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Observer Comments

December 2008

15:10 Wed Dec 31st

If you are a regular reader of the Observer comments, you already have a grasp of some of the challenges and satisfactions of being atop Mount Washington in winter - a place where both the winds and the views can be in the 100 mile range (sometimes), where rime ice is a near constant companion, and where a three-quarters-of-a-century heritage of scientific work is carried on. At times, it's like a piece of the Arctic (or the Himalayas) that's been transported to New England.

For about 15 years, the Observatory has offered winter overnight trips - EduTrips - and just a few years ago we started Winter DayTrips, to allow visitors to sample a little bit of what our staff experiences in this remarkable place. The DayTrips include snow tractor transportation up and down the mountain, a guided tour of the Observatory and the summit, and lunch at the weather station. Our 2009 Winter DayTrips start on Monday January 5, and we still have spaces available on most of those trips, including next Monday's. If you are in good health, good physical condition, and want to visit the top of Mount Washington during it's most dramatic season, take a look at our Winter DayTrip info to learn more.

We'd look forward to having you along, and to sharing Mount Washington in winter with you!

Peter Crane – Director of Programs

07:42 Tue Dec 30th

photo - see caption below
My last sunset

When I first started at the Observatory in May, I didn't really have any idea what I was getting into. The idea of living on top of a mountain sounded great, and my interest in weather and computers fit with the criteria for interns. The details of what I would actually do or where I would sleep and eat weren't really my main concern. As I reflect on the experience, I have trouble thinking of many moments that I didn't enjoy. This is thanks in large part to my co-workers, who have filled my time here with laughter and taught me a lot about weather. In addition, the boundless dedication and caring of our volunteers has made the experience wonderful. I can hardly imagine my life without this place that has been my home for the past 6 months.

One of the recurring phenomena I have come to appreciate at the Observatory is perpetual change. I have always considered myself somewhat averse to change, so this has been a growing experience for me at times. The coming and going of observers and an ever-rotating cast of interns means always working with new people - only Stacey was on my shift from the beginning to the end of my internship. Instruments come and go as they succumb to the harsh conditions atop the tower. Procedures change as we streamline our processes with technology. The light winds and mild temperatures of summer change to the bitter cold and wind of winter. No two of my shifts have been the same or even similar; that is part of what makes this place so interesting.

As my final shift comes to a close, I am in for another change as I face life away from the Observatory. This week has been a perfect finale, with a successful shot at the century club, weather of all kinds, and the completion of several big projects I've been working on for months. My last night on the summit was graced by a gorgeous sunset, our first and last of the week. I will certainly miss the spectacular views and all the people who I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with here.

Meanwhile, change continues unabated as we plunge into January with new interns and a new observer joining the staff in the next few weeks. Though my internship has come to a close, this will certainly not be the last time I see the summit of Mount Washington. Lastly, I want to thank the members of the Observatory, who made this phenomenal experience possible.

Jeff Wehrwein – Summit Intern

21:00 Mon Dec 29th

photo - see caption below
Sunset - December 29th 2008

When asked 'Why would you drive 900 miles to volunteer on the top of a mountain over Christmas?' We answer, 'It's about the people. It's about the organizations. It's about the weather.'

This is our third Christmas on the summit of Mount Washington with the MWO. Did it in 2004, 2006, now 2008. Each time unique. This year, as last time, we first volunteered with the North Conway Believe in Book's 'Polar Express' as elves before coming up to the summit on Dec 23rd. A wonderful event!

Our ride up in the snow cat on Tuesday took about 3 hours due to the large drifts in the auto road. The New Hampshire State Park bombardier driven by Mike Pelchat (State Park Manager) broke the way for us. Quite a sight with him hugging the mountain fully encased in the blowing snow swallowing him up. Dangerous work as well. Thank you Mike.

Two special events marked this trip: first was the EMS group which hiked up in the rain on Saturday. After reaching the summit Peter proposed to Amy, who despite being cold and wet, said, 'Yes' and accepted the beautiful diamond ring. A celebratory dinner was enjoyed by all.

The second special event was during Sunday's evening dinner. John, noticing that the wind speed gauge in the kitchen was reading 106mph, said, 'Let's do it! (Join the Century Club.) He jumped up, grabbed his gear, headed for the door. Everyone else dropped their silverware and ran for coats, gloves and goggles. Off to the observation deck. The goal--traverse around the edge of the entire deck without touching the railing, without falling and make it back to the entrance, all while the winds are sustained above 100 mph. We did it! Observers Stacey and Steven, Intern Jeff, and both of us successfully joined the elite 'Century Club'!! Check Dec. 28th observer comments for more info on this exciting event.

We have had another enjoyable adventure here in this beautiful state of New Hampshire thanks to the Mount Washington Observatory and the Mount Washington State Park.

John and Susan Van Slooten – Summit Volunteers

19:44 Sun Dec 28th

What is going on with the weather? Last Tuesday when we came up to the summit we had a couple of feet of snow and everything was white. Over the week we have seen several periods of rain and temperatures well over 32 degrees. In fact we set a new daily record high temperature of 42 degrees on Saturday and equaled the daily high temperature on Sunday, again 42 degrees. Needless to say the snow pack has suffered terribly and we are down to rocks with patches of icy snow. The main summit area is just solid ice at the moment and crampons are a must if venturing outside.

On the plus side we have had some decent winds with 127 mph on Christmas eve, 129 mph seen on Christmas day and 122 mph so far today. Since the warm weather completely cleared the deck of ice and for once the winds weren't too gusty plus were coming from due west, making the deck relatively sheltered, an attempt was made at the Century club around 5:30pm today. After a couple of tries the entire crew made it round the observation deck while winds, recorded at the top of the tower, were sustained at well over 100mph. Time to celebrate!

Steve Welsh – IT Observer

13:32 Sat Dec 27th

photo - see caption below
Christmas dinner

The entire summit staff would like to thank all of the dedicated people who so generously thought of us this year.

Jeff talked about the Christmas weather in his last comment, but I'd like to talk about the actual Christmas celebration that we held on the summit. Our volunteers, Susan and John, made the atmosphere festive by putting up lights in the living room and in the kitchen. A lot of people sent up homemade Christmas cookies (yum!), and I brought up a little tree and a Santa hat. Susan and John made a delectable dinner and we listened to holiday music while eating. The mood was set brilliantly and was enhanced by homemade chocolate mousse and eggnog for dessert.

Then we all gathered in the living room and commenced the gift opening ceremony. Marty had enough gifts so that everyone got to open something, and we now have movies, puzzles, and games to keep us entertained during our off-duty time for years to come! Gum and chocolate have been keeping our mouths busy while we work and our stationary cabinet is now full of pens, pencils, post-its, sharpies, and clips. Marty has especially been enjoying his new tunnel.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Plumb, Sharon Hirsch, Susan Polk (Jeff's mom), the Leblanc Family, the Elliot Family, Schnitzle, and Jim from State Park. Your gifts mean more than words can describe and we all want to thank you again! If we didn't mention your name, never fear, we thank you too! There have been some anonymous gifts as well, shovels, pens, popcorn, and fine-tipped Sharpie pens. Thank you!

Stacey Kawecki – Observer

15:13 Fri Dec 26th

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Red and green Hays chart for Christmas

Over the summer, the observers poked fun at me for getting excited when the wind gusted into the 70s. Experiencing 70 mph winds for the first time is a thrilling event, but the seasoned observers don't get excited until it's near 100 mph. Yesterday, however, I joined the ever-growing list of observatory staff who have experienced real Mount Washington winds. I can hardly say I saw the day's peak gust of 128.5 mph because it happened at 12:08 AM when I was asleep. But it was still gusting into the 120s when I woke up in the morning, so I'm glad I got my sleep. A gust of 121 mph tried to blow my goggles off my head while I was deicing, and I ventured to the precip can twice with gusts into the 90s and 100s. The highest wind speed I had seen previously was 107.9 mph, so this was an exciting new high for me. In fact, 128.5 is the highest gust recorded since March 21 of this year. With an average of 85.5 mph over the entire day, it was also the windiest full day since March 21. I took advantage of the slippery conditions on the deck to do some wind-powered deck skiing (no skis necessary).

Stacey and I attempted to walk around the deck, in what we thought was a practice run for the Century Club. To be a member of the Century Club, you must walk around the entire observation deck without crampons, without holding on to anything, and without falling in winds averaging over 100 mph. When Stacey and I checked before going outside, the wind was averaging around 95 mph, so we didn't think it would be a real Century Club attempt. With a northwest wind, getting to the other end of the deck was easy; getting back was the hard part. I got about 2/3 of the way back to the tower before a gust of 120 knocked me off my feet. I tried to keep going, but that last corner of the deck was impenetrable. When we came back inside, we discovered that the average over those 5 minutes had been just over 100 mph. Thus we unknowingly joined the much larger group of people who have tried but failed to join the elusive Century Club.

After all the excitement yesterday, the weather is giving us a break today with our first calm winds and clear skies since Tuesday. After bottoming out at -3 F overnight, the temperature has bounced back up to a balmy 15 degrees. With the wind down to the low 20s, being outside is an eerily quiet experience. Falling asleep last night, I noticed a distinct silence without the roaring wind outside my window for the first time this week. This weekend is looking to be interesting in a different way: the models are predicting highs in the low 40s on Saturday and Sunday, with plentiful rain and a brisk breeze. The weekend's record highs are 37 and 42 degrees, so we'll most likely have one or two new records to report.

Jeff Wehrwein – Summit Intern

17:01 Wed Dec 24th

photo - see caption below

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, 'Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?'

Even with Rudolph's glowing beacon of a nose I wouldn't recommend a trip to the summit tonight. Conditions will be dangerous at best. Winds are forecast to be sustained near 100 mph, with higher gusts. It looks like the summits will see some mixed precipitation and even rain. Temperatures will warm to the lower thirties, coating the summit in glaze ice like frosting on a cake. Then, when temperature creeps above freezing, that ice will start to melt, making even walking around the summit a most difficult challenge. It's similar to walking with sneakers on an ice-rink. When you add a thin layer of water and a lot of wind and you will most likely spend most of your walk sliding on your behind. Also, with such high winds and melting ice, large chunks of ice are likely to fly off the buildings. A chunk of ice could easily take out a reindeer or two.

Will Santa land his sleigh on the Observation Deck tonight? Unless his reindeer can fly in 100 mph winds and his sleigh is equipped with GPS, I think we'll have to take a rein-check.

Merry Christmas!

Stacey Kawecki – Observer

10:33 Tue Dec 23rd

Last year, I did a parody on the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” putting an obs spin on how the story goes. This year, I am putting a twist on the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”. If you don’t want to take the time to read it in order like the song goes, just scroll to the bottom for “day 12” to get a summary. I hope y’all like it. And since we are heading down today, a day earlier than normal due to the Christmas holidays, this crew would like to wish you a: MERRY CHRISTMAS and JOYFUL HOLIDAYS!

”The 12 Days of Summit Christmas”

On the first day of Christmas the summit gave to me
A view of 130. (The miles we can see on a clear day).


On the second day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the third day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the fourth day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Four Corvus birds (the genus of the summit ravens)
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the fifth day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the sixth day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Six observers observing (the pic is a group shot so there is more than 6)
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the seventh day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Seven shovels for shoveling
Six observers observing
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the eighth day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Eight miles for “Bombardiering” (the brand of our snow cat)
Seven shovels for shoveling
Six observers observing
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the ninth day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Nine hikers hiking
Eight miles for “Bombardiering”
Seven shovels for shoveling
Six observers observing
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the tenth day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Ten Marty’s a-leaping
Nine hikers hiking
Eight miles for “Bombardiering”
Seven shovels for shoveling
Six observers observing
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the eleventh day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Eleven “EduTrippers” visiting
Ten Marty’s a-leaping
Nine hikers hiking
Eight miles for “Bombardiering”
Seven shovels for shoveling
Six observers observing
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.


On the twelth day of Christmas the summit gave to me
Twelve hours Observering (the weather, and the pic is from fall)
Eleven “EduTrippers” visiting
Ten Marty’s a-leaping
Nine hikers hiking
Eight miles for “Bombardiering”
Seven shovels for shoveling
Six observers observing
Five metal slings
Four Corvus birds
Three black pens
Two pairs of gloves
And a view of 130.

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

15:34 Mon Dec 22nd

It has been an unusual week on the summit in terms of staffing. For one, as Ryan mentioned in a previous comment, we are lacking a volunteer. Ryan has been filling this gap most notably, and did a tremendous job cooking for 11 folks that spent the night on a guided climbing trip. On top of that, our intern, Mike Carmen, is working nights with Ryan so that he can soon swap to the other shift and become their meteorological observer. Brian who would normally work days, injured his knee in a game of hockey, and so is spending the week in the valley completing some needed tasks in the realm of distance learning. This was probably a good call on his part considering winds are currently sustained in the 90's, and frequently gusting over 100 mph with nothing but glare ice covering the summit. What could possibly go wrong? So that has left me to do days all by my lonesome. Oddly enough, it is not the being alone part that is different, it is the daylight. I have been working nights the last 7 months, so I am used to being up alone – I'm just not used to seeing grey fog. One thing I have found is that the day shift is far less structured than the night shift. On nights, I fell into a very regular routine in regards to what got done when, and what needed to be done by what time. On days, the observations still come every hour, but besides the radio shows in the morning, for the most part, things can get done when they happen to. This is good because as it turns out, the dayshift gets a lot more phone calls which can interrupt the timing of events.

In other news, it's windy. What fell up here of the two feet of champagne powder folks received in the valley has been blown clear off the summit and is loading in the ravines. The mountain top has returned to what it was when we arrived – a sheet of ice. I suppose that’s what happens when you have sustained winds greater than the age of my Papa. Just how old is my Papa, you ask? He just turned 91 on December 20th! Happy birthday, Papa! If any of you are golfers out there, he's a match for you – he still plays 2-3 times a week in the snowless months and beats the pants off of most hotshot 30 year olds! Known in some circles as simply, 'The Legend'. You're certainly getting old enough to be one! So yeah, winds are cranking today. I just heard it roar outside and checked the wind database to see it hit 118 mph (unadjusted for temperature and pressure). Luckily for us, high pressure should build in overnight and moderate the winds a bit, allowing for shift change to occur a day early as planned (we didn't want to do shift change on Christmas Eve – or New Year's Eve for that matter, so we're heading back up on Tuesday as well).

One last quick note – I was out inspecting the East snowfields the other day and saw some areas had slid. Tuckerman and Huntington ravine have been rated on the upper end of high avalanche danger today. There is likely to be a lot of fluctuation in the avalanche conditions over the next week, so if you're heading into the ravines, please first visit www.tuckerman.org to get the most up-to-date advice. Stay safe out there.

Mike Finnegan – IT Observer

00:18 Sun Dec 21st

When I was in grade school, our class taped out thumbs to our hand to experience what Jonny Tremain (from the book of the same name) had to go through on a daily basis. It impacted everything we did from turning a door knob to writing our names. It was something simple and artificial but it brought us a relation to the character. It showed how much we take for granted in our lives and brought a respect for others that have to learn to adapt to their environment. For that moment, we were living the phrase “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to know what they are truly going through.”

Today, the summit staff and I walked a mile in a volunteers shoes and experienced what they have to do for an edutrip/hiking trip. And let me tell ya, I was humbled and now have a new found respect for what our volunteers do for us on a daily basis. As I mentioned in Fridays comment, we are down a few people this week, one of them being our volunteer. With our crew of three, it was no problem preparing meals. But when that number ballooned to 14, it took some work and a lot of planning to make things go smoothly. Between yesterday and today, I have spent close to 12 hours preparing the downstairs and food for our guests with a few more hours to go for their breakfast and cleaning after they depart. Essentially, I have been acting as a volunteer so instead of my clothes being covered by rime ice, I am covered in flour and other bits.

For our guests, I made over 100 homemade oatmeal raising cookies, half of which are gone. I made hors devours that were made up of sliced ham and turkey along with various cheeses, along with macaroni salad, olives, pickles, cheese and crackers along with vegetables and onion dip. For dinner, we had a ham with homemade glaze sauce, homemade mashed potatoes, peas, corn, broccoli, and biscuits. And for desert, Christmas cake with homemade frosting. And still to do: breakfast with coffee, eggs, toast, bacon, and potatoes.

It has been hours of slicing, dicing, and creating a spreadsheet of when things needed to start cooking/baking to aim for the end time of 5 pm for hors devours, 7 pm for dinner, and 7 am for breakfast. Mix this in with finding time to prepare the downstairs beds and cleaning the quarters and keeping up with all the dishes. It has been none stop so far with the exception of tonight where I get a brief break before preparing breakfast. And to think that our volunteers do this every week, I am truly at a lost of words to express my new found respect. If you have volunteered for us before, let me just say once again: “THANK YOU.”

I can’t say it enough. Thank you for the time you spend putting away the groceries on Wednesday. Thank you for cleaning, organizing and doing inventory of our freezers, fridges and pantry. Thank you for cooking us our meals and having them ready by 7 pm. Thank you for the delicious cookies, cakes and brownies you make. Thank you for doing the dishes. Thank you for cleaning our bathroom. Thank you for keeping our living room tidy. Thank you for making up the bunk rooms for our guests. Thank you for the preparation you do for our Edutrips/hiking trips. Thank you for the conversations and company. And most importantly, thank you for being a member and taking the time to volunteer for a week for us to allow me and everyone else up here to do what we need to do on a daily basis. We couldn’t do this without you. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

00:07 Sat Dec 20th

My life on the summit is surrounded by darkness. Not the metaphorical type but literally the darkness of the night. My shift currently starts in darkness and ends in darkness. We work twelve hour shifts up here with my shift starting at 1730 EST and ending at 0530 EST the following day. The sun on the summit official sets at around 1615 EST and doesn’t rise again until a bit after 0700 the following morning. So from December 17 until December 27, the summit only receives about nine hours and three minutes of daylight with the remaining 14 hours and 57 minutes totally devoid of sunshine. But there is light at the end of tunnel and it all occurs on the 21st.

December 21st marks the first day of winter which corresponds with the winter solstice at 0704 EST marking the shortest day of the year. After this date, the days will slowly begin to increase once again nudging back into my shift allowing me to witness the sunrises and sunsets without having to wake up earlier or go to sleep later. I am not saying that I sleep 12 hours when I am up here and haven’t seen a sunrise or sunset in months but I usually have to choose one or the other. But luckily I don’t miss too many since we are in the fog over 50 percent of the year with most of that occurring in the winter. So, most of the time sunrises and sunsets are just marked by the clock and the changing in the shades of grey in the fog. So it is like a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well on the summits, it goes: If the summit is in the fog and we were unable to see the sunrise/set, was there a sunrise/set? Of course the answer is yes but in the literal since, no. So, when visitors ask if there is going to be a sunrise in the morning, we usually answer yes but we just won’t get to see it.

But while we are on the subject of sunrises and sunsets, it should be noted that the latest sunrise and earliest sunset do not occur on the shortest day of the year. In fact, the earliest sunset has already occurred on the seventh of December setting at 1612 EST. The latest sunrise occurs on the third of January at 0715 EST. But why the discrepancy and why do they not occur on the solstice? Well it all comes down to our clocks and how we measure time, the earth orbit and the earth rotation. We use atomic clocks to keep track of times where as a day measured from true solar noon (sun at highest point) to true solar noon the following day exceeds 24 hours in length. Therefore, the sunrise/set appears to be later/earlier in relation to our time pieces. The discrepancies between these times eventually add up, and to keep things “lined up,” we have leap years to keep calendar years in sync with astronomical and seasonal years. The earth's orbit is not a perfect circle. And lastly, the rotation of the earth is slightly faster in winter in conjunction with the "wobble" of the earth. So after reading this, hopefully you don’t feel so much in the dark as you were prior to reading this.

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

00:47 Fri Dec 19th

photo - see caption below
5. No wait, 4. Um, make that 3.

When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were great. No school, no homework, and cartoons in the mornings. On ABC, one of the cartoons I always looked forward to were a series of animated musical educational short films called Schoolhouse Rock! They lasted about three minutes each and had topics that ranged in topics of math, grammar, science, money, and politics. What was great were the tunes which were catchy and memorable so I was learning while being entertained. One of the most memorable and one that I still remember to this day was entitled “Three is a Magic Number.”

The first verses of the song go:
Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.

Definitely worth looking up on youtube. But why do I bring this up? Because, currently we are down to two observers with one in training, making us a crew of three, the magical number that allows us to function fairly normal. This isn’t the first time nor the last time I have been on a crew of three, especially considering that when I started, three was the norm. When I started, our crew consisted of two observers, one intern, and one volunteer, if we were lucky. The volunteer program wasn’t as well known which made it difficult to find people to come up from week to week. So, most weeks, we only had three.

Flash forward to today and a typical week sees five to seven people on a crew at any given time. A typical crew now consists of three observers, one or two interns and one or two volunteers. The expansion of personnel isn’t because we were lonely up here but because as time has progressed, so have the duties and tasks that need to be done up here. I can personally say that I had more free time when I first started and was on a crew of three than I do now working on a crew of five or more. And the main contributor of this increase of work load is a little thing called technology.

As technology evolves, we must evolve with it. Technology is what allowed for an IT observer to get hired on each shift. Technology is what allowed for our Educational observer to get hired on each shift to do video conferencing with schools next year. Technology is also keeping the Meteorological observers busy as we continually update manuals to adjust to the changes as well as finding new ways to improve forecasting skills and documentation.

Our interns help us function filling in and helping out whenever possible allowing us to focus on finishing one task or lending a helping hand on other tasks. Our volunteers are the last pillar that makes everything function smoothly taking care of the little tasks that would normally take time away from doing our job descriptions. When all these cogs are in place, the machine that is the observatory runs efficiently. Take away one or more of these cogs, and the remaining cogs have to run around extra hard to keep the machine running as normal.

And that is where we find ourselves today, three cogs, er, I mean observers, working on the summit keeping things going as normal. Our volunteer for the week was unable to make it up and one of our observers, Brian Clark, was unable to come up as well due to a slight injury he procured on his week off. So, it is a return to the “olden days” for me and a reality check for the newbie’s. And so far, so good. We are not wasting away from lack of cooking. We are keeping things clean. And we are keeping up with our tasks as usual.

But this is not the end of our staffing fluctuations. In the coming weeks, interns are either off for the holidays (Jordan), leaving (Jeff), starting (Ali), or becoming observers on the other shift (Mike C). We will either have one or two volunteers coming up and Brian will hopefully get better and come up either later this week or next shift. Although our numbers will be fluctuating, the thing to remember is: We are one observatory that needs two observers to keep the summit working but three is prime, four is core, and five (or more) lets us thrive.

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

08:46 Thu Dec 18th

photo - see caption below
Holiday Treats

We have had all sorts of weather this week; 'warm' temps (30's) low temps (-7 before windchill), 'moderate' winds (40-50 mph)--by MW standards anyway-- and high winds (90 mph plus!) and plenty of rain! But while my family and hometown of Durham NH still struggles with ice and power outages from the ice storm of last Thursday and Friday, we were virtually unscathed up here in this bunker. Once the winds exceed 70 mph, we can hear rumbling in the tower and in the vents above the stove in the kitchen. But this place is solid.

You may have noticed that the aforementioned list of weather has one gaping hole--SNOW! We are always hoping for it to accumulate here and though it has certainly snowed, it either gets scoured away by the wind or melts from rain. Being holiday time, and since I am the volunteer cook for the week, I decided to try and compensate for the lack of snow by baking some snowball cookies, a family Christmas tradition at my house! (Besides pleasing the wonderful crew, it didn't help much--although I hear some snow is in the forecast for tomorrow!) Our only other indicator of Christmas here would be the lovely and fragrant wreath kindly sent up with us in the snowcat by Peter Crane's wife, Holly. It has graced our dining table with a red candle glowing in the center all week. Thank you so much Holly!

It has been another wonderful week for me. Thanks to everyone at the Obs for allowing me to repeat one of my life's greatest adventures. Who says things can never be as good twice (or 3, 4, 5, 6 times)?

Nicole Moore – Summit Volunteer

10:02 Wed Dec 17th

photo - see caption below

Jordan wrote recently about the new wind turbine that the state park installed on Saturday. It is an experiment for both the state park and the turbine manufacturer: if it works well the state park might be able to use wind to power the summit in the future, and the turbine manufacturer will be able to say that its turbine held up in the world's worst weather. Even as the turbine was being installed, the temperature was well below zero and the wind was averaging around 50 mph. Those who have seen this week's ObsCast will know that the turbine spins quite fast in that kind of breeze. On Sunday, the hourly wind averages were in the 40-70 mph range, with gusts well into the 80s. In addition, we had periods of rime and glaze ice over night, which certainly put the turbine to the test. As far as we could tell, it held up fine under the icing conditions, and was still spinning happily away Sunday afternoon.

Monday, as I discussed in my previous comment, we had winds sustained around 80mph with regular gusts above 100. The temperature was above freezing, however, so ice was not a concern. The fog was so dense that we couldn't even see the turbine from the end of the deck, a mere 50 feet away. However, Steve tells me that Monday night he peered through the fog with a flashlight and could still make out the spinning turbine, so apparently the peak gust of 107.5 didn't bother it too much.

Tuesday morning when I went out for my first observation, I walked down to the end of the deck and peered through the fog once again. It was still pretty dense so I wasn't sure, but I couldn't see any upright objects where the turbine should have been. So I walked around the building to get a closer look, and still couldn't see it. I found Jim from state park as he was on his way out to check on it, and he said that the turbine wasn't producing voltage like it should have been.

When the fog finally cleared a few hours later, my suspicions were confirmed. Luckily the turbine did not blow off the roof and hurt anybody - it is just lying flat on the roof. Jim tells me that the generator housing, which is at the bottom of the turbine, broke in half. The turbine will be taken down so that the manufacturer can investigate the cause and send up a stronger replacement. Despite this setback, the experiment is already a success: the turbine survived decent icing conditions and sustained winds around 100 mph over its 3-day trial. Only time will tell whether technology has improved enough to make wind power permanently viable on Mount Washington.

Jeff Wehrwein – Summit Intern

16:43 Tue Dec 16th

It has been much harder being away from home this week compared to most. In the scheme of things last Thursday's ice storm really didn't affect us much up here. After all we are living in a warm and comfortable bunker built into solid rock with two foot thick reinforced concrete walls. We have our own generators, lots of food and no commute to work. Freezing rain just makes things a little slippier than usual but otherwise isn't really a big deal. Compared to what happened in the south of New Hampshire and Massachusetts we got off very light.

My family is still without power although they have just got the phone and cable back. Fortunately we have a wood stove and a generator to power the furnace, fridge and provide light. We also have several trees down in the yard, luckily none did any damage when falling, and looking on the bright side these will at least provide more firewood for next year. Looks like I'll be spending my off week cleaning and chopping trees up with my chain saw.

Steve Welsh – IT Observer

17:57 Mon Dec 15th

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Sunrise yesterday.

Today I did a poor job of managing my expectations. Since Friday, we have been eyeing the forecast models' predictions of good wind speeds today. Yesterday afternoon, one model was reporting 108 mph for 1PM today. Since models predict average wind speed, the peak is likely to be higher. In addition, the models often underestimate our wind speeds due to the unique geography of this area. So we were all pretty excited about getting some good wind, and I was hoping we would hit 110 or even top last week's gust of 122.4. By this morning, the models had retreated to a top prediction of 99 mph, but we were still hopeful.

As promised, the winds were already picking up when I got up this morning. Also, the temperature rose above freezing around 7AM, making the snow and ice coating the summit very slippery. Jordan and I spent nearly an hour on the tower around noon trying to chip away some of the ice and showing off our exciting conditions to some visitors that Scot brought up. Standing in (or clinging to) the parapet was an exhilirating experience, and I was sure that the wind must be gusting over 100 mph. However, when I came downstairs to look at the data, I found that it had only hit 100.6 that whole time. A few months ago I would have been thrilled to be out when the wind hit 100, but with all those built-up expectations I wanted more.

All was not lost, however, as I enjoyed the hour in the tower, getting completely soaked through due to the dense wet fog. And just as soon as that was over, it was time to get the precip can. Walking 1000 feet across the summit doesn't sound that difficult, but a bit of melted water on a base layer of smooth ice makes for interesting walking. My boots could grip well enough to walk where the snow cat had churned up the ice, but there were many flat spots where there was no grip at all. Stacey retreated to put on crampons, while Jordan and I tried to find a passable route. In the end, we gave up and Stacey clanked across the ice in her crampons to switch out the precip can.

Later this afternoon we hit a peak gust of 107.9 mph, which displaces my previous best of 105.8. All in all, an exciting day. But I can't help being a little disappointed that we didn't get something a little higher. With a return to moderate winds and wintery temperatures forecast for the remainder of shift, I'll have to wait until next week for another chance.

Jeff Wehrwein – Summit Intern

09:33 Sun Dec 14th

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GUS Helical Wind Turbine

If the summit of Mount Washington is so windy, why doesn’t the Observatory use wind turbines to generate power?

I will attempt to briefly answer this question. The general public is mostly familiar with the three blade wind turbine. The summit cannot use this in the winter because so much centrifugal force is exerted by the spinning motion of the blades that if any rime ice were to form on the blades (which it inevitably would, since rime ice covers anything that the wind hits during freezing fogging conditions), this force could cause dangerous ice throws. Also the aerodynamics of the blades would be altered by the extra weight and different surface, which could cause structural failure of the system at high speeds.

A quick Google search of different wind turbines shows that most shut down at speeds around 60 MPH, and survivability wind speeds range from 50 MPH to 134 MPH. With the winds forecasted to be sustained at over 100 MPH tomorrow with higher gusts, the traditional three blade wind turbine would shut down and possibly be destroyed in a “not-so-uncommon” wind event.

However, wind turbine manufacturer Tangarie Alternative Power, represented in NH by Green Power Management has begun an experiment with the Mount Washington State Park testing their GUS vertical axis wind turbine. Yesterday a representative from Green Power Management along with the Mount Washington State Park installed the 4 foot tall helical shaped wind turbine. This is specifically designed for gustier conditions as well as higher speeds, as the smaller radius reduces the speed at the end of the airfoils and therefore the centrifugal force. Check out the MWSP website for webcams and updates.

Jordan Scampoli – Summit Intern

14:09 Fri Dec 12th

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Free falling temperature

Yesterday’s comment was all about how excited I was for the coming snow, and that we should remain cold throughout the storm. Well, guess who was wrong. This is neither the first time nor the last time a forecast on Mount Washington has been shattered to bits and pieces. It does hurt a little though, and not just because my forecasting ego took a big bruise. While the summit got a little bit of ice, then a lot of rain, the rest of NH got hammered with ice. Over 305,000 are without power and Governor Lynch has declared a state of emergency. There are more outages today than occurred during the storm of January 1998 (information from the WMUR-TV website). This storm was a nasty piece of work, but luckily high pressure will bring sunny skies for tomorrow. Temperatures will be cool, especially in the north, but the calm weather should aid in the clean-up.

On the summit, we see an inch or so of ice on our windows and think nothing of it. I think we summit-dwellers take for granted the strength of the building in which we live. We also sometimes forget that half an inch of ice on long tree limbs or power lines can have a devastating effect. Being above tree line during a storm like this is like being in a submarine during a hurricane. The building is tough, and the ice accrues, but the waves, tree limbs, power lines, and roof shingles don’t smash into our building, windows, or cars. Well, our cars are in the valley, so we might have some devastation of our own to clean up come Wednesday.

The weather is known for changing rapidly in New England, especially on some of the higher peaks. Today was definitely one of those days, as the temperature fell from 31°F to 18°F in just one hour. It will only get colder. BRRR!

Stacey Kawecki – Observer

14:34 Thu Dec 11th

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Let it snow!

Snow is on the way! An area of low pressure fueled by the Gulf of Mexico’s warm air is heading northeast. Loaded with moisture, it should pass to the south and east of the higher summits, keeping us in the cooler portion of the storm, the warm front not quite reaching us. This means snow, and lots of it! In fact, the National Weather Service was calling for up to 14 inches in the mountains.

Does that mean 14 inches of fresh powder for the summit crew’s personal recreational use? Not necessarily. After the past few days of warm temperatures, the snow melted into slush, which froze quickly as a cold front crossed the area yesterday. Bullet proof ice is not the stickiest ground, and chances are that a lot of the snow will blow off the summit, into the ravines. Already, what little snow has fallen is being picked up by relatively light winds and swirling around the summit. Also, the density of the snow will affect how much sticks to the summit: a wet snow will stick to the ice a lot better than super light and powdery snow. So, what we’re hoping for is the snow to start off heavy and wet, set a nice base, then light and powdery as the low continues into the Canadian Maritimes.

After spending two and half weeks in Hawaii, I am more than ready to strap on my board and take a run (or a fall) down one of those happy bunny trails (not found on the summit of Mount Washington) come Wednesday!

Stacey Kawecki – Observer

05:30 Wed Dec 10th

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Snail mail letter.

Dear Santa-

This year, I am starting early that way I can mail you the summits Christmas list since last year I forgot until it was too late. You really need to make your email a bit more memorable as I keep forgetting and losing the email you provided us a few years back in return to providing you with a Christmas night forecast for New Hampshire. But, just in case our letter goes to the South Pole instead of the North Pole, I will post a comment with the list especially since I know you check our comments year round to ensure if we have been naughty or nice. Hopefully you read yesterdays comment about the “rime-lapse” video I made. If not, you can read about it and see it here, then scroll down.

We have, in my opinion, all been good boys and girls once again this year. Since you were here last year, we have got a new cat named Marty. He is all black so you might want to bring a glow stick or something with you so you don’t step on him by accident as some people do at night. But new people usually spook him and he goes into hiding, so you should be OK. We have acted kindly to all our guests, friends and families. And we have been working hard and diligently just as last year, 24-7-365.

So, if it is not too much trouble, could you please bring the following items this Christmas:

1. DVD’s or VHS’s – I know we asked last year, but since we do not get TV up here, movies is how we have to get our moving picture quota. We prefer DVD’s, but again, we are not that picky.

2. Board Games – To keep us entertained as a group from time to time.

3. Video Games – Our library of PS2 games is pretty limited.

4. A new video game system – We prefer a PS3 since our Guitar Hero equipment is backwards compatible with it but if you think a Xbox 360 or Wii is more fitting, I am sure none of us would complain that much.

5. Sporting Equipment – Our sports drawer is pretty well stocked but can you ever have enough? Especially ping pong ball since we seem to lose these more than anything.

6. Nerf sporting equipment – This will allow us to take our sports indoors with a lower fear of breaking something important.

7. Office Supplies – We work like an office, so anything you can send that will cut costs for us is great: pens, post-its, mechanical pencils, etc.

8. LL Bean clothing to keep us warm and toasty. Just remember to keep it synthetic or wool as cotton kills, but I am sure you know what we need living so far north.

9. An electric ice cream maker – We are getting closer to this as we have gotten an ice cream ball from LL Bean and a ice cream mixing bowl but an actual electric maker would be awesome.

10. An atomic clock – So we can keep even more accurate time on when to do observations up here.

11. Sleds– preferably the long toboggan type.

12. Candy and gum – Can you ever really have enough? Stacey chews Stride and I chew Winterfresh, not sure on everyone else though.

13. Books – Preferably popular ones and not romance novels.

14. Batteries – Preferably AAA because our guitars for Rockband use them.

15. Gift cards – We go shopping weekly at Hannafords or Shaws but Lowes, Hope Depot, Walmart or anywhere else in North Conway is fine. You know what’s here.

16. Surprise us again! Sometimes the coolest gifts are the ones you didn’t think you needed.

Some notes Santa: Second hand items from the elfs are fine so long as they are in good, usable condition, plus it will help the environment. We are not picky. But if you are wondering what we already have, disguise yourself and ask someone. If you would rather send us a donation instead of a gift this year, I am sure we wouldn’t mind. Just let us know it was you. Also, don’t laugh at my hand writing on my mailed letter to you. That is not how I really write, it was just my hand was shacking after being out in 100 mph winds last night. Too much adrenaline will do that to you.

We are preparing the observatory for your visit on the 25th. We are hanging our decorations. We are cleaning the downstairs of all clutter so you don’t stumble at night. We are WD-40ing our stairs so you can sneak down them without making a noise. We are making some great cookies since you (or someone/something) devoured them last year. And we will leave you a cup of egg nog once again.

Hopefully you renewed the membership your wife got you last year because it expires at the end of this month. And don’t forget to get your elf’s and your friends the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Mother Nature gift memberships for the holiday. It’s quick, easy, and makes a great stocking stuffer. But, I am sure you already knew that being the master of gift giving you are.

Well, I look forward to seeing what you bring on us on Christmas morning. As of now, the long term models are showing a nice night on Christmas Eve, but you know how that goes. But, your sled can handle anything so no worries. Just don’t spook the night observer or cat when you arrive. Have safe travel and Happy Holidays.

Thanks-

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

21:49 Tue Dec 9th

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Rime time.

Over the last few months, I have been dabbling in time-lapse photography of subjects relating to the summit. As of yesterday, I had only been satisfied and posted one video and that was in our ObsCast a few weeks ago on the subject of our barograph (November 10, 2008). In that video I shot a picture every 10 minutes over 3 hours to show how the pressure trends on an instrument that barely moves. The resulting video only lasts a matter of seconds but shows movement that even I had never seen up here. So, then I wondered, what else I could shoot.

While reading in our forums, like I do every day, the subject of rime was brought up. The subject has crossed my mind but there are so many issues involved in shooting this video that I didn’t really know how to set forth on doing this. It is so difficult that a professional photographer tried it and failed. And it is not like he didn’t try. We fashioned up a heated box and put it some place fairly sheltered but the results were either failure due to rime still forming over the heated glass, the box tipping, or problems with the camera itself. So, if he had issues, where do I, an amateur stand a chance?

Setting forth, I did not want to try the heated box again. I did not want to leave one of our cameras or my camera out in the cold, riming conditions for any extended period of time. Even if I did have a camera that could withstand the conditions, getting the same exact position for every image is a lot harder to do in windy conditions than I had time for. Finding some place that got a lot of rime that wouldn’t get knocked off and would actually accumulate in a “short” amount of time is a problem because the best rime forms on places that get wind. The instruments were a definite no go since we clear them once or twice an hour. And other locations were also hard due to time and weather.

But all was not lost, as a volunteer stepped up to the plate with some ideas that got me aspired to start looking into doing it again. Our volunteer, Ed O’Malley, started writing in the forums that he had a small webcam that might be able to do the job and that he would bring it up here his next week of volunteering on the summit. Since Ed has been up here numerous times, he knew what kind of weather to expect and whether or not his camera could handle it.

So, when he arrived the week of November 19 to November 26, 2008, the project was a go. The camera that Ed brought up was a “micro video camera” which was an SUV Cam Pro by a company called Elmo. The camera was a “pen” type camera that measured 1/2 inch by 3 inches with a 10 foot camera that had to connect to a recorder that uses an SD card. This would be a limiting factor as the camera was waterproof but the recorder was not, so 10 feet would be our limit.

I looked around the summit for a good shooting location and found a pipe on the top of the parapet where our instruments are located. We do not deice this pipe and it was across from a protected opening that would allow the recorder to remain inside. Next up was setting up the recording speed and resolution. We settled on 3 fps (frames per second) to extend the recording time at a resolution of 704 by 480.

Eureka! We had a camera, we had an object to rime, we had a location to mount the camera and we had the recording time. All we needed was the weather. And here is where we hit a problem for most of the week. Most of the week was either clear, which has no rime, or very cold, which inhibits the amount of rime that forms. We have found that temperatures between 0 to 20 above are the best conditions for rime to form in fog. Our best day for temperatures like this would be Ed’s last full day up here, Tuesday, November 25, 2008.

The camera was set up and recording started from roughly sunup until sundown, about 8 hours and 15 minutes. Since I sleep during the day, it was all up to Ed to keep the lens clear. So, diligently, Ed went out every 15 minutes or less to deice removing his glove and holding his fingertip over the lens for a few seconds to thaw it out. The lens would stay thawed for a few frames then ice up again. By the end of the day, the camera was encased in ice with only the lens remaining relatively clear. And it was coated first in rime then glaze icing making it look like a jaw breaker of sorts with the different layers that formed.

We then downloaded the footage to edit in iMovie. This is where we hit a problem. The format that the video was shot in was a format that was not recognized by the version of iMovie that we use. So we set off to try and convert the video to a different format. Ed spent hours trying to find a format that worked but after hours of converting, we kept running into problems. Ed decided rather than waste more time here, he would take the video home; convert on a program he knew would work and send me the raw footage once converted for me to work on.

Flash forward to December 4, 2008 and that is where the project approached the finish line. The video was sent to me in seven-200mb segments that I had to download. This took some time to do. I then imported them into iMovie, which took more time to do. I finally got down to preliminary editing on the sixth. I went through the 8 hours and 13 minutes of footage and took out any footage that was either obscured by rime or by Ed’s thumb. This got the preliminary usable footage down to 1 hour 11 minutes. I then went back through and further cleared up the usable footage, editing out additional footage that was too fuzzy to see the rime or a little bit of obscuration that I missed the first time. This got the footage down to 37 minutes. I then exported this and re-imported it to speed up the footage as one clip. I sped it up once making the clip go from 37 minutes down to 7 minutes and 30 seconds. This was still a bit clunky, so I sped it up again compressing it down to 1 minute 30 seconds. This was close but still not quite fluid, so I nudged it up one more time to get the length down to 45 seconds.

I then exported this and re-imported it for post production and to do a secondary clip. The secondary clip was adjusted to try and make the raw footage a bit clearer by adjusting color and hues, brightness, contrast, sharpness, and depth. After we were satisfied, I put the two segments together, added titles, transitions, and music then uploaded it to our Youtube account. The end results can be seen below (or go to our youtube site to see it in a larger format):



So this was our first attempt at rime time-lapse or “rime-lapse” for short. It’s rough but you get the general picture. We would like to try this again in the future but change a few things. First, work on a method to possibly keep the camera ice free on its own. Second, if not heated, de-ice it with a finger more often. Third, record in a format iMovie recognizes. And last, get weather conditions that are more ideal for rime ice formation. But overall, for a first attempt, I think the footage came out good enough and is pretty cool. I hope you agree.

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

20:10 Mon Dec 8th

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Houston, We Have A Problem

Some people need coffee in the morning to wake up. Some people need to get a hot shower. Well, I don't drink coffee (it stunts your growth you know) and showers aren't an option on the summit this time of year. Luckily, on a day like today I have the weather to wake me up, in more ways than one.

A wind gust of 122.4 mph (our peak gust for the day corrected for temperature and pressure at the time of the gust) at 5:33 a.m. startled me from my sleep. Shortly before that, temperatures bottomed out at a 25.2 degrees below zero, breaking the record low for the day which was previously 24 below set in 2002. I headed upstairs and then outside to do my first observation of the day just before 6 a.m. I was greeted by wind gusts well over 100 mph and temperatures right around 20 below zero. That makes for wind chills of 70 to 80 below zero. Now if that doesn't wake you up, nothing will!

After significantly calmer conditions tonight and into tomorrow, another storm moving in late tomorrow promises to bring more high winds. More than likely we will see wind gusts exceeding 100 mph, but the potential does exist for a period of sustained winds around the century mark. Right now, forecasting models are not agreeing, and it will all depend on which one ends up having the correct solution. For now, it's just wait and see!

Observer Note: The picture shown attached to this post is of our microwave dish that houses the antenna responsible for our connection to the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, NH. This connection provides us with access to our internal network as well as well as access to the world wide web. It was discovered today that the radome (the cover over the front of the dish to protect the antenna inside) was (mostly) gone. This is a bad thing, a very bad thing. Without a radome, the antenna is completely exposed to the elements and we don't know what will happen when the weather turns bad tomorrow and Wednesday. The moral of this story is: don't be surprised if current conditions, webcam images (from cameras on the summit), etc. do not show up on the website at some point in the next couple days. We are working on a plan to fix this problem and certainly appreciate your patience in this matter.

Brian Clark – Observer

17:46 Sun Dec 7th

November is a month that most Americans give thanks. Thanks for family, thanks for food, thanks for life, etc. On the summit, it was a month to give thanks to some of the weather that we experienced and hope for what might come. Once again it is the first two weeks of the month which means it is time for me to do the monthly check for the previous month which in turn shows us how we are standing in terms of monthly and annual totals and how they compare to our history. And it is something I enjoy doing because every check is different. Some checks bring surprises to be thankful for while others bring disappointment which dig into the optimism of the staff for the winter season. But good or bad, it becomes part of our history and who we are.

If you are an avid weather fan who looks over our F-6’s on a daily basis, these facts were posted yesterday and might be yesterday’s news to you. But for the casual visitor, if you haven’t seen this information, this is all new to you. So here is what I found:

Our average temperature for the month was 18.8F which is 1.8 degrees below normal. We had a high of 48 on the 15th which was also a new daily record high for the day. We had a low of 11 below on the 23rd which was not a record but we did set a new daily record low on the 20th with a low of 8 below.

In terms of precipitation, we received 10.15 inches which was just shy of average at 0.34 inches below normal. In a twenty four hour period, the greatest amount we received 3.61 inches on the 25th. The date was also the greatest amount of snowfall we received at 14.2 inches. This day combined with the rest of the month to provide us with 44.3 inches which was 3.5 inches above normal. This brings the seasonal total to 55.0 inches which is only two inches shy of normal, an amount that can still easily be made up.

For winds, our average was only a meager 34.3 mph which was 6.2 mph below normal for the month. But we finally reached a gust over 100 mph with the highest being at 110 mph from the southeast on the 25th. This ended a seven month streak of not having any gusts of 100 mph or more, a fairly long stretch for the summit but not the longest experienced in our 76+ years. As for hurricane force winds, there were 8 days of gusts of 73 mph or more, 3 of which were over 100 mph.

As for our weather, we only received 25 percent of the possible sunshine that could have shown. We only had 2 clear days, 2 partly cloudy days with the remaining 26 days filed under mostly cloudy. We had 30 days (or the entire month) with at least some fog during each 24 hour period. We had nine days with rain and twenty days with snow.

So overall, November could be summarized as being colder, drier (barely), snowier, and less windy than normal but very foggy and cloudy. The 25th brought a storm that set the biggest snow, precipitation, and winds for the month, but nothing record shattering. It will be remembered for breaking two records, one high and one low. It brought our first 100 mph gusts of the season along with a staff that was thankful to be up here to experience it all. I can’t wait to see how December pans out, can you?

Ryan Knapp – Staff Meteorologist

17:57 Sat Dec 6th

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Snow-covered summit

...And then there were three.

The remainder of this shift is promising to be a very quiet one on the summit—as far as staff goes. As Mike F mentioned in a comment a few days ago, he is turning his coat and switching to our shift. He worked only part of our shift this week, and headed down this (Saturday) morning. That brought the total number of staff up here from 5 to 4.

In addition, we lost our volunteer for the week a few hours later due to extenuating circumstances. That brought the number of staff from 4 to 3.

So here we are...as bare as a shift can be...a day observer, a night observer, and an intern. People-wise, it’s going to be quiet for the rest of the shift.

In loud contrast to that, the weather for the rest of this shift looks to be anything and everything BUT quiet. Weather-wise, the first part of the week has been fairly subdued. With the exception of Thursday, when we had a bit of snow and gusty winds, you could describe conditions up here as relatively tame. Winds have since dropped off enough to allow the three-cup to go up, and the snow has long since subsided. But peeking ahead in the forecast, winds (which will probably be around 20 mph tomorrow afternoon) are looking to speed up to near 90 mph overnight tomorrow, maybe with some accompanying snow. That’s more like it!

As a meteorologist, one is always wading into shark-infested waters when discussing weather more than three days out. But as of right now (and I’ll preface this by saying a lot can change in four days), shift change looks to be mighty interesting. A fairly potent storm is shaping up for Wednesday—for pretty much the entire eastern seaboard. Who knows what the next few days will bring to change that forecast, but as for right now, the numbers look more impressive than anything I’ve seen since late August (wind-wise).

So, even though the summit will be quiet inside, outside, we may end up seeing some of the most interesting weather yet this winter.

It’s also noteworthy that with the lack of a volunteer, we are all going to try our hand at cooking dinner for ourselves, at least for the first time since I’ve arrived.

Mike Carmon – Summit Intern

15:59 Fri Dec 5th

Today’s comment is about writing comments. I know, that may sound strange, but bear with me here.

The summit staff makes every effort to write a new comment every day. Sometimes, as perhaps you can imagine, that can be difficult for a number of reasons. Some days it is not particularly easy to come up with a topic to write about when not much is happening on the summit (weather related or otherwise) and then other days are just so busy that it is tough to simply find time to sit down and write a comment. Also, none of the summit staff are professional writers, in fact most of us are scientists. Despite this (or perhaps in spite of this?), I think we have some pretty good writers on the summit. I will be the first to admit however that I am not one of those people; just one of the reasons that I started my undergraduate education at Penn State as a meteorology major and never looked back.

So why do we bother writing these comments every day? First of all, we want to keep people up to date with what is happening on the summit. We know there are a lot of people out there that look forward to seeing that a new comment has been posted and also rely on our posts as a sort of “connection” to this mountain that so many people (myself included) are very fond of.

Perhaps the most important reason however, is to get new and relatively new visitors to our site interested in our organization and the mountain. Those people in particular probably do not realize that we are a private, non-profit, member supported organization. Unfortunately, the common misconception is that we are some sort of government supported entity when in fact we rely on the support of over 4,000 members as well as generous support from our corporate partners to continue our operations (this website included). If you frequent our website and enjoy the comments, webcams, etc. consider becoming a member so we can keep on doing what we’re doing. There are a bunch of great benefits to being a member, which you can check out here. If you are already a member, as I am sure a good number of people reading this are, we thank you and are very appreciative of your current and continued support.

Actually, a recent update and redesign of our website not only made the things that people love about our website better and more accessible, but also made it even easier to help support what we do as a non-profit organization in ways beyond general membership.

So there you go, that’s a little bit about how we write comments and our motivation behind it. If you ever wondered.

Brian Clark – Observer

16:12 Thu Dec 4th

It is with a similar sentiment as Deb, one of the museum attendants this summer, wrote with after she left the mountain that I write this comment. As we spend eight days on the summit, followed by six days off, we end up spending more time on the mountain than we do at 'home'. These means we spend a significant amount of time with our coworkers and slowly these fine folks transition from being merely coworkers to being close friends and indeed, family.

Normally the two shifts simply pass like ships in the night, meeting long enough only to relay information and get what needs to be done, done. It seems the winds of change have gusted this last week, enough to pick me up and land me on this shift's ship. Looking around, my summit family is gone: to Hawaii, to a wedding, preparing for a Christmas party, and playing with a son. In their place are coworkers. Not to be misunderstood, these are great people, but I am not yet attuned to their lifestyle – what they have come to call home. The music listened to is different. The dinner table conversation follows different lines. The timing of daily events is different: the day to night shift changeover at 6PM, not 5PM and dinner at 7PM, not 5PM. And I am now working days instead of nights like I have the last 7 months (the fog is colored grey instead of black). In short, the overall atmosphere is not the same. Not that I expected it to be, but it will take some time to get used to – these things all take time. I can only imagine how intensely strange it must have been for Tatiana to come here from Russia speaking limited English and knowing that she was here for two straight weeks. Now that's a change of atmosphere!

So as for now, I will be on the summit until Saturday, and then have a shift and a half off to put me on a regular schedule. Until then I will be looking to form the bonds that make this shift what it is, while contributing what I can (such as a countless number of sheep jokes. Email any good ones to sheepjoke@gmail.com. I need new material!). It is reassuring to know, as Deb can attest, I will not be losing my other summit family. I will simply be working to gain another.

Mike Finnegan – IT Observer

09:38 Wed Dec 3rd

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Rare sunrise.

Dear Maggie and Molly,

Living in California where it is warm most of the time, you don't know what a New England winter is like. Once and a while you see some snow, but to experience winter you have to visit it. I, on the other hand, live in Maine where winter comes to visit early, and often overstays its welcome. Why would I want to visit a place that has more winter than Maine? I hope my comments will tell you why.

If you like to observe the weather, cook meals for nice people, enjoy taking pictures, and want to get as far away from malls as possible, spend a week on top of Mt. Washington as a volunteer. It also helps the folks who work at the Mt. Washington Observatory.

While the weather most of this week has been typical for the Rock Pile, as Mt. Washington is affectionately known, mostly freezing fog, there have been moments of stunning beauty. As we rode up in the snow cat on Wednesday, the sky was deep blue, and we could see the mountains around us, but all it took was a puff of wind to remind us that the visibility can change in an instant. On Sunday morning we were treated to a clear view of the sunrise. Even the night observer went out to watch such a rare occasion. These views were worth the price of admission, but most of the time there was this view from my bedroom window.

The cooking part has been fun, especially Thanksgiving dinner. I fixed turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and onions, and a pumpkin pie. A man from the state park brought a corn dish and cranberry relish. They were very appreciative of my efforts. We had some other nice meals as well. In the pantry was a 25 pound box of chocolate chips! We had chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter, peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips. And brownies with chocolate chips They should know better than to leave me alone with 25 pounds of chocolate chips.

Along with the cooking, the volunteer is expected to help keep the observatory clean. That wasn't a very big job since there was only four of us here this week. Even with the cooking and cleaning, reading books and watching movies, and walking laps in the rotunda, I still had some time available. The crew let me help with one of their jobs, keeping ice off of the instrument tower. Wasn't that nice of them?

So, I hope this helps you to understand why I would want to visit Mt. Washington in winter.

Love, Grampy.

Rob Jones – Summit Volunteer

06:22 Tue Dec 2nd

Upon arriving in Hawaii, the blast of heat hit me harder than walking outside in sub zero temperatures. I keep thinking to myself, this is not normal. The end of November, and it is 83 degrees, humidity is just about the same number. My family members walk around in jeans and t shirts, the occasional sweater, and I have been sweating in shorts, skirts, tank tops, and bathing suits. Tropical Paradise is far too warm for my mountain blood. It is also infinitely strange to see holiday decorations up in stores, on street lamps, and on front lawns when it feels like July.

There are many comparisons to be made with Hawaii and the Mount Washington Observatory: HI = Hot, MWO = Cold; HI = Tropical, MWO = Sub Arctic; HI = VOG, NH = FOG. What is VOG? Well, Vog is basically smog that is created by volcanic emissions, and on the Big Island in particular, Sulfur Dioxide. Since January/February of this year, Kiluea has been spewing out just about 1000 tons of Sulfur Dioxide per day. I was lucky enough to visit this volcano yesterday, and got an up close view of the active volcano - check out their web site, which, includes web cams.

Anyways, I am thoroughly enjoying my vacation; swimming, bike riding, hanging out with sea turtles, and that whole family thing is pretty nice too. It rains just about every day, and lizards often hang out on the window screens, frogs and colorful birds make the most interesting night time lullaby. Let's just hope my "mountain blood" doesn't thin too much while I'm here, or it's going to feel very cold when I return.

Stacey Kawecki – Observer

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