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Observer Comments

November 2012

18:45 Fri Nov 30th

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Sunrise From the Summit Cone

Living in New England, I have visited Mt Washington many times. One of my favorite trips up to the rockpile was last spring. Instead of celebrating the end to my undergraduate career, I didn't go out drinking or sleep for a week straight. Instead, an hour after finishing my last final exam, I was in the car on the way to Mt Washington. Meeting up with a friend, I headed up to the Hermit Lake Shelters for the night. Under crystal clear skies and the blur of the Milky Way, my friend and I woke up and strapped on our crampons to head up Lion's Head. We were aiming to get to the summit by sunrise but our hike took longer than expected, and we enjoyed a neon yellow sunrise halfway up the summit cone.

Once we got to the summit, the weather was unusually clear and calm. It felt like we were alone on the summit, but I knew there were observers hunkered down in the fortified Sherman Adams building. We could see all the way to Mt Marcy in the Adirondacks. On a clear day, parts of New York, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Canada are all visible from the summit. You can even see many far-away locations such as Mexico, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Peru (all town names located in Maine, of course). After spending 20 minutes or so on the cold and calm summit, my friend and I started slowly on our way down the summit cone, a small arctic island in a sea of temperate climate.

Climbing Mt Washington is something that is incredibly rewarding, yet requires both knowledge of the mountain and outdoor skills. If you are new to the outdoors, Eastern Mountain Sports offers a variety of climbing courses which summit regularly in the winter. If you want to experience the summit without having to climb to the top, winter Edutrips are a wonderful opportunity. They are themed trips that spend a night on the summit, taking the Observatory's snow tractor up and down the Auto Road. These trips allow participants to explore the summit and participate in a variety of activities revolving around the trip's theme. Sleeping arrangements in the Observatory's cozy and warm living quarters and a delicious dinner cooked by the summit's volunteers are included.

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount here. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

17:26 Thu Nov 29th

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Brian explaining the Thermograph.

Last month we were able to offer our first Distance Learning Program live from the summit of Mount Washington to Alberta, Canada. Today was another first for the Observatory's Education Outreach when the summit and our Weather Discovery Center in North Conway linked up with one of the fifth grade classes at the Instituto de Thomas Jefferson in Queretaro, Mexico, just north of Mexico City. This completely bi-lingual school sits at an elevation of over 5,000 feet- so they were no strangers to elevation, but few students had ever experienced snow!

Temperatures today in Queretaro were expected to reach the upper 70s which stood in stark contrast to the conditions outside when I spoke with the students. Part of the program involved a lesson from outside on the observation deck where it was -1 degree with 60+ mile per hour winds. Needless to say the students were wondering why anyone would want to spend any amount of time in such a cold and brutal place.

Starting tomorrow the rest of this shift features four more distance learning programs all on the theme of "Extreme Weather Observations," which gives an in-depth look at what weather variables we measure, how we measure them, and why we think this is a worth-while endeavor for you and me. If you're curious about learning more about our unique weather on Mount Washington or more about our Educational Offerings, follow the links!

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount here. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

23:40 Wed Nov 28th

After three weeks away from work, one can certainly gain a whole new perspective.

I expected to return from vacation to a summit caked in rime ice and snow, with drifts towering over my head abounding, and a dusted-off Snow Cat.

However, much to my surprise, the Auto Road was only slightly coated with the wintry whiteness, and the large drifts were nowhere to be found as we ascended in the truck and 4x4 van (Not Snow Cat, but NO Cat) early this morning.

The promise of winter is in the forecast for the next few days as an Alberta Clipper system blasts through overnight Thursday into Friday, possibly dumping a few inches of snow and ramping up summit wind speeds!

Will the system right the ship of winter thenceforth? It does not look like it. As the jet stream bows northward early next week, warm air will advance on the eastern two-thirds of the U.S., bringing with it a mild start to the month of December. Rain on the summit on December 2nd? Yes, it is possible at this time.

One thing is for sure though--after three weeks away, I am excited to delve back into the world of observing Mt. Washington's weather, as no two shifts are ever the same, and it keeps summit life quite interesting for this weather nerd!

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount here. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

23:03 Tue Nov 27th

For every Thanksgiving since I entered this world, I have spent the day with my family. I knew that one year however, I wouldn't be able to be home for whatever reason. Never did I think this reason would be because I was on top of Mt. Washington...You see, working up here means living here for eight days at a time, holidays included. This was hard for me to grasp at first, but the more I saw how much goes on up here and how dedicated the observers are, I knew that it could happen. So when I came up for my shift this past Wednesday, I was optimistic yet sad as well, knowing that this would be a first for me.

When Thursday rolled around however, I was in for a surprise. The sun was shining bright and temperatures were in the mid-30s outside, while inside we worked diligently on both weather-related tasks as well as dinner plans. Around 2:30 pm, I went downstairs to the kitchen and prepped the turkey before placing it in the oven. Yes, I, the wonderful intern, was placed in charge of cooking the turkey. This task seemed tougher than any other I've been assigned, for I did not want to go into the history books as 'the intern that ruined Thanksgiving', especially since Cyrena, our Director of Summit Operations, was here with us. After making sure that everything was set correctly, I returned upstairs and wrote up my afternoon higher summits forecast. Ryan, our night observer, began his day shortly thereafter, and suggested flying his go-pro camera on a kite since it was so nice out. Not wanting to pass up on a rare November opportunity such as this, I happily threw on my gear and hurried outside with the crew. After about an hour of flying and sharing some laughs as we were nearly pulled across the deck by the kite, we went back inside to continue our work and finish up dinner prep.

The time finally came, and we all gathered around the table for our delicious meal. I made the turkey, Ryan made green bean casserole, Rebecca made potato casserole, Roger made stuffing, and Cyrena made sweet potatoes and a pumpkin pie. Everything came out perfect, and the way that everyone celebrated together made me feel like I wasn't roughly 6,288ft. above my kitchen at home. After dinner and dessert, I had time to video chat with my family, and was passed around to all the relatives to say hello from atop the Northeast. I also had a video chat with my girlfriend and her family, so I was happy to get to say hello to everyone back home. All in all, it was an enjoyable day and by far one of the most unique Thanksgivings I will ever experience. If anything, this taught me how to be thankful for the ones you know and love, but also to be thankful for the ones currently around you. You see, each individual has their own story, and if you come together on special days such as Thanksgiving, you can learn so much from them. What did I learn? Well, I really have been learning during my entire time up here, but the holiday further proved to me that the summit crew is some of the nicest, funniest, and most-dedicated people I have ever met. This is their full-time job, and they willingly accept anything that comes with it, even if it means working through the holidays. The summit crew is a family in itself. A family that lives together, celebrates together, and most importantly, works together toward making the Observatory one of the most amazing and unique places on Earth.

Stephen Lanciani – Summit Intern

22:43 Mon Nov 26th

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View of the Observation Deck at night.

What difference a few days can make - From 9:00 PM November 13th until 9:00 PM November 23rd we only had 8 hours where there was any fog reported and temperatures were in the teens to 30's and very low winds for this time of year with a peak gust of only 53 miles per hour over the period. Just so we didn't start to think this is some kind of Caribbean Island resort, the temperature was turned down to a low of minus two yesterday and winds were cranked up with a peak gust of 106 miles per hour. Makes you appreciate all of that warm clothing and boots that EMS and Vasque provide us with as sponsors. We've also had some snow fall over the past two days and we're currently reporting two inches on the Summit. However, as you can see in the picture with this comment, most of it has blown off the deck. It makes you wonder where Santa will be landing with his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer just four short weeks from today.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:41 Sun Nov 25th

Dear Santa-

Has it been a year already? It seems like just yesterday that I was writing you our Christmas List for 2011 and yet, here we find ourselves heading towards Christmas 2012 and here I am writing you once again. This will be my sixth letter to you; that's nearly one letter for each year I have been working up here. So, this isn't my first go at this whole letter writing thing to you and I have been checking off each itemized item on my SOP for writing this list:

1. Hand Written note by November 1 - DONE
2. Email note by Thanksgiving - DONE
3. A preliminary New Hampshire forecast for Christmas night - DONE (emailed it to you today)
4. A reminder on my Google Calendar/Task List for a follow up forecast for the days leading up to December 25th - ADDED and WAITING...
5. Our list posted on our Observer Comments page as a failsafe - DONE (after I post this)

So, have we been good lil' Weather Observers again this year? I like to think that we acted kindly and respectfully to all our interns, guests, friends, families and pets (Marty Kitty). Speaking of Marty, he is eagerly waiting your return - you guys must have some sort of connection I can't comprehend - maybe it's a special treat or food you give him. Thankfully you have stopped giving him toys because he has way too many of those. When you arrive at NH State Parks Sherman Adams Building, you will find that it is pretty much like you remember it last year. So, you should have no problem finding the "chimney", the milk, and cookies for making a quick in and out.

So once again, if it is not too much trouble; could you get us one or more of the following?

1. Observatory Memberships - Not for the observers but for other boys and girls on your list around the world. Since we are membership supported, these gifts would be the gifts that keep giving over the year. And this year, when you give a gift membership, you receive a FREE limited edition Observatory ornament for you and the misses to enjoy (or re-gift if you so choose).

2. Gift Donations - This will help lighten your bag of toys and help us out in the long term.

3. Edutrips - Again, not for the observers but for the other boys and girls on your list around the world. This gives us the gift of funding and in return, someone on your list gets the opportunity to stay and learn on top of the Northeast's highest peak. Plus, it gives me someone new to talk to and interact with. And since I know you and the misses anniversary is around this time, you might want to reserve a spot. You've come up in the past on one of these so it's time to come up and visit in a non-professional capacity once again.

4. Eastern Mountain Sports Equipment - Again, not for us as they have provided us with everything we need to stay warm and dry up here. This is a recommendation if you plan on using EMS for gifts for others on your list. If you use the link I provided, you give them a gift and us a gift as a percentage of your purchase will go towards helping us out as well.

5. Office Supplies - We work like an office, so anything you can send that will cut costs for us is great: mechanical pencils, refill lead (0.5mm), pens, printer paper, etc. The only exception is Post-it Note pads since the past few years you've gone a bit overboard with these and I think we have more than I will ever be able to use in my time here.

6. Batteries - Preferably AAA, AA or D's as our headlamps, flashlights and rescue/research equipment use these.

7. Gift cards - We go shopping for food weekly at Hannaford, Shaw's or Walmart; but Lowes, Home Depot, or anywhere else in North Conway is fine. Well, you know what's here.

8. Sporting Equipment - Can you ever have enough sporting equipment? We always prefer foam types to lower the risk of breaking anything on us or around us. But we will take any kind of sports "toys." I think topping the list this year are plastic toboggan sleds since we are running a bit low this year. And the cheaper the better since these don't tend to last us a whole winter with all the ice we have to run them down on.

9. Calendars - We need at least one to keep track of the days up here. Keep them "clean" for the public to view like nature scenes or humorous ones. Plus, if you buy it from our online shop, it gives us a calendar and financial support (two birds, one stone).

10. Board Games - To keep us entertained as a group from time to time. We already love playing Cranium, Apples to Apples, Things, Scrabble, and Loaded Questions. So if you know of any others like these, I know we'd love them. The more offbeat, the better it seems.

11. Candles - Preferably the soy-based, large jar type or tumblers like the ones from Soyfire for example. They liven up our living quarters and make it feel more like home.

12. Candy and gum - Since I know you eat a lot of cookies and sweets, I know you can relate. Can we ever really have enough?

13. A mini-pliers set - Our IT staff has requested this as we don't have a set like this in our ICU (Instrument Care Unit).

14. Pillows - We want to provide our overnight guests with some added comfort, so we are looking to replace our current stock of old pillows with some newer, fuller, Hypoallergenic polyester fiber filled pillows. They don't need to be top of the line, just something better than some that we have currently.

15.A 3 step stool/ladder - Our old wood ladder in the pantry is showing it's age and is starting to mimic Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. So something a bit more sturdy would be very much appreciated by the staff and especially our summit volunteers.

16.A cordless drill - Our current cordless drill no longer holds a charge, so a new drill, or at minimum, a new battery set, would help us in our outdoor instrument work.

17. Snow - the more the better! So far, this season has been below average. So some of the white stuff would make not only us happy but also all our surrounding ski resorts and winter activity industries happy.

18. Surprise us yet again! - Sometimes the coolest gifts are the ones we didn't think we needed.

That's about it Santa. Remember that we don't mind second hand items so long as they are in good, clean and usable condition. This helps out the environment and extends the life on perfectly usable stuff. We are really not picky and are just thankful for anything. Also, if you want a particular type of cookie and drink, like last year, you can post your preferences in our forums or on our Facebook page. We will try once again to keep the plate full, but you've had our volunteers cooking, it's hard to pass up sometimes; so delicious!

Since it will be my shift up for Christmas once again this year, I will ensure that everything is in order for your arrival: a clear deck and path to the door, well greased doors, deiced stairs, clean living quarters, decorated Christmas tree (maybe a real one for a change?), and a full plate of cookies next to a glass of milk/nog/soy (but not Soy Nog; have you had that? Whoa...). And I will keep you posted on the forecast leading up to and on the night of your arrival. Safe travel and see you then.

Thanks and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays-

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:56 Sat Nov 24th

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Star Trails from Weds and Thurs night.

Snow, rime, cold, and winds have finally returned tonight after a long absence from the summit; and the current crew couldn't be happier. For this time of year, temperatures should be averaging in the upper teens (Fahrenheit), winds should be averaging around 40 mph, snow should be averaging around 41 inches, and fog should be obscuring our views. However, an area of high pressure that built in on the 14th and hung around until the 22nd kept us anything but normal. The daily average temperatures were in the mid 20s or warmer, winds were averaging well below 30 mph and mostly in the single digits, the meager 6.1 inches of snow at the start of the month all but melted, and we remained nearly fog and cloud free over the entire period. It was a long period of what most would label 'nice' weather, but too much of a good thing can start to wear on you.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like we weren't taking advantage of the nice weather - getting outside more than usual for November, finishing up loose ends on the summer task list, repairing and checking instruments, and taking in the full spectrum of the night skies and endless vistas day and/or night. But then you start thinking ahead you start to wonder - will our intern get to ride up in the snow tractor before ending his internship in December, how will the lack of snow affect water tables, or the ski/winter industries, etc., how will the sudden change back to winter conditions affect underprepared hikers who have been lulled by the false sense of nice weather over the past week, etc.? For most of these, only time will tell, but the good news is that unlike the past 8 days, the upcoming 8 days look to be making a turn around to more normalized late-fall/winter conditions. So, the moral of this comment: if you dislike winter, hopefully you enjoyed the past 8 days; if you like winter, you can now look forward to the next 8 days.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

15:35 Fri Nov 23rd

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Me and the crew flying our kite.

While others are traveling to and from family and friends this Thanksgiving, I decided to instead spend the holiday with the summit staff. Sure, my family was probably a little disappointed that I didn't come home, but I thought it was a great opportunity to spend with our fantastic observers who weren't able to go home either. Often we find ourselves spending more time with the people we work with than our own families, so our coworkers become a family too of sorts. The summit is no exception.

I had three goals for my time up here. The first was to catch up on some work. There were a few things that I needed to get done on the summit that we never have time for during shift change, and I was able to start addressing those items. The second was to come up here in the capacity of a volunteer and spend some time in our kitchen. Dinner was my responsibility on Wednesday, we worked together to make a fantastic Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, and today I'm using the rest of the turkey to make lots of soup. I love cooking and efficiency is important, nothing goes to waste up here! My final goal was for all of us to have fun this Thanksgiving. Between observations yesterday we were able to fly kites in the 25 mph winds (calm by summit standards). Good times were had by all, I laughed till my stomach hurt between Rebecca's flying talents, Roger's possessed camera, Steve melting his gloves via friction with the kite string, and frantically running after Ryan's GoPro2 camera.

Even though we all had to work through the holiday, we made the best of it. We are all so very thankful to be a part of such a wonderful organization with so much support from our members and community. We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount on MountWashington.org/Giving. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Cyrena Briede – Director of Summit Operations

21:32 Thu Nov 22nd

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Thanksgiving Dinner.

Tonight's comment will be short and sweet because tonight is Thanksgiving! Here on the summit, each of the crew chose one dish to contribute to the meal, and with more food then we know what to do with, we are sure to be full and relaxing on the couch in no time. Now it would not be Thanksgiving without saying what we are thankful for; I think all of us here on the summit can agree that we are so thankful for our members and supports, without whom we would not be here. So thank you all for making the Observatory a part of your life and ours!

The Summit Crew – and Marty

14:53 Wed Nov 21st

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Holidays on the Summit

As the holidays are quickly approaching finding the perfect gift can often be a daunting task. This year the Mount Washington Observatory is here to help! We have many different great gift ideas for the outdoor adventurer, Observatory supporter, and weather enthusiast in your family.

Send someone on the winter experience of a lifetime through one of our EduTrips designed to give you an out of this world educational experience on the summit of Mount Washington. Here you will journey to the summit and spend the night on the Rockpile where you will be able to meet the Observatory staff and get a taste of our life working and living on the highest peak in the Northeast.

Don't think they can swing an overnight? We also offer DayTrips that bring you to the summit for a day long adventure. Exploring the summit, touring the Weather Room, and more are all on a DayTrip docket. You will leave the summit with an entirely new perspective on winter weather.

For those in your family who would rather hike Mount Washington, we also offer Partner-Led Climbing Trips with different Mountain Guiding Services in the valley. With an experienced guide, you will make your way to the summit, where you are greeted into the Observatory for a night stay before making your decent the following day.

Catch a family member constantly looking to the sky and maybe the perfect gift comes from our online shop with many different weather instruments to choose from. With everything from a simple thermometer to a Davis weather system, you can get your weather enthusiast making their own observations.

If you have an Observatory follower in your midst, a memberhip package might be a great choice. With all the premium content waiting to be discovered, giving the gift of a membership can brighten their year. As a bonus, sign someone up with a gift membership and they will also get a Observatory tree ornament.

With all the possibilities the Mount Washington Observatory has to offer you can make this year's holidays one to remember.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:19 Tue Nov 20th

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A distinct layer of haze looking west this PM.

Even though this past week's weather pattern has been extremely quiet, that doesn't mean interesting things aren't happening in our atmosphere. A few days ago I spoke about sun dogs that were a sign of very high level moisture (more specifically ice crystals that help form high-level cirrus clouds) in our atmosphere, which was pretty much the only moisture to be found, given how low our relative humidity on the rockpile has been lately (on average < 30%). Co-currently, there has been a small amount of surface-level moisture that has been manifesting itself as early morning fog in the valleys.

For the past three days now low-level haze has been engulfing valleys across the state with a smoky, milky-white obscuration during the afternoons which has been happening beneath 4,000 feet our so. Why is this happening, you may be asking? Well, two major factors come into play: a thermal inversion (in this case a slight warmer air mass sitting on top of a cooler air mass) and air pollution. With a warmer air mass sitting on top of a cooler one (which is the opposite of how surface air masses typically interact) the base of the warmer air mass acts as an invisible ceiling trapping particles close to the surface instead of being carried off. Haze is being formed when pollutants, like fine particles (from automobiles, factories, coal-fired power plants, etc) are released into the air and combine with moisture droplets in the air and are then exposed to sunlight- which in turn refracts sunlight, causing reduced visibility.

When haze is being formed in the air, it's likely ozone is as well- which spells trouble for sensitive groups who suffer from asthma or other lung-related ailments. Today's air quality forecast across the state has most counties with a 'moderate' air quality rating (meaning unhealthy for very sensitive groups), which is not very typical in or near the winter months except when thermal inversions occur. With many families and businesses emitting smoke from wood stoves and people driving cars, it doesn't take long for particles to build up and get trapped. Along with slow moving high pressure very little air is moving around, and with all of these factors coming together we have ourselves low-level haze.

For more information about haze and air quality forecast for the state of New Hampshire visit NH Department of Environmental Services' website. Be sure to look our for our air quality forecasts in MWO's Regional Forecast.

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

21:37 Mon Nov 19th

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Length of Clear Spells on the Summit

Up here on the summit, what many would consider normal weather is unusual for us. We've been in the clear with calm winds for much of the last 5 days. Extended clearing on the summit in November hasn't happened in the recent memory of many of the observers, so I decided to look into our weather archives to see how often clear spells like this occur on the summit.

As it turns out, the last span of five clear days in November happened in 2006, and before that in 1976. We have, in fact, never had a span longer than 5.75 completely clear days in November on the summit. I specify November because normally we are well on our way to wintery conditions, which typically include increasing snowfall and fogginess.

Conditions are not unusual solely because of the lack of the fog on the summit. Often this time of year, the summit is capped in snow and winter is in full swing. Instead, we currently have very dry conditions and relatively warm temperatures on the summit. Our average liquid precipitation for November is 10.49 inches, mostly falling in the form of snow, however we are falling behind with only 1.15 inches so far this month!

Let's hope Mother Nature returns to the summit with fury soon!

Observer footnote: If you think you have what it takes to predict when wintry weather will hit the area, enter our snow contest. Purchase a ticket for $2 and register your prediction of the day and time that Jackson, New Hampshire will receive its first 6' of snow in a single storm. If your prediction is correct, you'll win half of the ticket sale proceeds! The other half will be split equally between the Observatory and Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

22:57 Sun Nov 18th

This is turning into an incredible week of nights for me. Apart from a very brief interlude of some pesky fog late Friday night I've been blessed with crystal clear skies and some amazing star gazing. So far no Aurora Borealis sightings but I have seen quite a few 'shooting stars' - the Leonids meteor shower peaked on the 17th. The incredible night sky is definitely the best thing about working the night shift.

Considering the time of year it is really amazing that we've seen no precipitation whatsoever this shift along with light winds and hardly any fog. Looking at our averages for November we usually pick up just over 40 inches of snow and around 10 inches of water equivalent - so far this month we have recorded 6.1 inches of snow and only 1.15 inches of water equivalent - no doubt things will change soon but that's quite a deficit to make up.

In other news MWO is proud to be partnering with the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce (JACC) on a snowfall contest. Purchase a ticket for $2 and register you prediction of the day and time that Jackson, NH will receive its first 6 inches of snow in a single storm. If your prediction is correct, you'll win half of the ticket sale proceeds! The other half will be split equally between the Observatory and the JACC. For more information visiting MountWashington.org and click on the snowflake in the upper left corner of the home page!

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:09 Sat Nov 17th

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Sun dogs to our west late Friday afternoon.

Well it's been a quiet week here on the Rockpile- my weekly home, perhaps one of the more quiet weeks in recent history. Not a single drop of precipitation has fallen since Tuesday, and we've only been in the fog for a few brief hours, instead of the 60% odds we typically have. Weather-wise it hasn't been too rough up on the summit, though it's hard to complain when the view has stayed so outstanding. With the ever-decreasing sunlight as we draw closer to the winter solstice I'll certainly take a fair-weather week. With one large high pressure system after another parading across our region, we've been left with very sunny and very dry skies. Relative humidity has been routinely less than 20% up here, and with the heat on indoors it's even more difficult to stay hydrated than normal. Enough with the complaining though, because with very little moisture in the sky, save the very upper levels of our atmosphere we've been seeing a lot of a phenomena known as sun dogs (this photo taken in Fargo, North Dakota).

A sun dog is a type of atmospheric phenomenon that appears as a bright spot of light on either one or both sides of the sun when sunlight passes through frozen moisture in the sky (aka high cirrus clouds). Sun dogs are a fairly common occurrence, though if you are on the lookout for one, make sure the position of the sun is low in the sky so that the sun's light can pass through the clouds and their moisture and on into your eyes.

In other news MWO is proud to be partnering with the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce on a snowfall contest. Purchase a ticket for $2 and register you prediction of the day and time that Jackson, NH will receive its first 6' of snow in a single storm. If your prediction is correct, you'll win half of the ticket sale proceeds! The other half will be split equally between the Observatory and the JACC. For more information visiting MountWashington.org and click on the snowflake in the upper left corner of the home page!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

19:42 Fri Nov 16th

As many facebook fans may have noticed, we had a spectacular aurora display last Tuesday evening (if you aren't on facebook or haven't seen these pictures, go here). If you ever wanted to know more about how these auroras form, read on!

We are entering a great time for auroras. In order to have these shimmering light shows in our skies, several things need to happen. Crucially, the sun must be emitting particles from sunspots. These sunspots look like gigantic geysers shooting particles from the sun into space. Our sun goes through cycles in the number of sunspots it contains. We will soon reach a maximum in one of these cycles, so keep your eyes out for more this winter!

Another thing to keep an eye on in predicting auroras is the sun's rotation. Exceptionally strong sunspots cause unusually strong aurora only if the sunspot is facing earth. Since the sun rotates around approximately every 30 days, if there is an exceptionally strong aurora event, there is likely to be another one in a month once that sunspot is pointing at earth again.

These sunspots shoot charged particles toward earth at several million miles per hour (but still significantly slower than the speed of light). When the particles approach earth, they are deflected along the lines of earth's magnetic field. As you know, the earth has a north and south magnetic pole, where these theoretical lines in the magnetic field actually enter earth. As the particles ride the lines in the magnetic field either north or south, they will eventually collide with air particles lower in the earth's atmosphere. Energy is then released in the form of light, which can be different colors depending on how much energy is released.

To keep tabs on whether you're likely to see aurora tonight, visit the geophysical institute's website, or just look to the north.

Observer footnote: If you think you have what it takes to predict when wintry weather will hit the area, enter our snow contest. Purchase a ticket for $2 and register your prediction of the day and time that Jackson, New Hampshire will receive its first 6' of snow in a single storm. If your prediction is correct, you'll win half of the ticket sale proceeds! The other half will be split equally between the Observatory and Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

22:39 Thu Nov 15th

The past 24 hours has been one of the calmest periods I can remember up here - the average wind speed for the day so far is just under 4 mph and the max gust is only 12 mph. It really feels strange walking out onto the deck and there's no wind pushing you, no breeze on your face and it's so quiet - it makes you realize just how much background noise the wind makes as it rushes by the buildings, antennas and rocks. It's also been very mild for the time of year, in fact due to a strong inversion we are several degrees warmer than the surrounding valleys, and the fog is absent too - makes for a nice change!

After all the excitement over the Aurora sightings the other day I was hopeful of seeing something last night, alas it was not to be. Conditions were perfect too - crystal clear air, no clouds, no moon, warm with very little wind. I'm also standing in for Mike on the night shift this week so it wasn't like I'd be losing any sleep either. Still it was a very pleasant night, lots of star gazing while taking the observations, the milky way was spectacular and I did get to see a couple of shooting stars. There are a few more clouds around tonight but it is starting to clear so who knows what will will turn up later.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

20:04 Wed Nov 14th

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Aurora Borealis

Awesome! Spectacular! Stunning! Pretty! Green! - These might sound like the words overheard between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, but they were also the words used by the summit staff to describe yesterdays Aurora Borealis event. Last nights Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights to some, were some of the most spectacular that I, or anyone on my crew, have seen up on the summit. They had deep colors, spanned the entire horizon, and were giving off so much light that the summit had a greenish hue to it for the entire night. And that's another thing, they lasted the entire night; not just the few hours like I have seen in the past. And to think that earlier in the week, I didn't even think we would see anything this shift due to either a weak solar cycle or the weather on/above the summits.

Looking at the Space Weather website on Sunday, there was a mention of a solar flare, but it was heading away from us. So nothing was looking promising. Additionally, a passing cold front was to bring fog, cloudy skies, cold temperatures and winds for Monday and Tuesday. So, it was looking to be a typical summit week. However, when I awoke Tuesday afternoon to get ready for my night shift, Steve (our intern) said the activity level was at a six on Space Weather. I had my doubts but sure enough, it was a six and the NOAA POES website was in agreement. So, activity was on the rise; now, if only the weather would cooperate.

At sunset, we were starting to clear, but the fog seemed to be getting thicker. So our hopes started to decrease that we would see anything. However, an hour after sunset, the fog cleared and skies above were clearing as well. And on the northern horizon, there she was - the Aurora Borealis waving to us from the sky. I went down and grabbed everyone and out we went. When we first got out there, it was breezy and temperatures were in the teens. As we sat there for over an hour, temperatures shot up to the 20s and winds went light and variable. And with the clean, dry air in place, we could see infinity to our north. Everything aligned just right to provide us the best conditions to take in this free show in the sky.

Now, while I had other work related duties to do over the course of the night, every time I went outside to do our hourly weather observations, I was shooting photos. As a result, I was able to put an album up of the best images from the night on our Facebook Page. You don't need to have a Facebook account to see them, just click on the link above and you can view the images that were posted. While tonight isn't looking as good to seem them, fear not because from what I have been reading, the sun is continuing to hit its solar maximum meaning more Auroras will be ahead in the coming months. So if you missed them, just be patient; you will get another chance.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:01 Tue Nov 13th

Two winters ago I was an Intern on the Summit when Jacqueline Goss was filming for the movie The Observers. This Saturday, November 17th at 3pm in Portland, ME at the Space Gallery, Jacqueline will be presenting her film as part of an exhibition on the interactions of art and science.

The feature is a full length film portrait of the Mount Washington Observatory. The film was shot over the course of a year and is based on the work of the Observers and is based in part on a Nathaniel Hawthorne story. There to answer questions will be Jacqueline herself accompanied by Sarah Long, Trustee and former Observer.

For more information on the film you can visit The Observers website and if you are interested in attending the film you can visit the Space Gallery's website.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

21:33 Mon Nov 12th

It has been a day with moderate winds, high thin clouds with lots of sun, and unseasonably warm temperatures. In fact, today we broke the daily record high temperature of 44 degrees set in 2006 and equaled again in 2010 with a high of 46 degrees.

It's actually very interesting to look back on our 80 plus year climate record and see when records were either set or equaled. Had this warm air mass moved through yesterday instead of today a 46 degree temperature would have gone unnoticed as yesterday's record high is 48 and had it waited till Wednesday the 14th it would have also gone unnoticed as that day's record high is 47 degrees. As we look further into the month November 28th has seen a record high of 49 degrees back in 1990. If we look into December we see on December 23rd of 1990 a record high of 45 degrees.

If you think this only happens with record highs you only have to look back a few years to see that a record low of -8 degrees set on November 8th of 2008 however the 7th's record low is -16 set in 1936 and the 9th's it's -17 set in 1987.

Our place here at the Observatory is to keep an accurate record on an hourly basis of all of the weather phenomena that occur on the Summit and in the Presidential Range with our remote Mesonet stations. We leave it to the Climatologists and Weather Researches to look for trends and draw conclusions from our data.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:04 Sun Nov 11th

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Friday's scence will NOT be the case tomorrow!

Here on the summit, simply put, it is cold...usually. As a fall intern, I expected to see temperatures in the 40s and 50s in August and September, then in the teens and single digits more recently as we approach December. This has been mostly true, with a couple anomalous days in which we have been excessively warmer than normal; the type of day that tomorrow promises to be. Forecast highs for tomorrow are in the mid to upper 40s, almost double the average daily temperature of 22 degrees. This is certainly a special occurrence, so I am going to explain a little bit about why this can happen.

In tomorrow's case, all of the right pieces will fall into place in order to give us such a warm day late in the year. The first piece is a strong warm front, branching out from a low pressure system over the central U.S. This front, which marks the boundary between two different air masses (in this case the warm air is pushing out the cold air), moved through today and has brought warmer air to the region. The second piece is shifting winds as we enter what is known as the "warm sector" of a low pressure system (between the warm front and cold front). In this warm sector, winds are generally from the southerly direction and cause warm air advection. This is when warmer air in the direction the wind is blowing from is carried into a region of cooler air, thus warming temperatures. In our case, winds will shift to the south and carry the warmer air into our area. The third piece is our good ol' friend, Mr. Sun. A departing ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Maine will be strong enough to keep skies clear Monday, allowing plenty of the Sun's radiation to reach the Earth and warm up the land and atmosphere. Will all of these factors coming together, tomorrow promises to be a beautiful day and a sure treat to the summit as well as much of the Northeast. Now, I am a little bummed about missing out on the 60 degree temperatures in the valleys, but I will never complain about a mid to upper 40s day on the summit in November. Heck, we may as well call it summer up here! After weeks of fog, ice, snow, and temperatures in the teens, a day of 40s and sunshine can't be beat!

With all of the above being said, make sure to get out and enjoy the weather tomorrow, but please read our forecast HERE if you plan on going for a hike (just in case conditions change in the next 12 hours or so)! For many it is a day off from work because of Veteran's Day today which leads me to my closing statement: Thank you to all of our service men and women who have put their lives on the line for our safety and freedom. Your courage and dedication is always appreciated.

Stephen Lanciani – Summit Intern

17:51 Sat Nov 10th

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Jackson Covered Bridge

As winter is engulfing the summit and starting to spread into the valley, the Mount Washington Observatory has partnered with the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce (JACC) for a snowfall contest.

Tickets for this event can be purchased for $2 through PayPal on the JACC store, or in person at their office, as well as the Weather Discovery Center. Then all you have to do is register your prediction for the day and time that Jackson, New Hampshire will receive its first 6' of snow in a single storm. Better yet it is a great way to practice your weather predicting skills and help support the JACC and the Mount Washington Observatory as half the ticket sales will be split between the two. So what about the other half? If your prediction is correct, you'll win half of the ticket sales!

Keeping us up to date, a webcam mounted on the JACC will be monitoring the accumulation. To view the cam you can visit JacksonNH.com/webcam.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

21:24 Fri Nov 9th

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Ready and waiting for EduTrippers

November is a quiet transitional month here on the Summit. The Auto Road is closed to the public, the Cog Railway hasn't come to the Summit for a week or so now, the Gift Shops and Food Service area are all closed and cleaned for the winter season, and it's just three Observers and an our Intern for the month. Tomorrow evening is my night to step up to the stove and cook - Marie Callender where are you when I need you and there isn't even a Pizza or Chinese place that will deliver to the Summit either.

The Summit has a fresh coating of about three inches of snow and the Valley has even gotten some snow however, not six inches in one storm yet so it's not too late to get involved in the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce snow contest by guessing when the first storm that brings six inches will be seen. Tickets are only $2 and the person who guesses the closet will receive half of all the proceeds and the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce and the Mount Washington Observatory will split the other half equally. What a great way to have a little fun and support two local non-profits at the same time.

With all of the snow on the Summit, we're all reminded that the Holiday season is just around the corner and if you just can't seem to find that perfect gift for that special someone in your life who loves the outdoors, is always up for the next great adventure, and just can't seem to get enough of Winter and the extreme weather that is can bring, you might want to consider a Winter EduTrip, Day Trip or even a Climbing Trip to the Summit of Mount Washington.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

22:30 Thu Nov 8th

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The philosophy of the Observatory kitchen

As we begin to enter the winter season here on the summit, many changes begin to take place not only with the weather, but also with staffing at the Observatory. Our weekly staff has gotten smaller and smaller because of the transition from summer scheduling to winter scheduling. Seeing as there are only a handful of us this week, I, as the dedicated intern that I am, decided to step up to the plate tonight and cook dinner to show that interns have more uses than you think!

I have always loved cooking and spent many a night watching Emeril and frantically writing down recipes. Yes, I now know that I could have just looked them up online after the show, but this was more fun! There have been many occasions where I have cooked for my family, and now I frequently try cooking new things for my girlfriend and myself on my off weeks. Now, I decided to take my skills to the Observatory kitchen! After some online browsing for recipes, I settled on herb-crusted pork tenderloin. It turned out to be easier than I thought, so I had plenty of time to make some mashed potatoes, broccoli, and salad to go with it. I also whipped up a honey-lemon glaze to go on top in case the pork was too dry. All in all everything came out great, and I found that the most difficult part was timing everything to finish at 7 'o clock (our nightly scheduled dinner time).

I realized afterward however, that I only cooked for myself and the three observers. In the winter, the number of people up here can often reach the maximum of 17 when there are overnight EDUTRIPS. Cooking for four isn't difficult, but cooking for 17 is another story. I can't even imagine all of the extra time and effort that needs to be to put into prepping, cooking, and cleaning. It is this thought that makes me say a big THANK YOU to all of the VOLUNTEERS, past and future. All of your hard work and help is greatly appreciated by the entire crew, and we thank you for thinking of us and bringing the comforts of home to the rockpile.

Stephen Lanciani – Summit Intern

23:48 Wed Nov 7th

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A winter-esque Adams and Madison this morning.

It never ceases to amaze me how different the weather and scenery can be in just a weeks' time. Last week when my shift headed down, Hurricane/Super-storm Sandy was still winding down with the summit (and NH) still on the warm side of the storm. Temperatures were well above freezing, it was raining, and there wasn't a trace of snow/ice/rime anywhere on the summits or in the valleys below. In fact, I was able to open up my homes windows again on the start of my off week. From the peak to the valley floor, it felt and looked more like Augusts than late October.

However, as our off week ended this morning, it definitely felt like winter from home all the way to my second 'home' here on the summit. My house in Berlin had some patches of snow, widespread frost, and temperatures in the single digits. While it was cold, it was one of those rare mornings that I was looking forward to getting up to the summit for the temperatures alone. While my house was in the single digits, the summit was sitting in the lower 20s, a nice warm up; and one of those rare mornings you could say you wanted to escape to Mount Washington for its 'warmth'. But despite the warmer temperatures on top, the mountains were now reflecting their proper season. As we ascended this morning for shift change, we found snow/ice/rime coating the peaks down to about 2000 feet with a Nor'easter on the verge of delivering even more winter weather. So let's hope the wintry season holds for this shift. But being a meteorologist and having that nagging ability to see the future (of weather), I know not to dream too big. But ultimately, we'll just have to wait and see...

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

18:26 Tue Nov 6th

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The full test line-up!

It's always a good day when you're tasked with testing out new gear. One of our newest sponsors, Vasque, has graciously given us five pairs of boots and shoes for all seasons and conditions to test out. Of those five we're directly involved with the development of two new prototypes that Vasque plans to unveil to the public late next summer. As you might imagine Mount Washington is essentially the perfect place to test just how rugged outdoor gear, weather instruments and other products might be. Chances are if boots can withstand sideways rain, hurricane-force winds and bitter cold, they'll probably do the trick at home. So on a beautiful day like today, it was a great opportunity to romp about the summit cone to see how our new Vasque boots would hold up (I've already done the wet weather testing).

If you were looking up from the Mount Washington Valley you probably saw Mount Washington front and center from wherever you were standing tall and white against a blue sky. All of that white, 3.1 inches of snow to be exact, made for quite the winter wonderland. We were all happy to see the sun after a noticeable absence for the past few days, so many of us took the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sun (even if it was only 13 degrees at its warmest).

While our prototype Vasque Arrowhead Boots may not be available to the public (at least not for now), I'm happy to report that my toes have been toasty all day while frolicking in the sun and snow and definitely look forward to testing out the rest of our boots. Stay tuned for more gear updates!

In the meant time if you want more information about Vasque footwear, visit Vasque.com!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

22:05 Mon Nov 5th

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Hurricane Sandy

Let me step back, for one comment, from the goings-on at Mt. Washington, and talk about a more critical ordeal unfolding at the moment.

One week ago, a hybrid Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Jersey shore, easily dealing that area the most devastating blow in its history. The Jersey shore, as many have known it, will never be the same.

Unfortunately, with other anticipated events on the agenda this week, the focus is already noticeably slipping away from the horrific effects of Sandy. Much attention is still needed, though, as there are still plenty of folks in the area without power, without heat, without provisions, and in too many cases, without a roof over their head. And now, with a strong Nor'easter poised to strike the same areas on Wednesday & Thursday, it's no doubt that relief efforts will be hindered even more.

As someone born and raised in central New Jersey, watching this situation unfold, through both the news and firsthand stories from my family that still reside in the region, has been nothing short of heartbreaking.

I'm here today to keep the word alive and well that help is still very much needed in that area (and other hard-hit areas such as New York City and Connecticut). I'm not going to presume to tell you how to help, but if you are able and willing, there are many different ways in which you can!

Whether it's through simply spreading the word around through various social networks, a Red Cross donation, donation of provisions, etc., that is entirely at your discrepancy. If you can help, and you are willing, I humbly ask you for your support at this time on behalf of all the victims.

Some reputable websites that can direct you are as follows:

Red Cross

Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund

United Way Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

Network for Good


Thank you all for your attention and support!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

18:53 Sun Nov 4th

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Clouds formed by orthographic uplift.

One of the many important characteristics of Mount Washington that bring extreme weather to the summit is its prominence in the Northeast. Mount Washington, combined with the surrounding summits of the Presidential Range, offer a substantial barrier to air barreling toward it. As air is forced to rise upwards, it cools and water molecules that were energetic enough to be shooting around on their own suddenly don't have enough energy to do this, and they succumb to the intermolecular forces between other water molecules. In other words, a cloud forms. This often puts clouds on the summit when there can be crystal clear skies in the valley. I recall a trip I made to Tuckerman's Ravine when it snowed 2.5 feet in 3 days in April, but the valley didn't get any precipitation!

Mt Washington isn't the only place to have extreme orthographic uplift! In the southern hemisphere, New Zealand's South Island does just that. At 40 degrees south, wind can whip around the world, running into very little land to slow it down. New Zealand's south island has a spine of mountains running down the center of it and similar to Mt Washington, this pushes air up into the atmosphere. Accomplishing two significant things, this both increases wind speed and forces the maritime air to condense and form clouds and precipitation. Due to the prevailing west winds, the west coast of New Zealand is soaked with rain. As the air descends down the eastern side of the mountain range, very little moisture falls. Appropriately, the west coast contains lush rain forests while the area directly east of the mountains consists of dry grasslands. This dry area is called a 'rain shadow', and areas like these are found everywhere around the world where there is a significant barrier blocking moist air.

Another area with a significant rain shadow is the Pacific Northwest. Heavy rain and snow often fall as extremely moist maritime air rises over the many mountain ranges in Western Washington state. Eastern Washington state, in turn, is left relatively arid and dry. One simple metaphor (although this metaphor is not accurate when looking further into the thermodynamics of our atmosphere) is thinking of the air as a sponge. Forcing air to rise 'wrings' the sponge out. As the air descends, it is relatively drier and less likely to condense and form precipitation.

The presidential range is a bit more complicated than the two examples above. Mount Washington's winds are often from the West, but storms can hit the mountain from almost any direction. Prevailing Westerly wind is often relatively dry, forming a minimal rain shadow on the east side of the mountains. The summit can get intense storms (the remnants of hurricane Sandy being an example) that bring extremely moist air from the east. This then would form a rain shadow on the western side of the Presidentials. Due to the varying direction of our storm systems, average precipitation total does not show a large rain shadow near the Presidential range.

Observer footnote: If you think you have what it takes to predict when wintry weather will hit the area, enter our snow contest. Purchase a ticket for $2 and register your prediction of the day and time that Jackson, New Hampshire will receive its first 6' of snow in a single storm. If your prediction is correct, you'll win half of the ticket sale proceeds! The other half will be split equally between the Observatory and Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

15:34 Sat Nov 3rd

After all the rain and wind from "Sandy" the last few days have been far less eventful. We went into the fog soon after arriving for our shift this past Wednesday and apart from a few brief breaks have remained pretty much socked in since then. Winds have been fairly light, however, the temperature has been slowly falling and we are now down in the teens. It looks like the cooling trend will continue for a few more days reaching the single digits by Monday. Outside everything is white again due to some snow and lots of rime ice.

Talking of wintry weather and snow the Observatory is partnering with the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce on a Snowfall Contest. For $2 you can register your prediction on when Jackson will receive its first 6 inches of snow this winter season from a single storm. The proceeds will be split 50% to the winner(s), 25% to the Observatory and 25% to the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. Its both a fun way of supporting us and practicing your forecasting skills too.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:34 Thu Nov 1st

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Our Polycom Camera brings the summit to Canada!

Today marks the first Distance Learning Program of the new school year, and the Observatory's first ever program offering in Canada! For those of you who may not be familiar with the Observatory's Distance Learning programs, these 45 to 60 minute programs are given to schools, libraries and science centers throughout the country (globally even) and cover topics like 'Extreme Weather Observations', 'Fundamentals of Climate', 'Life and Work at the Mount Washington Observatory', 'The Alpine Zone' and even custom programs built to fit educators' needs. These are live interactive programs given by summit staff (our Weather Observers/Education Specialists) from inside and outside of our mountain top weather station where we help break the chain from textbooks and offer participants a chance to see how extreme weather, climate and people meet.

This afternoon's program linked the summit of Mount Washington with our Weather Discovery Center in North Conway and Grande Yellowhead Public School in Edson, Alberta, located between Jasper National Park and Edmonton. Grande Yellowhead's fifth grade class was given an inside (and outside) look at 'Extreme Weather Observations' here on Mount Washington with explanations and visuals about the types of data we collect and how we collect it, including topics like temperature, relative humidity, pressure, precipitation, wind, sky cover and visibility. Getting to talk to a school way up north in Alberta was quite the experience given that most of the kids knew from their own lives just what it's like to live in a cold place. In fact, I was a bit ashamed to say that Edson was 3 degrees (in Celsius that is) colder than the summit was when we spoke with them this afternoon.

For you educators out there, or for anyone who might be interested in learning more about our Distance Learning programs and how to bring the summit of Mount Washington to you, please visit MountWashington.org/Education where you will find plenty of information about our program offerings.

And lastly: We're collaborating with the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce on a snowfall contest! Purchase a $2 ticket and guess when the first 6' of snow will fall in a single storm, and you'll get half the proceeds! Learn more here.

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

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