Underwrite our website for a day! Learn how.
Join Email List

Observer Comments

December 2011

20:54 Fri Dec 30th

Friends, I want to take this moment to simply say 'thank you'.

All of us on the staff and each member of our Board of Trustees truly, passionately believe in this unique cause. We know how important it is for the Observatory to be a vibrant, healthy institution and we are well aware of what this organization means to its members, donors, volunteers and fans. We are proud of our work, and even prouder of the fact that thousands of you choose to support us financially. Thank you. 2011 was a big year for the Observatory, and we enter our 80th year of operation in great shape.

We welcomed Eastern Mountain Sports in January, beginning a multi-year partnership with our new official outfitter and they have already had a significant, very positive impact on things. Subaru continues its generous support and we are entering our 20th year of partnership in 2012! Our friends at the Cog Railway and Auto Road have also had a tremendous impact on the Observatory in recent years and we thank them and all of our corporate partners for their support.

In 2011, we conducted educational programs in schools across the nation through videoconferencing technology and across the region with our traveling outreach programs. We welcomed hundreds of people to the summit in our DayTrip, EduTrip and Summit Adventure programs. Roughly 130,000 people visited our museums and 1.16 million people visited this website. We even eclipsed the 14,000 'Like' mark on Facebook!

We studied the alpine zone with our colleagues at the AMC and we continued our collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research Lab on an icing study on and around the mountain. In 2011, we also cemented a partnership with Plymouth State University that will dramatically elevate our research program.

We are poised to do great things, and much of the credit falls upon the shoulders of our members and donors. If you're among that group, we are sincerely grateful. If you are not yet an Observatory supporter, please consider making a gift today to help us close out 2011 in a very positive way.

From all of us to all of you, here's to a fantastic 2012.

Scot Henley – Executive Director

17:22 Thu Dec 29th

What a day, or should I say night, it's been. After Mike called in sick (hope you're feeling better soon) I found myself standing in for him on the night shift this week. I always find the first few days adjusting to the the different routine plus lack of sleep hard and last night was no exception especially coupled with the coldest, windiest conditions of the season so far. Being out in the dark hanging on to the tower de-icing when it's blowing well over a hundred and the temperature is in the teens below is a great way to keep yourself awake! Tonight should be a little easier though as the temperature will get above zero and the winds will slowly calm down.

It's also very quiet up here at the moment since we have no intern this week either - it's just Rick and myself plus two volunteers (Ed and Marc). We do have a special New Year's party planned though with an overnight group - should be a lot of fun and being on nights I'll definitely be awake for it.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

19:07 Tue Dec 27th

Greetings from the rock pile!

My husband and I choose to celebrate the holiday a little differently this year and signed up as volunteers for the Mount Washington Observatory during Christmas week. This was not an easy decision since we've hosted our families' holiday festivities for the past 13 years. However, we saw the volunteer week as an opportunity to experience winter above the clouds, surrounded by nature's beauty and extremes, and in the true spirit of the holiday to 'give a little back'.

This is the time of year we find ourselves in the mode of sharing, giving, receiving and reflection. Our week as volunteers for the Mount Washington Observatory has been all that and more.

SHARING...in true holiday fashion, the Observatory staff, the New Hampshire State Park staff and ourselves enjoyed two wonderful evenings sharing holiday meals together. All of the staff has been great in sharing their summit and weather knowledge with us.

GIVING...our giving is in form of our time in the kitchen (as we are responsible for dinners) and light chores...and maybe a few extra baked treats.

RECEIVING...we arrived here with no expectations and were open to new experiences. We've seen beautiful sunrises, clear blue (and windy) days, unforgettable sunsets, snowfall and starry nights. We've received more than we ever expected!

REFLECTION...as we close one year and enter a new year, we are reminded that what we choose to do with our time is so valuable. Investing our time where we can make a difference, where we can share with others, and where we can take away memories, is such a gift!

Thank you Brian, Ryan and Roger for such a memorable week!

Annette and Jon McKenney – Summit Volunteers

18:26 Mon Dec 26th

Today's comment is a sequel to a comment I wrote back on June 23rd, 2011, which was a sequel to a comment former observer, Jim Salge wrote back on June 22nd, 2006. So, if Hollywood has taught us anything over the years, it's that sequels are rarely as good as or better than the originals. But there are a few exceptions; 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back', 'The Godfather 2', and 'Terminator 2' come to mind. But for every one good sequel, there are an endless supply of subpar or awful sequels that probably never should have been made (Home Alone 4 anyone?). So my hope with this comment is to be on the awesome and memorable sequel side of things.

So to catch you up with the past comments, back in June, I wrote about our setting sun during the summer solstice. During the summer, it sets to the northwest and in the winter it sets in the southwest; a difference on the compass of about 66 degrees. That sounds impressive but to the average person, it may be a bit difficult to visualize and since a picture is worth a thousand words, I went about to create such an image. This ended up being easier said than done, taking me five years and six months to accomplish (it will actually be six years this coming Wednesday). So why did it take so long? Our schedules, timing of the solstices/equinox, the weather (fog, haze, clouds, etc), and time itself. But over the span of five years six months, I spent one rainy afternoon looking through thousands of my pictures looking for four images (spring, summer, fall and winter). Then, I spent several hours layering, stitching, cloning, color correcting, aligning and other editing techniques in Photoshop until I finally got the image I was looking for that showed the four (ends up looking like three) setting suns.

At the end of that comment, I mentioned that I wanted to do a similar picture for sunrises. The biggest problem to accomplish this image was my significant lack of sunrise pictures during the winter. My shift runs from 5:30 pm until 5:30 am and in the winter, sunset and sunrise occur outside of this time frame. Getting winter sunsets is easy since I am usually up by the 4 o'clock hours that they occur in. Sunrises, on the other hand, don't occur until the 7 o'clock hour in winter; a time I rarely want to stay up until to see something I can see during my shift in the summer. So, needless to say, my winter sunrise photos (especially those around the winter solstice) are extremely limited. But I was determined to get this image, so I stayed up until sunrise last shift to get the rising sun on one perfectly clear day.

Again, sorting through thousands of images, I found the four I was looking for but then started to dig around for additional shots to do something even bigger to make this sequel well worth my time and yours. Spending the better part of one of my days off with Photoshop once again, I found myself tweaking, stitching, cloning, rotating, aligning, cropping, and generally editing my various images. What I ended up with was not one additional image but three additional images so that now I have an image that represents the position of the sun for each compass point. So, hopefully this ends up being a sequel worth waiting for and without further ado here are the images:

West - Spring, summer, fall, and winter sunsets (winter far left, spring/fall center, and summer far right)

East - Spring, summer, fall, and winter sunrises (winter far right, spring/fall center, and summer far left)

North - Summer sunrise and sunset (sunrise right and sunset left)

South - Winter sunrise and sunset (sunrise left and sunset right)

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

18:42 Sun Dec 25th

photo - see caption below
O Christmas Cairn! O Christmas Cairn...

A few years ago, I walked out onto the observation deck for a weather observation to find a hiker playing with a set of homemade battery operated Christmas lights. Talking with him a bit, he was telling me how he was going to light up a few small cairns on his way down for a photography project he was working on. I thought it was a great idea at the time, and kept thinking of a way to replicate it on my own. So this year, I set out to do just that. I looked at professional battery operated lights, but they were either pricy, small (25-50 lights), or would take too long to get here. So I had to think of another method. Well, I already had a battery jump pack I bought for my old car that frequently needed jumping; so I had the power pack. I had a power inverter for the same battery pack; so I had a way to power lights. I had a box of 300 unused Christmas lights I bought on sale last year; so I had the lights. And this year, I finally upgraded my camera to one that could be adjusted manually; so I had the camera. I had all the parts, so now I just needed the weather - fog free, clear skies, and low winds. While it could have been a bit warmer, last night delivered all three of those weather elements (a Christmas weather miracle), allowing me to try out my experiment and get the pictures I wanted.

I first hiked down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and decorated a cairn along the way there at sunset. I found that operating the camera and battery was tougher than I thought, running up and down the trail before each timed exposure. It was exhausting, but what ended up being even more exhausting was the cold on my battery packs; both in my camera and for the lights. So, an hour after sunset, I found myself returning to the summit disappointed but still determined to get my shot. After some warming and a recharge of the batteries I headed back out with assistance and decorated the summit sign and a summit cairn and finally got the shots I was looking for. It was a long process, years in the making, but in the end, it was a great experience (you can check out the entire album here).

With my pictures in mind, I had the perfect 'summitized' parody of a Christmas song to use this year. For those wondering what I mean, for the past few years, I have posted a 'summitized' parody of a Christmas song or story right around or on Christmas. Back in 2007, it was a parody on the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'. In 2008, it was a parody on 'The 12 Days of Christmas' called 'The 12 Days of Summit Christmas' fittingly. In 2009, it was a twist on 'Jingle Bells' called 'Summit Weeks', followed by the twist last year on 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' called 'Marty the Black-Haired Maine Coon'. This year, I did a parody on 'O Tannenbaum/O Christmas Tree' called 'O Christmas Cairn'. This was complicated a bit since there seems to be several different versions of this song littered across the internet. So, the parody I did fits the melody that was available on this Wikipedia page (there's even some midi links at the bottom if you want some music playing to sing along with). So, hopefully, like always, you enjoy it. And before I go, our crew would like to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and JOYFUL HOLIDAYS!

O Christmas Cairn

Oh Christmas Cairn, Oh Christmas Cairn,
Your shape is so unchanging!
In summertime you hold up fine,
But it's winter when you truly shine.
Oh Christmas Cairn! Oh Christmas Cairn!
Your shape is so unchanging!

Oh Christmas Cairn! Oh Christmas Cairn!
The guidance you give hikers!
How oft dense fog limits ones' sight,
Your pyramid shape gives us delight!
Oh Christmas Cairn! Oh Christmas Cairn!
The guidance you give hikers!

Oh Christmas Cairn! Oh Christmas Cairn!
Providing your own color.
Your green lichen in summertime
Cover'd greatly by a winter rime!
Oh Christmas Cairn! Oh Christmas Cairn!
Providing your own color.

Oh Christmas Cairn! Oh Christmas Cairn!
Lit like a beacon tonight.
Reminding us on Christmas Day
To thank the guiding role you play
Oh Christmas Cairn! Oh Christmas Cairn!
Lit like a beacon tonight.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

00:35 Sun Dec 25th

Out of the five Christmases that I have been working for the Observatory, I have spent three on the summit. Well, after tomorrow I will have spent three that is. It's never really bothered me to have to be here on Christmas, to be honest. Although, I will admit that if I had my choice, I would definitely be at home with friends and family. On the bright side, I do get to be here with my summit 'family'. Besides my fellow summit staff and volunteers, the State Park employees are also most certainly part of that family. We all sat down to a very nice dinner this evening for Christmas Eve, with all the food prepared by the State Park folks. Tomorrow it will be our turn to cook, and we'll all get together again for Christmas dinner.

Another bright side to being here over Christmas is how quiet things are. By that, I mean that there isn't a whole lot going on besides our normal everyday duties. There are no EduTrips or DayTrips. The phone doesn't ring as much over the actual holiday days. I don't have any Distance Learning programs to give. Generally speaking, this lack of additional activity allows for time to focus a little more than usual. Because of that, it has been a very productive week so far for me.

So, from our summit family to yours, we hope you are having a wonderful Christmas!

Brian Clark – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

21:03 Fri Dec 23rd

photo - see caption below
Marty the Guard cat - Defender of the Obs

It's going to be a White Christmas here on the Summit with an additional four to five inches of new snow today so it looks like Santa will have some snow to land on.

Tomorrow evening the guys from the State Park are planning on cooking for us all and we'll share a meal together. The volunteers are making plans for Christmas dinner with the State Park guys coming over to join us for dinner.

With all the new snow, high winds and colder weather Marty seems to have found a few nice spots in the Living Quarters where he can curl up and stay warm. When we're all upstairs it's so nice to know that Marty is keeping a watchful eye on the Living Quarters.

Tomorrow is looking like a cold clear day which should bring with it some great visibility.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

21:46 Thu Dec 22nd

photo - see caption below
Testing things out

As a relatively small, non-profit organization, we are very lucky to have such talented and committed staff, both on the summit and down in our Weather Discovery Center. Without everyone's hard work, this organization wouldn't be what it is today. Just as important are the thousands of members that support us year in and year out. Among those members are our summit volunteers. These folks take a week of their time to help us out on the mountain in various ways, mainly down in the living quarters. So, not only are we lucky to have such talented staff all-around, we are also very lucky to have an extremely talented, and diverse group of volunteers. That talent, and generosity, was displayed to me very well over the last couple weeks on numerous occasions, but especially today.

One of the very unique features of our Distance Learning programs is our ability to go outside on the Observation Deck, and still be able to both talk to and hear the students we are working with. The students can also interact with us while we are outside, and more importantly, they can see us as well. To accomplish this, we have been using a camera that I mounted inside a makeshift box. The box is of course there to help protect the camera from the elements, and also makes the camera portable enough to only have outside when it is actually needed.

One of the things on my long to-do list has been to figure out how to make that box a bit less makeshift. I was discussing this need with my fellow day observer Roger last shift when one of our volunteers at the time, Brad Chapin, overheard the discussion. Later in the week he offered to help us out, and make a new camera box. Brad has his own property management company down in Massachusetts, Chapin and Associates, and is a very handy fellow, so I was more than happy to take him up on his offer. Not only did that offer include him donating his skills and time to make it happen, he also was also willing to donate the materials. Before we parted ways on December 14th, I made sure he had all the general guidelines and expectations of the project that he would need.

What ended up coming up the mountain with us on shift change this past Wednesday is nothing short of a thing of beauty. The front is even made of curved Lexan! Not only does it look fantastic, but is built extremely well. Seriously, this camera box is nicer than some of the furniture in my apartment! So, Roger and I have been working the past couple of days on the finishing touches for the box, including the electronics that go inside. Today we go to mount it and try it out (see attached thumbnail picture) and it is everything I have always envisioned this being, and then some! The functionality we will gain from this new piece of equipment will only work to enhance our already blossoming Distance Learning program, so needless to say, I'm really excited about it!

Thanks so much Brad for making this possible. Your generosity is truly appreciated. Additionally, thanks to ALL of our volunteers for everything that you do for us!

Brian Clark – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

00:06 Thu Dec 22nd

photo - see caption below
Madison dividing western snow and eastern rain.

Today's commute to work was interesting/scary/slick/awful. If you live in New Hampshire and did any driving today, you might be thinking at least one of these things as an ice storm wreaked havoc on several motorways across the state throughout the day turning usually bustling thoroughfares into parking lots at times. The south got the brunt of it this morning followed by the north during the afternoon. At last toll, some 100+ accidents have been reported around the state from this one storm. So, if it didn't end up affecting your commutes, consider yourself lucky. We were not so lucky.

The icy commute for me started as I came up Route 16 from Berlin. As I passed Pinkham B, a thin coating of glaze icy started to coat the road. Cars in front of me stopped kicking up spray from their tires and started to get the slight fishtail action that comes with black ice. So I slowed my progression as motorist jetted past me in their huge SUV's as if they were immune to the ice. I have AWD as well but from personal experience in my family, even I know that they're vulnerable to black ice. After a slow crawl, I eventually arrived at the base as did everyone else and we started up. Our truck and van both have 4WD as well as beefy chains on them to get us up the mountain usually without a problem. But as we headed up the first pitch of the road, the truck and the van I was in started to spin out and fishtail as we struggled up the icy incline. Luckily, after we got some momentum, we were able to get up this initial pitch and the rest of the mountain with only a few slips here and there. Of course, normally a few slips here and there doesn't usually make my heart nestle in my throat but when those little slips are near a drop off of several hundred to thousands of feet, that's a different story. Add to this dense fog (here you can see Brian using his goggles to try and see through the white) and some snow drifts and it made for a white knuckle ride up (for me at least).

We eventually made it up and then it was the other shifts turn. It's one thing to crawl up an icy mountain but it's a whole other event to try and crawl down it. Since I wasn't with them, I'm not entirely sure how the entire ride went but there was definitely a lot more radio chatter than usual as they talked their way down in the truck and van. Eventually the van made it down but the truck was left close to the bottom until safer conditions arrive later this week to get it down in. While we escaped the day without any major incidents, it was definitely a memorable commute; something that had been lacking this season so far.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:57 Tue Dec 20th

photo - see caption below

Tomorrow will be my last day on the summit. I can't believe over 5 months have pass by since I've started. I have enjoyed the time spent here and I would encourage anyone interested in meteorology to experience the conditions for themselves. From 130 mile visibility to sustained winds above 100mph, the variability and abrupt changes have always amazed me. Personally experiencing these conditions on the summit has made me respect the mountain even more.

It's great to have people care about the mountain as much as we do and support us through membership and volunteering their time. All of the volunteers have been extremely helpful. I also want to mention that every meal prepared by the volunteers or Mike have been awesome. Members of the observatory really make all the difference up here so I want to thank them for supporting this great cause. I want to thank everyone I've met in association with this organization and thank the staff for giving me this opportunity. I especially want to thank Mike, Rick and Steve for making a great atmosphere to work in.

Kevin Cronin – Summit Intern

21:12 Mon Dec 19th

photo - see caption below
Stage Office at Night

Monday is normally the beginning of my week. But, as a volunteer for the Observatory, the week started on Wednesday morning heading to the summit with this week's crew. The ride up was surprisingly uneventful for a December trip. Over the past four days we have experienced a wind chill of -31 F; winds peaking at 116 MPH; no visibility; 130 mile visibility; a bit of rain; light snow; and lots of rime ice.

Charlie Hawkins and I volunteered last year in September and enjoyed our week. So, we put in for a winter week. We knew it would be different. But, it is quieter (members are not stopping in to say hi). The days are shorter. The opportunity to roam off the summit is extremely limited due to the weather. Things don't get as dirty because all that is tracked inside is clean snow. But, when we had a night of 130 mile visibility, it is hard to describe the sight. To the north were the lights of Gorham, NH. Beyond them was the glow of Montreal, Canada. To the east you could see the lights of Portland, Maine and other towns along the coast. Further south was a large glow generated by Boston. Filling in across the landscape were towns, lighted ski slopes, blinking lights on wind turbines, airport flashing lights. For once you could really see where things were with the crisp, clear air. Yes, it was -27F wind chill. But, taking pictures in such conditions was a fantastic opportunity we could not let pass by.

Today we had fun hosting a DayTrip. The normal volunteer duties include providing dinner for the crew and making sure there are left-overs for lunch the next day (and cleaning). With a DayTrip you need to have snacks and hot drinks for when they arrive--and also a nice lunch. Lots of extra people, good questions, and they seemed to have had a good day. As they headed back down the road visibility was down to just a few feet. So, they timed things well. Some times in the winter there are overnight groups to add to the already tight quarters. But, everyone is friendly and understanding that this is a tough place to live and work.

As a non-profit organization the Observatory needs volunteers to help get things done. But, even more important, it needs membership income and donations. Think about giving an Observatory membership this holiday season. Become a member and know you are providing valuable support to help keep things running. Then come up next summer and ask for a members' tour.

A photo journal of our week on Mt Washington can be seen at www.fotki.com/bradbradstreet/travels/2011/2011-12-14-mwo.

Brad Bradstreet – Summit Volunteer

16:06 Sun Dec 18th

photo - see caption below
Weather Dec. 11-17

December 11-17, 2011

Winter-like conditions have finally begun to take hold on the higher summits. Although not extreme by Mount Washington standards, overall temperatures and dew points are falling and winds are increasing. Whereas precipitation had recently been largely liquid, it is now trending toward more typical predominately freezing and frozen varieties. Moreover, at week's end truly frigid air reached the region to produce thermometer readings well below zero accompanied by wind chill factors sufficient to cause frostbite with brief exposures. However, the transition from anomalously mild to seasonally cold was a messy one.

The week commenced with a moderately cold air mass in place and lingering light snowfall in wake of a departing system. On Monday as high pressure crested and moved offshore, the synoptic-scale trailing return flow imported another round of warm air that remained in place into early Tuesday. A weak cold front approached at mid-morning, plunging the summit into the fog and depressing the mercury from the mid-20s to mid-10s. Snow showers began after Midnight and persisted into the first half of Wednesday before gradually ending around Noon.

The most significant weather maker of this period arrived late on Wednesday and generated an assortment of liquid, freezing and frozen precipitation, as well as two days of strong winds. This low pressure system featured a warm front and subsequent cold front, rapidly reinforced by a second cold front. It began as a wintery mix that transitioned first to rain, and then back to all snow. In its wake strong westerlies induced upslope snow showers and blowing snow, ultimately peaking at 116 MPH at midmorning Friday. Behind the second front, fog and light snow continued for most of the day on Saturday as the mercury gradually slid downward to bottom out in the middle single numbers below zero. This three-day event finally ended at late afternoon, bringing this chaotic week to a close on a positive note.

Rick Giard – Weather Observer / Education Specialist

17:31 Sat Dec 17th

photo - see caption below
A Rhyme Regarding Rime

If you allot me some time,
please allow me to rhyme.

And if I progress to rime,
then all has proceeded just fine.
Some cold fronts swung through,
not just one but two.

Ahead of the fronts it was quite warm,
with thirty-degree temps observed all morn'.

The nine inches of snow on the ground was no match,
as the warm temps and thick fog took it down the hatch.

Rain fell on and off through the early session of night,
and it did not take long for much of the snow to take flight.

The snowpack was reduced by four inches that day,
and once more we wondered if winter would stay.

But no sooner than this did the thermometers commence to fall,
and the night observer with glee towards the tower did crawl.

A clear coat of glaze ice began to form on the wind vane,
and on the pitot, and if he had been out, on Marty's black mane.

Just then the west winds began to whistle and howl,
with a pitch and a volume much like that of a growl.

The cold fronts approached with a tempestuous fury,
and the skies opened up, releasing much more than a flurry.

Irregular snow pellets reigned down heavily from the sky,
with an intensity offering warm air a goodbye.

During the midst of the snowstorm the temperatures continued to recede,
and a few additional warm layers the observers did need.

Just then the ice began to change its shiny complexion,
from a clear glazy hue to a milky white projection.

The white feathers accumulated at an increasingly rapid pace,
clinging to all surfaces, including the day observer's and intern's face.

From this point de-icing was not an occasion but a regular chore,
as without this oft' clearing, the instruments were done for.

Then mid-morning came and the winds hastened further,
and threatened to tucker out even the heartiest observer.

A peak gust of a century plus a sweet sixteen was recorded,
two mph more and the top gust of the season we would have been rewarded.

With all of this wind and moisture swirling about the crisp air,
the pale feathery structures continued to accumulate with flare.

This in fact is the tale of how we commenced in fall's prime,
but then succumbed to winter as all summit turned to rime.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:43 Fri Dec 16th

For me winter finally arrived today, it's been a long time since I've seen high winds, snow, blowing snow, freezing fog and heavy icing up here. This morning we were having to go out every twenty minutes or so to clear off the instruments. We even had some shovelling to do too - definitely must be winter.

Now that the cold fronts are though we should see some clearing tomorrow as high pressure builds in. But it won't be getting any warmer yet as the temperature will hover around zero all day but at least the winds will be easing off for a while.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:38 Thu Dec 15th

photo - see caption below
Olympian View

Upon coming out of the clouds yesterday afternoon we were afforded this spectacular topside view of the adjacent dense stratocumulus undercast with streaking cirrostratus overhead. Entirely surrounded by brilliant-white cotton wadding, one might think that this was not merely a mountaintop but another planet altogether. A virtual island of hard rock, cold ice and brilliant snow enveloped by ephemeral billows and blue streaks. On such a day there is a realm of peace and tranquility like no other abode in my experience.

When the ancients envisioned the place where their gods lived, this is the scene they created in their mind's eye - Mount Olympus, as it were. Surely a self-respecting Greek god would be honored to dwell in this residence. It is not surprising that the early local Native Americans in this region refused to climb the mountain they called Agiocochook, considering it to be the sacred home of their gods. The earliest known ascent was by Darby Field in 1642, and did include at least two "Indian" guides. Whether or not they encountered any of their gods was not recorded.

In the dark days before dawn of modern science, humankind attempted to explain the Earth and its natural phenomena by fabricating a fantasy world populated with various divinities who, depending on their disposition could, in turn, calm the winds and push the Sun gently across the heavens - or whip up a frenzy of gusting winds and hurl lightning bolts down upon the frightened populace. Yesterday Mount Washington was a pleasant and placid place to perch. Today, however, the gods are evidently in a foul mood. With fierce, gusty winds, thick fog and freezing rain enveloping all, we comprehend why the natives and early settlers generally elected to evade Agiocochook.

As an atmospheric scientist I thrive on observing, analyzing and studying weather by utilizing all the modern instruments and methods available. Although I plan to continue this practice into the foreseeable future, occasionally the lure of the omnipresent Rock Pile myths and legends capture my imagination.

Rick Giard – Weather Observer / Education Specialist

21:58 Wed Dec 14th

photo - see caption below
Marty splits the difference between EST and UTC

With regard to weather observations, according to the FMH-1 (Federal Meteorological Handbook-1):

'The times that are disseminated as part of the observation shall be entered in UTC.'

This fact is confirmed by a header column of our station's (KMWN's) MF1M-10c, which is the form prescribed by the FMH-1 for taking surface weather observations.

As you may or may not be aware, all surface weather observations around the globe are taken according to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), which is also known as Zulu (Z) or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The purpose of this is to ensure that all stations are taking observations at the same hour according to an identical clock, and a legitimate snap shot of current conditions can be formed by analyzing all concurrent weather observations. UTC does not change with the seasons as local time does with the daylight savings/standard swaps, so there is no confusion and no points of discontinuity in observation times. UTC is also a 24-hour clock, which eliminates the omnipresent AM/PM debacle.

For all of us east-coasters, UTC is local standard time (LST) plus 5 hours during the winter months, or local daylight time (LDT) plus 4 hours during the summer months. So when we perform an observation at 4:50AM EST and transmit to the National Weather Service, the time of the observation is officially reported as '0950Z', which uses the brief symbol for zulu 'Z.' With the standardization of observation-taking time, one can then determine what was occurring at every other surface weather station at the same moment by referencing the 09XXZ observation for those stations.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

16:36 Tue Dec 13th

Today was a big day at the Observatory. No, we didn't get back the world record wind. We got a new kitchen table!

If you have ever been in the kitchen on the summit, you know that the dining space is, well, rather uniquely shaped. It is a narrow space, and we sometimes have to find a way to fit as many as 18 people in it for meals. The table that was in this space was a finely made piece of furniture that seved its purpose well for many, many years. However, it did have its drawbacks, all of which can most likely be attributed the fact that when it was brought to the summit, we didn't have nearly as many overnight trips or guests. So, in the last couple of years, the organization has been talking about getting a new table. The task of finding one that would both fit in the allotted space and provide us with all the funtionality we needed proved to literally impossible. In other words, such a table does not seem to exist.

The only alternative was to have a table custom made. As perhaps you can imagine, that is a very expensive venture, especially when you are talking about the size table we needed. Thanks to a very generous donations this summer, we were able to get the ball rolling on having the table made. It was then finished yesterday, and brought up to the summit this afternoon.

The whole crew is definitely looking forward to sitting down at the table for dinner tonight...even more than usual!

Brian Clark – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

19:54 Mon Dec 12th

We started off this morning with a very beautiful sunrise and for most of the day the sky stayed completely clear with 120 miles of visibility. Temperatures started out in the low twenties in the morning and made it to the low thirties by mid-day. The deck and parking lot have next to no snow on them as the winds of a few days ago scoured most of the snow off the Summit. I did the last Weather Observation just after sunset and the Western sky was an orange glow and the first stars of the evening could be seen.

Radio towers are probably not something most people think of as beautiful however when they're coated with a foot of so of rime ice they can be quit the site to see especially with the sun coming up against the blue sky.

The State Park crew did their shift change today and was able to make it all the way up the Auto Road in a four wheel drive truck with chains. The only real snow they ran into was between "6 mile" and Hairpin. In some past years our Snow Tractor has already had to make several trips to the Summit however right now it's parked at halfway just waiting for its first trip of the season to the Summit.

As I walked around the deck today while doing my Weather Observations I could see the ski slopes at Bretton Woods and Wildcat have a nice amount of snow on them.

Today was really quit the contrast with last Saturday when our first group from theEMS Climbing Schoolclimbed to the Summit and spent the night with us.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:37 Sun Dec 11th

photo - see caption below
Not related to comment but still nice to look at.

First! It is something we all like aiming for. First place in a race/competition/game/etc. First in line for a blockbuster release. First to listen to a new song. First to read a new book. First to explore a part of Earth previously unseen. First to walk on the moon. And so on and so forth. It's great being number one. You have something to be proud about and if you're a sore winner, something to brag about. So, without further ado, here are some firsts, that we on the 'bad' weather shift can claim and brag about so far:

First...to see temperatures in the 20s this season back on September 15th.

First...to see measurable snowfall this season back on September 16th.

First...significant snowfall of the 'winter' season on the summit as we saw over a foot of snow deposited just before Halloween.

First...100 mph gust of the 'winter' season (although, this can be debated depending on the whole astronomical vs meteorological calendar vs Mt. Washington calendar ideology. If we go by the astronomical calendar, we reached the first 100 mph gust of the fall - winter starts December 22; if we go by the meteorological calendar, we reached the first 100 mph gust of the winter - winter started December 1; and if we go by Mt Washington's calendar, we reached the first 100 mph gust of the winter season - winter started in mid-October when the Sherman Adams building closed. So, I'll call it 'winter' but let you decide).

First...negative temperatures of the season with a 1 below 0 reached this morning, the first time since March 28th.

So, our 'bad' weather shift can claim victory in at least five categories so far this season. But don't feel too bad for the 'good' weather shift because, just as we can claim 'first' in these 5 categories, they can claim last for all of them last season. They were the last to see temperatures in the 20s back in June. They were last to see non-hail related, measurable snowfall back in June. They were last to see a foot of snow on the ground back in April. They were the last to see 100 mph gusts back in August (Irene). And they were last to see negative temperatures back in March.

Conclusions? Well, if you want to see the extremes of Mt Washington first, it's good to be with us. If you want to see the extremes of Mt Washington last before the summer season, it's good to be with the other shift. But, while our shift can claim the coveted 'first' in at least five categories, just like when I go fishing, the categories of 'biggest' (or lowest for temperatures) and 'most' are still up for grabs this season as well as who will get to be last in all of these categories come next spring. So, now we play the waiting game. You're move Mt Washington; hit us with your best shot!

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

22:43 Sat Dec 10th

With two fairly significant early season snowstorms in the northeast this past fall (Halloween and Thanksgiving), I ended up answering a lot of questions about whether storms like that can give any indication of how the forthcoming winter will turn out. Naturally, a lot of winter lovers like myself would like to think that significant early season snowfall automatically means that it's going to be a snowy winter. I wish I could say that was true, but it isn't necessarily. This year has been a very good example. Despite the early season storms, we are already below average for our seasonal snowfall total here on the mountain. It has also turned out to be very warm for the most part over the last month or so.

For the same reason that significant early season snowfall doesn't necessarily predict a snowy winter, a warm November and December does not necessarily give way to an overall warm rest of the winter. Given that, this warm stretch we experienced in November and into early December could easily be forgotten if things keep turning around like they have over the last few days. Unfortunately, it does not look like the more seasonable patter we have been experiencing is going to continue. In fact, by by as early as this coming Monday, temperatures could once again be flirting with the freezing mark here on Mount Washington.

As you might expect, this weather has really gotten me down in the dumps. All I can do is keep reminding myself what I mentioned in the previous paragraph: it can all change very quickly.

Brian Clark – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:43 Fri Dec 9th

photo - see caption below
Me in Snowy Conditions on the Tower

It is crazy how time flies! One day I am riding up the Mount Washington Auto Road for the first time to be interviewed for the intern position, and in a blink of an eye my internship is at its end. It is sad to write but this is the last week of my Mount Washington Observatory internship. It has been an amazing experience for me. Coming into it I was a little nervous about living in a remote location for 8 consecutive days but more than excited to witness, 'the World's Worst Weather.' As a recent college graduate in meteorology it was awesome opportunity to work for this organization. I learned new things every day that I will use for the rest of my life. I believe that the fall internship is the most exciting and best term to intern. The fall internship gave me the opportunity to experience and see it all. The best thing was being able to witness the transitioning of seasons from summer to fall to winter. This included interacting with the general public that visited the summit, observing the spectacular foliage views from New England's highest peak, and experiencing firsthand what it feels like to walk around in winds 100+ miles per hour winds. Some people backpack Europe when they graduate college. In my eyes I think I one-upped them with my immediate post college experience.

I would like to take the time to thank the Mount Washington Observatory for offering this internship and giving me the opportunity to spend four months working for it. It is a great stepping stone in my professional career. If anyone knows someone that would be interest in a summit intern experience I urge you to pass on the information linked here. It is a once in a life time experience. I would like to thank my shift (Brian, Ryan, and Rodger) who have been great to work beside and have help me learn new aspects of the job daily. I also would like to thank everyone else I have met and worked with over the past four months including the other shift, the summer museum attendants, volunteers, and valley staff. It has been one amazing experience that I do not want to leave. But if I don't I wouldn't let the next person experience this position. This isn't 'goodbye' to the top of Mount Washington; it is, 'see you next time I venture up.'

David Narkewicz – Summit Intern

19:38 Thu Dec 8th

I got up this morning to find fresh layer of new snow had been deposited on the Summit. As promised in the morning Forecast a strong Low pressure system moved over us dipping the barograph down to 23.20 before starting to rebound as a high started to build in throughout the day. Temperatures dipped to the low single digits and we experienced our first wind gust of over the century mark for the season at 116.9 miles per hour at 8:20 am.

Earlier this morning Marty was seen wandering through the rotunda of the Sherman Adams building checking things out with one of our volunteers. The rest of the day he was seen sprawled out on one of the couches in the living area - All that exercise must have tired him out.

Sustained winds weren't high enough for anyone to try for the 'Century' club today however Dave did take a lap around the observation deck in 85-90 mile per hours winds and came back saying it was exciting.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

00:14 Thu Dec 8th

photo - see caption below
Snowless snow cat scene.

This fall during one of my off weeks, I watched a movie called 'Puss in Boots'. While the movie had little to no relation to the short story penned by Charles Perrault, it was still an interesting and comical tail to watch. But the reason I am mentioning a 'kids' movie is because of one of the signature moves that the cat is known for in that movie as well as the two Shrek films that he appeared in. In the films, the cat removes his hat, looks down and then back up with huge and adorable eyes that make him outright irresistible and forces those he looks at to fall into a trance-like state for him or others to gain the upper hand. When I see the summit cat Marty with eyes that big, he's usually not adorable and it usually means he's in a foul mood but in the movie on an animated cat, it is indeed adorable and makes the audience usually go 'Aw, poor little guy'.

When we were driving up today for shift change, I saw a similar scene from a different type of cat. As we passed our Bombardier Snow Tractor (which we all call a snow-cat), I swear it's two front windshields were doing the same thing that Puss in Boots was doing with his eyes cause as we passed I found myself looking over and saying 'Aw, poor little guy'. Since bringing the 'cat' up to the half way mark this fall, we have yet to use him. It's not that we haven't received any snow; it's just that the snow we have received has all melted off for our shift changes or is thin enough cover for us to come up in in a 4x4 truck/van with chains on. Don't get me wrong, being prone to motion sickness, I would gladly take a truck/van up over the snow-cat any day since taking the 'cat' up is (like I've mentioned here before) like putting Disneyland's Tea Cup ride on the back of a boat with a blindfold on. Not fun at all (but memorable and one of a kind none the less). But this time of year, I'm kind of starting to miss the beast and the weekly anxiety it usually causes me. But the purr of the beast and the nausea/anxiety it gives me might be back as soon as next week as snow and cold weather are making a return this shift. So fingers crossed that at next week's shift change my frienemy the snow-cat will once again be taking me down the summit to its perch at halfway, or even better, the base.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:43 Tue Dec 6th

Whenever I am here on the summit, where there are all sorts of advanced devices to tell exact measurements of wind speed, humidity and temperature, I realize how much I rely on trees and other foliage to tell the weather at home. There is not a tree in sight here on the summit--only far, far away at lower elevations. Too far to see any movement, and all the surfaces right here are hard--rocks and structures. If you look out the window, you can't see evidence of wind at all unless it is foggy and you can see that blowing. We can't even hear the wind much down in the living quarters unless it is over 50 mph and coming in the right direction to make the vents over the stove rattle a bit.

At home, I have a window as a headboard on my bed so immediately upon waking, I open the shade and look at the big hemlocks and oaks right outside the window. If they are moving a lot, it is windy, and if the leaves are inverted, I know rain could be on the way. If they are coated in ice or snow, I know it may be a slippery drive to work. The rhododendrons serve as an amazing thermometer--the leaves curl up tightly if it is below 25 degrees so I better dress warmly. The foliage of trees and shrubs serve not only as something to which precipitation can cling, but also as a backdrop against which I can see it falling. I also find it mesmerizing and peaceful to watch the trees swaying at home and have lost many a block of time just watching them.

So here I am on this glorious, beautiful mountaintop writing about the beauty of trees at lower elevation! But it is taking note of the stark contrast between the two--summit and below treeline--which makes this such an incredible place.

Nicole Moore
9th time Summit Volunteer

P.S. (by Observer Rick Giard) I know that I can speak for the entire summit crew when saying that Nicole did a great job this week. Thank you for all your good cooking and hard work!

Nicole Moore – Summit Volunteer

17:53 Mon Dec 5th

Well IT wise it's been a busy week up here. After several weeks of preparation we switched over our main database server on Friday. So far everything is working well and now it's time for all the tedious, but essential, documentation!

On Friday this shift saw its first overnight guests for the new winter season. A hiking trip stopped over - with all the mild weather and very little snow or ice they had a very Fall like experience. If you think you'd like to try something like this then see the Partner-Led Climbing Trips page for more details. Or perhaps you'd prefer the luxury of a trip in our snow tractor? If so check out our Winter EduTrips.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

20:31 Sun Dec 4th

photo - see caption below
Weekly Summary 11/27-12/3


Continuing the recent trend, this week featured more anomalously warm temperatures. Thus, despite a good amount of precipitation around midweek totaling in excess of three inches liquid, snow has been scarce. Moreover, the meager snow pack has once again dwindled to traces of patchy snow and rime nestled between the rocks. Starting out with a warm front Sunday followed closely by the associated cold front Monday, mild, foggy and showery were the primary characteristics. These disturbances failed to deposit much precipitation, however. The cold front stalled out south of the region, and then returned northward as a weak warm front to spark some additional light showers.

A weak ridge provided some clearing during the early part of Tuesday, but this brief respite was quickly followed by a more substantial storm system. By evening moderate to heavy rain began, and continued through the night into the early morning hours. By Wednesday morning this system had produced over three inches of rain, prompting regional streams and small rivers to overflow. Behind the cold front temperatures dropped from the lower forties to the middle twenties by afternoon, and upper teens by evening. Fog persisted for the entire day and night into early Thursday. This created the usual light rime accumulations, which along with some upslope generation of snow and snow pellet showers returned the summit to a winter-like state.

The first of December proved to be a gem, with seasonably cold air, low dew points, 100% possible sunshine and near-maximum visibility. Winds remained moderate and resulted in some low wind-chill factors. The dry and chilly conditions persisted through midday Friday, when a fast-moving low jogged through to stir up another quick round of snow showers and gusty winds. This system generated less than an inch of snow and reinforced the cold temperatures. The cold snap proved to be very brief, as high pressure building in during Saturday ensured above normal temperatures along with abundant sunshine to close out the week. Upon moving offshore, this high is expected to import even milder air for Sunday.

Rick Giard – Weather Observer / Education Specialist

23:03 Sat Dec 3rd

What's up with the weather?

It seems we keep uttering the same phrase up here on the summit: 'This time, the snow pack won't melt out.' Our crew was convinced of this fact before our early departure last shift in advance of the Thanksgiving Eve snowstorm. With a healthy 10 inches of snow falling on the summit, and a large dose of heavy wet snow blanketing the valleys below, this time, it REALLY won't melt out.

But yet another Wednesday went by without the use of the increasingly lonely Snow Cat, as nearly 3 inches of rain coupled with mild temperatures allowed the snowpack to dwindle to isolated patches for the third time this adolescent winter season. We received .8 inches of snow on Friday, but most of this promptly exited stage-ravines as northwest winds picked up Friday night. As a result, the early December landscape still boasts a fair bit of bare rock and sedge.

This time, I won't make the mistake of saying this feeble snow 'pack' won't melt out, as models are once again forecasting a warm up for the foreseeable future, with highs most likely cresting above the freezing mark for the next three consecutive days.

However, the first true dose of summit winter is being hinted at in the long-range forecast models, so we may not have to wait much longer. BUT, long-range models have been known to be wrong before.

The best plan is to just wait and see!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:26 Fri Dec 2nd

photo - see caption below
Casting a Long Shadow

In yesterday's comment, Kevin discussed the refractive optical phenomenon known as the glory, produced dramatically over a thick undercast. Continuing with the general theme of atmospheric optics, this morning we observed an excellent demonstration of haze interfering with visibility. Additionally, the seasonal variation of solar angle and shadowing in mountainous terrain are becoming evident. The Rock Pile looms large over this region!

I snapped this photograph today shortly before 7:30 A.M., roughly a half-hour after summit sunrise. Notice the prominent shadow distinctly cast westward by Mount Washington, not only upon the surface but also on the hazy atmosphere above. The haze is essentially acting as if it were a cloud, substantial enough to reveal shadows. In this case, the low sun angle produces a shadow many miles beyond the mountain. All of the localities within this shadow experience a later sunrise than other nearby places. Incidentally, this feature was seen in virtually the same direction and time of day as the glory observed yesterday morning. This morning there were no clouds below the summit, thus the same sun angle created a different effect.

During its year-long orbit Earth's orientation with respect to the Sun changes. From our perspective, it appears as if the sun is moving. In reality the position and movements of Earth create this illusion. It does produce very real effects on weather conditions and seasons. As we approach the Winter Solstice on December 22, the Sun reaches its declination (latitude point at which the Sun is directly overhead at Noon) farthest south - 23.5 degrees latitude below the Equator. This is the beginning of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the start of Summer in the Southern Hemisphere. During this period the sun is at its lowest elevation angle (distance above horizon at Noon), tracing a low arc across the southern horizon. This means short days, long nights, and generally the coldest temperatures of the year.

The good news is that, immediately following the Winter Solstice, the Sun begins to slowly move northward again. Consequently, the elevation angle gradually increases and the days slowly become longer. By mid-March the days and nights are equal (Spring equinox), and by mid-June (Summer solstice) we have the longest days and shortest nights. So, now that the Red Sox have finally hired a new manager, can spring training be very far away?

Rick Giard – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

14:16 Thu Dec 1st

photo - see caption below

Yesterday a shortwave moving through the New England area kept us in the clouds and provided us with upslope snow showers in the afternoon. However, the weather is magnificent on the summit today as colder dryer air filters in from Canada. The fog cleared up this morning allowing us to see a rime encrusted summit once again. Temperatures are hovering in the lower 20s but these temperatures are normal for this time of year. Undercast could be seen below the summit giving the summit staff a great view out the weather room window.

The educational observer for our shift, Rick Giard, noticed an optical phenomena out our weather room windows while taking an observation this morning. If you look very closely at the photo you can see a faint semicircle glory just left of Mount Clay. Glory's appear when the sun's rays back-scatter off of cloud droplets to the eyes of the observer. In order to see a glory an observer must be stationed in-between a cloud and the sun and the sun must be at a low angle. When the cloud droplets are uniform within the cloud a glory can be quite distinctive. Glories are typically seen in airplanes or atop mountains due to the fact that you are between the clouds and the sun.

Kevin Cronin – Summit Intern

Home of the World's Worst Weather
Administration: 2779 White Mountain Highway, P. O. Box 2310, North Conway, NH 03860 • Tel: 603-356-2137 • Fax: 603-356-0307 • contact us
Mount Washington Observatory respects your privacy           ©2014 Mount Washington Observatory           Site Directory
Web Site Support from Zakon Group LLC