found this to be one of those times, except that now there was a light rain pattering on our jackets as well. The rocks appeared safe to step on, but occasionally deceived us with their coat of ice. Certainly not the safest conditions to be going out in, but we were prepared with appropriate gear including layers, water, radios, and a little plastic skull that glowed red at random times attached to the back of Jon's pack.

I followed Jon who followed the cairns of rock in front of us. After a time, I asked Jon if he was able to see the next cairn with his light because I was having difficulty making them out until I was about on top of them. My lamp simply illuminated the cloud we walked in, allowing me to see a solid 10 feet or so. He admitted we were walking by educated guesses. Within the next minute our educated guesses led us astray and we were cairnless. Knowing our general direction, we hiked further down towards the Great Gulf, knowing that to our right were the cog tracks if nothing else. Search as we might, we eventually reached the edge of the gulf without ever finding another cairn. We hiked up and scoured around, searching for the Gulfside Trail, and eventually found a cairn next to the cog tracks.

Now what. We can't see more than 10 or 15 feet, the next cairn is surely further than that, and we don't know what direction it is in. I stay put for a bit and allow Jon to search and then go search myself. We never find it. We don't even find the one we found. We start walking up the summit cone, looking as we go for rock piles in this mass of rocks. We eventually give in and set to hiking up the cog tracks themselves. I take out my harmonica and play a short train song, chugging up the tracks and the wailing of a lost trail whistle. Could there really be a more appropriate time? After a while, we decide to walk again on the ground, and do so until the top. We don't see the lights of the observatory until we are perhaps 200 feet from it. Within 30 feet of the building we found our first cairn. Finally home, we came in to dry off after a wonderful, needed hike.

Mike Finnegan – Summit Intern

19:06 Sat Mar 24th

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Good day for a nap

Today is quite a change from yesterday. For one, it's Saturday instead of Friday. But even more outstanding than that is the fact we can see further than a couple hundred feet. We spent yesterday in the fog while images from the west-facing webcams showed clear skies except for a cloud layer on top of us. It was not all so bad though; being in the fog does make taking an observation quite easy and gave us a chance to practice our rime-whacking techniques up on the tower. After getting a midnight snack with Jon, we came up to do our presumed fog-ob…walking outside we found ourselves in the clear. Having not planned on this, we hadn't left ourselves much time, so Jon grabbed the sling psychrometer and took the ob while I ran inside, collected the inside data, and changed the thermograph and Hays wind chart. Now that's some teamwork…

At 11:00 this morning visibility had increased to 100 miles, temperatures were in the low twenties, and winds were howlin' out of the northwest at a steady 7 miles an hour. I had the opportunity to talk with some nice folks from Bangor, ME up for their first winter hike. We talked about the sling psychrometer and how the difference between the wet bulb and dry bulb temperatures are used to determine the dew point, how the band of altostratus off to our west over the New York/Vermont border would make its way towards us to bring us snow tonight, how the short length of the airplane's contrail above us told of the dry air in the upper atmosphere. There's always something to learn outside – you just have to get out there and look.

Well, it's now 11:45…time to go see what has changed since last hour.

Mike Finnegan – Summit Intern

19:12 Thu Mar 22nd

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No Fog?

Our snowpack, although still present, continues to dwindle. Unfortunately, the morning rain and fog, and much of the same this evening, will only accelerate the process. There is still hope of stopping this though, as a cold front will push through tonight and usher in some colder air, which will act to freeze up the snowpack and stop its impending slow death. I do not intend to imply that winter weather is over; it is just the first time that I have seen the contrast of snow and ice covered rocks going to bare rocks and grasses overnight. I guess it is that time of year though to start complaining about winter slowly losing its grasp on the summit and watching our skiing opportunities slowly start to slip away.

The summit broke free of the fog for a few hours today allowing for a short walk down the auto road and glimpses into the eastern snowfields. There was a lone skier that I saw take a few runs in the snowfields, and judging by the looks of the snow and his tracks, all hope is not yet lost; there is plenty of spring skiing still to be done up here in the mountains. Seeing this I decided to go get my gear and have a quick run, but just my luck…the fog rolled back in. Maybe next time I suppose!

Kyle Paddleford – Observer

08:13 Wed Mar 21st

Here we are again. It only seems like yesterday that we were at the summit. But our last stint as volunteers was in June. Now we've been back for a week of winter, where the weather varied from utterly still, white winter weather to winds whipping up to 100 miles per hour. But we did not sit still. From Judy's focaccias and pizzas and Leslie's cakes and meatloaf we had the oven cranking. In addition to the staff and intern and two visiting German university students here for the entire week, we had an EduTrip of 11, a DayTrip of 6 and a hiking group of eight, as well as other sundry individuals, we cooked, baked and washed an army's worth of dishes. We started off the week putting away a huge food order designed to stock the pantry for more than two months -- including two 50-pound sacks of flour, two 25-pound bags of sugar, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

But don't think that we didn't have fun. Jim gave us a basic lesson in walking in crampons, and Leslie ventured out for walks down the auto road and short hikes on nearby trails. It was inside the modest living quarters of the Observatory, however, that we discovered our inner dancer. Inspired by a viewing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 'Top Hat,' we practiced our soft shoe. Judy found an ersatz 'boa' in the closet -- almost as glamorous as Ginger Rogers' evening gowns -- and we plotted a Summit musical. Mops and brooms will be fine substitutes for the canes used in a dance number in 'Top Hat.' But the piece de resistance was Judy's idea that we tie on our crampons to tap dance our way across the observatory. We're planning dance number to herald the daily 'changing of the guard' of the observers at 4:30 a.m.

In all, the spirit of the week was one of irrational exuberance (Alan Greenspan, eat your heart out).

And finally, our motto. In looking for the best way to store an opened package of walnuts, Judy suggested a clear, ZipLoc bag. And thus we knew: When Judy and Leslie are at the Summit, the nuts are out in the open.

Judy Richardi and Leslie Adler – Summit Volunteers

10:39 Tue Mar 20th

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Halo Over the Summit...

Yesterday was a fantastic day for hiking around the White Mountains, with light winds and partly cloudy skies becoming overcast towards the afternoon. Jim was feeling a little under the weather, so I took over the observations for most of the day, which forced me outside at least once an hour to get some great views and much needed time away from the computer screen. As a thin layer of cirrostratus clouds moved in during the afternoon, a nearly perfect halo formed around the sun. Halos typically form when light rays from the sun are refracted by ice crystals associated with thin, high level clouds, such as cirrostratus. This event lasted for several hours and made for some great pictures, as you can see.

The vernal equinox occurs at 8:07 EDT this evening, which means the first full day of spring comes tomorrow. You wouldn’t know it on the summits though, as today we are gusting to over 100mph, with temperatures near 0 degrees and light snow. Mother nature does appear to be trying to help us out a though, as temps will begin to rise overnight tonight, and winds will lighten up enough to make shift change day and the first day of spring actually feel like spring here on the summit. At least, that is what the magic 8 ball says….

Brent Antkowiak – Summit Intern

07:34 Mon Mar 19th

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Lion Head Whiteout...

Yesterday, photographer José Azel arrived at the Mount Washington Observatory. After breakfast, he asked me if I want to join him on a hike around Mt. Washington. So we started our Tour at 9:00 am and went down to Huntington Ravine. The wind speed was about 35mph and the temperature was around 0F. Sometimes, the sun broke through the clouds and spend us a fantastic light. From Huntington Ravine we hiked on the Alpine Garden Trail to Lion’s Head. The weather got worse, the wind speeded up to 60 mph and the visibility was very bad. From Lion’s Head we climbed up to the summit and it was nearly impossible to see the next cairn. The other point was, that José had problems with his crampons and lost them several times. But after a short break with cold tea, we reached the summit. It was an exciting trip and I love this mountain more and more.

In the night from Saturday to Sunday, I slept outside in my sleeping bag. The reason was, to measure some temperatures. So I fixed one data-logger inside and the other one on the outer shell of the bag. When I went out for sleeping at 10 pm, the temperature was only 25F, not cold enough for the test, I thought. But when I got up at 5 am it was -5F. I felt pretty warm inside my sleeping bag, although it is only rated till 0F. This night, I also want to sleep outside. But we have hurricane force wind up to 90mph. I think that might be a little bit to dangerous and my girlfriend can set up her mind at rest. It’s a pity, but maybe tomorrow.

Rene Pollrich – Visiting Researcher

05:30 Sun Mar 18th

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Sliding rime...

Yesterday was a rather frustrating day at the Observatory for a number of reasons. First off, and likely most notable for those who checked in during the storm yesterday, the weather wrecked havoc on our internet link. Water got into a connector in the antenna cable, and that was the end of it. After many hours working on the wire, and working with a soldiering gun that just couldn’t keep up with the wind, we had a breakthrough around 8PM last night, and things now seem (temporarily?) normal. We will be replacing the entire cable, and reconfiguring the connections on the next ‘nice’ day.

Next frustration…no internet meant no radar, no satellite, no forecast. In other words, we had a very real sense of the present and no real future. Yesterday we became a throwback, a very much 'back-to-basics' weather Observatory. It was kind of nice for ourselves, but we also realized how much people look to our data, especially during a storm.

And the last frustration…with no models, maps or weather data for 24 hours, we were taken quite by surprise how warm it got on the peak yesterday. I’ll have to go back and look at the exact storm track, but winds remained east and south for much of the storm, and temperatures shot up to 33 degrees, with snow changing to sleet and freezing rain, and even briefly rain. All while the colder valley’s remained sleet. The picture above shows what the slightly above freezing weather did for our rime ice. The shot was taken by one of our Edu-Trippers, June Trisciani, and shows the rime ice in a state between solid and liquid.

Jim Salge – Observer

09:12 Sat Mar 17th

The summit had a bit of a weather induced communications meltdown overnight, and internet remains spotty this morning. We will get the conditions, forecast and comments up as the link allows this morning. Until then, we posted the METAR conditions not transmitted overnight into the forums at this link: http://www.mountwashington.org/forums/showpost.php?p=3854&postcount=12

The Summit Crew – Mount Washington Observatory

08:23 Fri Mar 16th

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Storm arrives just in time...

Morning dawned clear and remarkably calm at the Observatory this morning, allowing the staff as well as the overnight EduTrippers to survey the changes that occurred on the peak during the past few days in the fog.

Temperatures yesterday began at 39 degrees, and combined with the strong winds and dense fog, melted a significant amount of the summit snow pack. Granted, with the well below normal snowfall this season, combined with the windy conditions of February, there wasn’t much snow pack above treeline to begin with, but the bareness of the tundra is significant! Then temperatures took a nosedive, falling to 10 degrees by nightfall, freezing up all the slush, and depositing a little rime, leading to the picture this morning.

Sunrise today occurred during the proverbial calm before the storm, with winds gusting as high as 9mph. Light filtered through high clouds over the summit, but the sun was shining brightly over Maine, allowing this dynamic scene to the east. Thanks to Rene Pollrich, a researcher from Germany currently on the summit, for the picture.

As we look ahead through the day today, we will see increasing clouds, but snow should hold off until this evening. Then we’re gonna get it! Three shifts in a row now with significant coastal snowstorms at the summit of Mount Washington. An nice streak of incredible weather by the week at the summit for sure ... but a small part of me though wishes I was also enjoying atleast one of these storms from the slopes of one of the fine area ski resorts. Hey Wildcat, leave one ungroomed for me...I'll see you Wednesday!

Jim Salge – Observer

07:28 Thu Mar 15th

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First sign of mud season at the base...

Less than a week after ending our 60+ day streak without hitting the freezing mark, we find ourselves in a 24 hour period without going below freezing. In fact, the high temperature of 43 degrees yesterday tied the record high for the date.

The mountain had a much different look yesterday as we ascended for shift change. Many bare spots, plenty of slush, some runoff, and the beginning of mud season down low, as evident from this picture. It’s all part of the highly changeable weather patterns that you expect around the beginning of spring. Though extreme temperatures swings are common all times of year on the mountain, late March and April tend to see those swings traverse the freezing mark, leading to dramatic changes in snow pack.

The freezing mark will again be traversed this morning as temperatures plummet behind this cold front. Rain will change to snow, before clearing skies this afternoon should give a dramatic sunset view on our new West View Camera. More snow is then likely tomorrow night, and cold air will rule out for the rest of the shift. I guess the guys on the other shift were on to something…

Jim Salge – Observer

08:03 Wed Mar 14th

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Rain wrecks havoc with our winter conditions

Well, my plea for help seems to have backfired. It appears that the overwhelming participation in my little plan to provide us with some high winds, instead injected a large amount of humidity into the air. Just before Kyle and Mike headed to bed the rain began, and has continued through the night making Jon's night observations wet and miserable. We've woken up to the same dreaded scene that has become all too familiar this shift, clouds. Nothing but clouds as far as the eye can see, which given their density is only about 100 feet. We love our work and I promise you, we don't take for granted the opportunity to live on the Summit. But it's weeks like this that make us look forward to today's shift change. Hopefully upon our return in a week, conditions will once again resemble winter.

As I write this the full destructive effects of last nights rain are becoming painfully evident. The clouds are presenting us with breaks, offering up a window of winter's death. What was once a beautiful field of snow covered boulders, undulating with various curves and dips, are now the familiar dark grey croutons which has given rise to the name The Rock Pile. The snow that's still present is heavy with excess moisture, having lost its fluffy textures. Exposed areas litter the summit cone, with tiny flows of water washing over the small rocks. The movement of water gives the illusion of the exposed ground moving from beneath your feet.

The mesmerizing rime ice formations that were so dominant just a month ago have long since vanished. A few remnants however remained. No longer. The wind and rain have taken care of their last grips on the summit structures. The once white landscape, with thick, full snow drifts, conformed layers of clear ice, and rime that resembled ocean coral, now feature naked summit buildings, having lost their winter coat. This is no paradise for winter lovers, but we love our mountain and will remain faithful to her.

We will return next Wednesday with hopes of a winter reborn like a phoenix rising from the winds and cold once again. As St. Patrick's Day peaks its head around the corner, so too does a potential winter storm. This is New England, where winter never seems to die, nor do we want it too. Yes we will return, with spirits and hopes high. We will forgive the mountain for showing us that winter is long in the tooth, and we have faith that she still have some surprises in store for us.

Alan Metcalf – Summit Intern

13:12 Mon Mar 12th

What is it that has Jon, Kyle, Mike, and myself so upset? What drives us to craziness? Why have we developed such a great dislike for the other shift, even though their our friends and a group of great guys? Well...THEY'RE GETTING ALL THE GOOD WEATHER! I'm sorry about that but enough is enough. We all come to work here looking forward to the winter weather. What do we get? Moderate winds, predominantly "in-the-clouds" visibility, and temps that tend to plummet so far down, we can't get out to have any fun or film any of it for you. What do they get?! Sustained high winds, moderate temps or low temps that don't last too long, beautiful clear photographic vistas, rime ice, and snow.

So, at exactly 6:25 pm on Tuesday, March 13th I'm asking you, your family, your friends, to stop for a moment and think about us on your beloved Summit. Take a few moments to drop what your doing and head outside no matter what the weather conditions. We've been there for you, now it's your turn to give back to us. I want those of you to the north and west of Mt. Washington to collectively inhale the deepest breath you've ever taken in and at 6:30 pm on the dot exhale towards the Summit as if you were the Big Bad Wolf trying to blow down the Three Little Pigs brick house. Those of you to the south and east, I want you to face the Summit and exhale. Then at 6:30 pm, open wide and take-in a new breath of fresh air as if in awe of having just seen a Hippopotamus walking across the Summit.

If you can all come together with us in your heads, hearts, and lungs, we can finally experience the great Mt. Washington weather we've heard so much about but have failed to see lately. We believe in you and feel that your capable of giving us some great high winds and amazing cloud formations. But only if your willing to believe in yourselves. Sure we'll add thousands of tons of CO2 into our atmosphere, probably accelerating the melting of polar ice and northern latitude permafrost, as well as potentially breaking down the Gulf Stream resulting in cataclysmic global climate destruction. But aren't we worth the sacrifice? Help us tomorrow evening. Our happiness is your reward (in the form of interesting, fun, and more frequent Observer Comments and video released through Obscasts and YouTube.) We've done all we can, now we're counting on you.

Alan Metcalf – Summit Intern

01:00 Fri Mar 9th

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Shift-change Bocce

After a couple cold and windy days, it seems the temperatures are finally beginning to moderate. We bottomed out today at -28 degrees around 5PM and have rapidly increased to a pleasant -6 degrees at 11PM, but winds are still up around 70 mph. Walking outside to take this last observation, I was greeted by a beautiful, orange moon low on the horizon. Wanting to get a closer look, I walked (with help of the wind) to the other end of the observation deck. With just a hint of clouds out over Portsmouth, the stars were shining clear and bright.

Well, now it happens to be a wee bit over an hour later, one third past midnight, and the orange color that had adorned our moon earlier has given way to its more common white face. That in itself illustrates one of the greatest things of this job. Just going outside and seeing, every hour, how the world around you changes. One discovers that although you see a hundred different amazing things, it remains that a hundred more have been missed while your back was turned. Just the other day I saw this one young cloud form a couple hundred feet above us to the east. It grew very rapidly, becoming more and more lens-shaped. It almost felt like I was watching it grow in fast-forward. I turned to the west to investigate some cumulus clouds far away on the horizon, gazing for no more than 10 seconds before returning to my lonesome cloud just above me. Sadly, I found it was I that was lonesome – what had so quickly formed had also dissipated and I was left to deal with a young cloud's death. I came inside and coded him honorably as few002, sending the METAR report to the NWS. So are the joys and woes of being a weather observer.

Mike Finnegan – Summit Intern

06:38 Wed Mar 7th

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Dawn through the window...

Quick Video Link
More info below...

For the second day in a row, the summit of Mount Washington has set a new daily record low temperature, as -30F replaces -21 (1937) in the record books. But this morning, as we look around New England, we are not alone. Our temperatures at the Observatory have been warming steadily (and slowly) since they bottomed out at -37F yesterday morning, while valley locations are having their coolest temperatures as we speak. In fact, the summit is just a bit warmer than Berlin, NH to our north this morning, who are currently recording -26F.

Besides the obvious cold temperatures and biting winds, the day has dawned rather pleasant on the peak this morning. Under the cold high pressure, skies have cleared, and views now extend over 120 miles to New York State. Sunrise was quite remarkable, with a shield of clouds from the storm to our south lighting up a fiery red, and alpenglow warmed the peak, at least warmed their appearance. We’ll need some real warming though to be able to carry out shift change this morning…still a bit too cold to run the snow cat up to get our crew!

Lastly, our video from yesterday has created quite a stir around the weather world, and it’s catching on in the blog-o-sphere. We’re featured this morning on the Weather Channel’s homepage, as well as getting linked in through a number of local and regional media outlets. For information on the video and the infrared footage, please click on yesterday’s comment.

Jim Salge – Observer

14:49 Tue Mar 6th

Quick Video Link
details below:

An afternoon update on the conditions on the Rockpile.

Temperatures bottomed out this morning at -37F, shattering the old daily record of -23F set in 1950. The temperature fell but one degree short of tying the all time March record of -38F also set in 1950. But the real news is that this was the coldest temperature seen on the summit, not just this season, but in over three years, going back to January 25th, 2004. Such a cold air mass so late in the year is truly remarkable, as “Bill O” notes in the forums, it’s like having the hottest day of the summer a week after Labor Day.

Also of note are the winds, which have been ramping up through this event, and while the peak gust, now set at 117mph, wasn’t during the lowest temperatures, windchills have been between -80 and -100F. Extremely chilly, even by our standards.

During the heart of the event, our staff made use of the thermal camera on location courtesy of the students from the University of RUHR. We built a contraption and system to video tape the back of the infrared camera while we threw boiling water into the air, which immediately froze to snow. We also simultaneously taped the event with another video camera, and have put these clips together on Youtube. you can see it here!

Temperatures will continue to warm on the summit through the night tonight, hopefully allowing just a slightly delayed shift change tomorrow, all while the valley’s have their lowest temps, possibly of the year.

Jim Salge – Observer

07:16 Tue Mar 6th

The cold air arrived as advertised overnight. Temperatures are still falling, now at -36F for the low.

The old daily record for the day was -23F.

The all-time March record is -38F, we'll soon see if that's in the cards....

The staff will post more information later this morning or midday today!

Until then, tune into The Weather Channel at 9:40AM, where we will speak to them live...

The Summit Crew – Mount Washington Observatory

08:22 Mon Mar 5th

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To the snowcave...

Just as we were getting used to the first moderated weather trend in over a month, we were thrown right back into the clutches of old man winter this weekend. Since the 'end of the storm,' we have picked up close to an additional 8 inches of great powder, and rumor has it that Tuckerman Ravine has well over a foot, on top of Friday’s storm. Conditions couldn’t be better on the summit right now, with large drifts finally forming after an extended absence (read “since October”).

The staff and German research students have been making good use of these drifts, both for research and leisure. The comment picture today is of one of them crawling into a snow cave, which he slept in while recording conditions of data loggers around the cave. The instruments he used were so sensitive, he could see large differences in cave climate between times when he was in his down sleeping bag, and times when he was not. Insulation goes both ways. As for leisure…here’s a shot of the staff using the drifts for less than scientific research! Additionally, a new edition of our weekly Obscast is up this morning, highlighting some of the other projects that the researchers worked on. Lastly, thanks to our guest Neil Shea for allowing us to use today's pictures.

And for a look ahead…the weather coming in tonight will likely be written into the record books for some time to come, as one of the coldest air masses ever to move over the peak in the month of March bears down on the peak. Temperatures tomorrow morning should bottom out near -30F, well below the daily record of -23! Only four daily record lows are below -30 in March, and we’ll see in a few short hours how this outbreak will stack up. Brutal weather ahead for sure!!!

Jim Salge – Observer

12:21 Sat Mar 3rd

As the main slug of moisture from yesterday’s storm moved up the coast last evening, the center of the low pressure system moved overhead. This brought a near dead calm to the summit as the crew and our guests sat down for dinner. Within an hour, winds plummeted to fewer than 10 knots, then were followed by a quick return to the 40-50 knot range. It was rather eerie as I walked outside to find snow and ice pellets falling in the vertical, rather than the hurricane force wind driven horizontal snow that is all too common on the summit. The experience was short lived though, as by the time dinner was finished, the unmistakable roar of the winds had returned.

This morning the snow had ended and the summits were greeted with clearing skies and plenty of blowing snow. As I ventured outside for a walk around the summit, I was hoping that some yesterday’s nearly 11 inch snowfall would have remained on the peak. Of course though, as usual, the summit was scoured, despite a few minor drifts. Oh well, what else is new, at least Tux is the beneficiary.

I did find some fossilized footprints near the Yankee building, as shown in the picture. These little guys formed when several of the German students walked through a drift that was once at that location, during the storm yesterday. As the winds increased and changed direction, the loose snow in the drift was displaced elsewhere. Left behind, are the dense, elevated footprints as shown in the picture.

Brent Antkowiak – Summit Intern

09:38 Fri Mar 2nd

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The Atlantic Ocean...

Change came quickly to the summit overnight, as our crisp, clear and calm air gave way to falling snow and increasing winds. But to dwell upon yesterday…well, what a day. Visibility exceeded 100 miles through the duration of daylight, and bright sun felt much warmer than the actual temperatures in the low teens. The staff, who on this shift haven’t seen such a day in about a month and a half, took turns going on hikes around the summit; Ryan did the Alpine Garden Loop, Brent, the West Side Loop, Janet, our volunteer, the Gulfside Loop, and I worked my way around the northern summit cone at sunset hoping for a shot between the rapidly increasing clouds. I was not upset when it didn’t work out…

I was going to contrast the picture at right, taken of the Atlantic Ocean shimmering to the east at dawn yesterday morning, with this morning’s visibility, but I think everyone knows what nothing looks like. Conditions this morning are a snow lovers dream, with low density powder piling up around the peak. And in the busy morning, I’ll link to the Forest Service’s Avalanche Page for how the snow will impact other parts of the mountain…a worthwhile read any day, but quite interesting this morning!

Jim Salge – Observer

09:17 Thu Mar 1st

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Sunset From the Tucks Trail...

A story and slideshow on the Mount Washington Observatory is on the AP newswire today:
Click here to read it!

March 1st, the end of meteorological winter! The staff today will be working feverously summarizing February’s data, as well as error checking and analyzing. Preliminary looks have this past month ranking number two behind February of 1968 as the coldest of all time, with an average temperature of below -3F. It also looks like, pending more review, that it was the sixth coldest month on record at the summit. Rather amazing turn around from January for sure.

Winds were also a big factor this past month, averaging 52 mph for the month, and gusting above hurricane force 22 of the 28 days. We are also seeing how this ranks compared to other February’s, but having endured this past month, it FELT historic!

Since Sunday though, the weather has been significantly moderated, and after arriving on shift to the best summit conditions I’ve experienced since mid January, I took off for a hike. Snow conditions were varied for sure. On the trails, snow was packed down, and largely bare-bootable, though I wore crampons. Off the trail, unconsolidated snow made for miserable trekking in the lee spots, as my boots would suddenly disappear into 3 feet of snow. This potentially knee tweaking situation limited my options for shooting sunset, but I think it all worked out.

Eyes are now on a deteriorating weather pattern over the next twelve hours, in which clear skies and 120 mile visibility will give way to (hopefully) heavy snow! And with warmer temperatures, hopes are high that some of this snow will stick around on the summit cone this time!

Jim Salge – Observer

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