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Observer Comments

January 2013

19:42 Thu Jan 31st

Over the past few days many of the interior states from the Gulf Coast to the Ohio River Valley have seen unusual severe weather. According to the Storm Prediction Center's website there have been 736 storm reports from January 29th through January 30th. Of these reports 30 have been tornados, 643 of strong winds, and 13 of hail. The occurrence of thunderstorms in these areas of the country is not abnormal however, it is unusual to see severe thunderstorms in January. So it got me wondering; has Mount Washington ever seen thunderstorms during the month of January? The simple answer is yes, but they are rare and aren't your topical thunderstorms.

According to the Mount Washington Observatory's historical records there have been a total of eleven thunderstorms observed during the month of January between 1934 and present. However as I alluded to earlier these were not typical thunderstorms as all of them were observed during a snow event making them something more commonly known as "thundersnow".

Thunderstorms and thundersnow are basically the same in that they both require the same three main ingredients of moisture, instability, and a lifting mechanism. The main difference is thunderstorms occur under warmer weather conditions and are fairly common during the summer months, while thundersnow occurs in colder weather and is much more rare. The reason for this is due in part to generally cold air that is typically more stable and is not capable of holding much moisture. Therefore two of the three key ingredients are harder to come by at any one time.

So the next time its snowing heavy and you think you hear a clap of thunder or see a flash on lightning, consider yourself "lucky". You probably just experienced a rare thundersnow event.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

22:40 Wed Jan 30th

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Our smallest "Observer" taking a cat nap.

This past week was my second winter volunteer week. This shift has been all about the wind. Previously I had experienced high winds for one day but this shift saw five days of winds hitting 60-100 mph. Add that to the frigid temperatures and our choices of activities were limited.

Over the last five days I have loved the energy of the high winds and cold temperatures. No matter where I was in the observatory, I could hear the wind. When there was a higher gust, I would always check to see its strength. I couldn't go outside beyond the cover of the building without risking being blown away. It's quite an experience to have the wind control my movements, changing the course of my walk; making me walk like a drunkard when I wanted to walk in a straight line. Each time I headed out, I would spend ten minutes putting on 3-4 layers: long underwear, fleece, snow pants, balaclava, face mask, goggles, hooded fleece, ear muffs, parka, glove liners, mittens; and I was still cold within a few minutes.

Since I lasted five minutes at a time in the -70 wind chill, I spent most of this week in the kitchen. Even there, the sounds of the winds were inescapable. I baked more in the last six days than I have over the last six years. I baked different home baked bread daily, blueberry muffins, macaroons, cookies, apple pie, cheesecake. Feeding the visitors and the crew can be a fulltime job if you make it so. With the winds howling, Betty and I chose to make it so.

Monday night, two nights before our shift ended, the winds were imperceptible. The silence was striking. I could hear the snow falling on my parka. I could hear the snow crunching under my boots. I went outside with only a parka, jeans, mittens and hat on. My face was exposed and I didn't risk frostbite. And Tuesday morning, there was a fresh layer of snow everywhere. We walked down the auto road a bit in the sunshine and appreciated the beauty of this place. What a wonderful week it's been.

Hilary Clark – Summit Volunteer

12:52 Tue Jan 29th

Day 1-- Most amazing for me on my first day were the temps and wind-- 35 below, 70 mph wind, wind chill 86 below!! We had lots of TV/radio stations calling us, and got on Channel 5 Boston.

Day 2-- There were even higher winds today with even more amazing visibility! Staff were very busy with media--we were live on CNN and Channel 7 in Boston! Hilary (my friend and cookmate) and I tried going up into the tower to see out, but only managed to poke out heads out the door. We were very careful to have no exposed skin. Mike, the intern, asked me to videotape him trying to walk around with the high winds! Pretty scary stuff--thought for a few moments we were going to lose him!!

Day 3-- Today (Friday) was a pretty tame day--temps got up to about zero, light winds, with still amazing visibility! We were so lucky! So that meant we got up for a beautiful sunrise. Even Marty joined us! Then we got busy cooking for our EDUtrip of 5, plus two leaders-- their study topic is glaciers. At 1pm, I had a video interview with my cousin Jessica's 4th grade class in my home town, Northwood, NH. I couldn't see them, but they could see me, and they had lots of really great questions. My college roommate from many years ago, also teaches at the school, and she sat in on the interview. Such fun!

Day 4-- In late morning today, I joined the EDUtrip for a grand tour of the weather room by Brian, the Education Specialist (and weather observer with a degree in Environmental Education!!). I learned that the observers take hourly measurements, and have been doing that since 1932 (24 hours a day by humans, not just by instruments). They create models for forecasting and do a 36-hr forecast. The staff includes a Director of Research who is a climatologist and also a professor at Plymouth State University where I did my undergrad degree. Also interesting that 60% of the time the summit is in fog with poor visibility. We have been sooooo lucky!! In the winter, the winds are strongest, every other day over 73 mph (hurricane force). Mt. Everest gets less extreme weather because they are above the clouds/weather. But here they experience less climate change, and think it's because they are so often in the clouds, which acts like an insulating blanket.

Day 5-- We had a big group of 14 for the day, including Slim the driver, Cyrena, Director of Summit Operations, and Dr. Peter Crane, Obs Curator (you can read about them on the website). We made carrot curry soup, tuna melts, homemade oatmeal molasses bread, and roasted potatoes with cookies for dessert. Great to hear the interesting stories and information from long-timer Dr. Crane! In the afternoon with amazing visibility and wind chill only 38 below, we decided to get our gear on and venture outside for some exercise. We figured fighting the 70 mph gusts was good exercise. Hilary decided it was important for me to have my photo taken at the Mt Washington Summit sign. It was quite treacherous getting there, even though it was only about 30 feet away--ice, wind, and rocks. Then we went to the tower and had fun crawling around in the strong winds to see what we could withstand (withcrawl)!!

Incredible week so far--I feel blessed to be a part of this pile of rocks. It's like living in a little bit of heaven!

--Betty Olivolo is a semi-retired teacher and environmental educator.

Betty Olivolo – Summit Volunteer

23:34 Sun Jan 27th

It's hard to believe what's in the forecast.

When we arrived on the summit nearly four-and-a-half days ago, the thermometer read a frosty 35 degrees below zero F. Wind chills were somewhere around 85 below F, and exposed skin while outdoors was absolutely forbidden.

Now, an inexplicable warming trend is in the cards, with temperatures expected to rise above freezing on Tuesday, and readings approaching 40 degrees F possible on Wednesday! The recent stretch of relatively precipitation-free weather, which often comes with such an arctic cold snap due to the lack of moisture in the air, has given us only .8 inches of snow over the past four days--a laughably-tiny number for late January, in a location that averages almost 53 inches of snow over the month, and nearly 300 inches of the white stuff per year!

This is about to change as well, although not in a wintry sense.

With the temperatures slated to skyrocket as I mentioned earlier, it looks as though a wintry mix on Tuesday will transition to a mostly rain event on Wednesday. This will most likely diminish the already feeble snow pack that exists on the summit.

What a topsy-turvy winter it's been!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:29 Sat Jan 26th

After a dusting of snow last night the morning started out very pleasant with temperatures between 5 and 10 below zero and just a light 20 mph breeze from the NW. The views were very pleasant although it's a shock to see how little snow is left around the higher peaks with lots of rocks and sedge showing along with large patches of ice. Looking at the extended forecast it looks like we'll be well above the freezing mark on Wednesday with rain likely too. January has certainly been a roller-coaster of a month with regard to the temperatures up here - last shift we hit 48 degrees, the start of this shift -35 and in a few days we may be back in the 40s - pretty impressive temperature swings.

I would also like to take this opportunity to dispel any rumors you may have heard about it being 'too cold for us to go outside' the other day or that it 'was so cold that the thermometers broke'. Both of these rumors that have been going around are nothing more than that. In the grand scheme of things it really wasn't that cold on Wednesday being some 8 degrees warmer that the record low for that day. It's also interesting to see where the -35F we reached on Wednesday stacks up to extreme low temperatures recorded in each State - as you can see most have at some time experienced temperatures lower than we did the other day. As for wind chills well that's another story.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:14 Fri Jan 25th

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Weather Observer/Movie Star during an interview.

Every shift up here on the rockpile is unique, and this week is no exception. Likely by the time things are all said and done and we're on our way down the mountain for our week off next Wednesday we'll be sure to dub this 'the week of the media storm.'

Being the small, member-driven non-profit we are it can seem pretty daunting when organizations like CNN, The Boston Globe, WHDH Boston, WBZ Boston, WMUR, HLN TV, Inside Edition, The Conway Daily Sun and WCVB Boston are calling and email-ing wanting someone to talk about the cold. But it's all part of the job, since as you know not everyone can be(or wants to be) on the summit of Mount Washington during the winter. When it's -35 and the wind chill is making it feel like -86 we have a responsibility and passion to share that with the outside world.

It's days like these where we all rekindle our love for this job and place- because once you've been up here for a while even the days that are -8 and sunny with 50mph winds can be the most exhilarating weather someone has ever experienced.

To see some of the links for some of the segments we've been featured in this week scan through our Facebook page, or head on over to our main website for current conditions, forecasts and membership information!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:59 Thu Jan 24th

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The Observeratory Door in -30 Degree Temperatures

When I went outside to help sling for an observation this morning, I was caught by surprise by the strong northwest winds. In order for the sling to work, which measures humidity from the difference in temperature from a dry thermometer and a wet thermometer, I must make the measurement in the shade. Unfortunately, the only significant shade nearby this morning was behind a protrusion on the other side of the deck. Taking one step out of the wind shadow behind the tower, I was quickly blasted with 80+ mph winds, pushing me off balance. I took one step, then another, walking slightly out of control while trying to slow myself down, but I was not succeeding. At this point, I was in the middle of the deck with my back leaning into the wind, accelerating forward. I knew there was no hope to stay on my feet, so I crouched down and rolled onto my back. Glancing down at the fragile and expensive cold-weather thermometers in my hand, I was relieved to see that they had not broken. I looked up to make sure no one was looking and started crawling back to the tower door. After slinging in the shade immediately next to the tower and out of the wind, I made my way back into the observatory to report my data and tried to redeem my dignity.

Hiking in the Whites can be extremely rewarding some days, but challenging, miserable and dangerous others. On days like these, if you have the wind at your back you can very quickly accelerate and be thrown to the ground. On bulletproof ice, it may even be impossible to stop from sliding without specialized equipment. Several years ago, there was a group of two people who lost their footing on the summit cone. Without proper gear, they slid out of control downhill for close to a mile before they were able to stop below Lion's Head. The risk for these types of falls can be mitigated by learning how to use mountaineering equipment and carefully reading both the Observatory's higher summit's forecast and the Mount Washington avalanche Center's daily snow report. If you're planning a winter hike to the summit, be sure to check the higher summits outlook the morning before you head into the mountains, or else your winter 'hike' might become a desperate crawl back to treeline!

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

00:38 Thu Jan 24th

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NWS Wind Chill Chart

It's no secret that today (Wednesday) was a chilly one on the summit. With a low of -35 degrees F, we experienced some of the coldest temperatures of the last few years.

With arctic temperatures and high winds come a slew of dangers, many of which are commonly overlooked. So, let these comments serve as a reminder to just how perilous Mt. Washington can be in its most sinister moments.

The human body is not bred for very cold temperatures, and is not designed to adapt to such conditions. When faced with such harsh cold, survival mechanisms immediately go to work. The body stops circulating blood to the extremities in order to keep the more important parts of the body (closer to the core) warm. Without blood flow to these extreme parts of the body (fingers, toes, ears, etc.), the skin tissue in these areas may become damaged, and if not brought in from the cold, could begin to die. This condition is known as frostbite.

If exposure to the cold continues, and more and more body heat becomes lost, the body's core temperature can drop below a dangerous level, resulting in hypothermia. This condition prompts symptoms such as shivering and general lack of coordination in the more mild cases, to amnesia, illogical behavior, and death in more severe cases.

Frostbite and hypothermia are two incredibly large risks when exposed to the extreme cold, and should be warded against during every second of exposure. Proper layering and ensuring that no bare skin is exposed to the elements is the only way to successfully guard against these conditions.

Think you can beat these conditions with brief exposure times? Think again. With the conditions Mt. Washington was facing at its coldest and windiest today, frostbite would occur on exposed skin in less than five minutes, with the onset of hypothermia following close behind. Never take the risk--if you're not prepared, do not underestimate the speedy and, in many cases, irrevocable impact the extreme cold can have.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

23:39 Tue Jan 22nd

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Current conditions at 9:30pm EST.

As I write this, we're already at -24F and falling rapidly while winds are howling outside at 79 mph and gusting to nearly 90. I just looked at the models with fellow Observer, Ryan Knapp, and the models are predicting a range of -32F to -35F for the overnight lows and winds are expected to be in 50 to 70 mile per hour range; which they've already exceeded with higher gusts. Right now we're seeing wind chills of -72F degrees. If the winds continue where they are now in the 80 mile per hour range and temperatures get to around -30F, we'll be seeing a wind chill of 80F below zero or more.

If you want to watch how the winds, temperature and wind chill play out hour by hour, you can visit our Current Summit Conditions Web page. And to do your own wind chill calculations, you can go here.

If you're in the Mount Washington Valley, don't think you're going to get away without feeling the chill of Old Man Winter; Thursday night is predicted to be 20F below at the lower elevations. As the Summit's temperatures rebound a bit during the day on Wednesday, the warmer air aloft will actually be holding the cold air down in the valleys through Thursday night. This is what the Meteorologists have told me is called a temperature inversion, where the valleys are colder than the higher elevations.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:32 Mon Jan 21st

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The Red Brush - My favorite new tool.

This week, we got a new tool on the summit. So what is it, you might ask? A new anemometer? A new forecasting model? A new crowbar? Nope, none of these things. The new tool I am referring to is a brush. Yep, you read that correctly, a brush. A simple, run of the mill, plastic handled, bristle ended brush; the kind you can pick up at any gas station or quick-e-mart around the country. So, why am I so excited about something so simple as a brush? Well, let me explain.

In the winter time, we get what is called rime ice, which (in simplified terms) is formed when supercooled droplets hit a surface and freeze, creating "feathers" of rime over time. There is a bit more to rime and I could write a whole Observer Comment on that subject alone, but that would be getting off the topic of our new brush (but, you can read more about rime by clicking here or searching through our past Observer Comments). So, as rime ice forms, it covers anything and everything outside resulting in us going out at least once an hour to deice all of our instruments. Some instruments can be deiced used a sledge hammer or a crowbar but our more sensitive instruments need something a bit more delicate, and that is where a brush comes in handy.

Most of the time, any size brush will do as a majority of the instruments that need to be brushed are well within all of our reach. However, a few instruments we need to brush off are not within reach for someone that is...slightly vertically challenged as I am. So to deice these tall instruments, I either have to stand on my tippy-toes, bring a ladder out with me, or do a whole lot of jumping (and looking like I am listening to "Jump" by Kris Kross all the while). Last year, we got a brush with a handle, so I no longer needed a step ladder but I still needed to do some hops to reach everything I had to sweep off. However, this week, we got a long handled brush and I can now deice without any vertical displacement (ie, jumping) on my behalf. So yes, to some it is just a brush, but to me, it is one of the best new tools we have up here as it makes my job easier and safer and for that, I am grateful.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

21:57 Sun Jan 20th

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My crew and I watching tonights football game.

Tonight I am going to divert from talking about the weather or the mountain and touch on the human side of living on an arctic island in the clouds. Working and living on the summit for eight days at a time, we spend 209 days a year living on the summit and 156 days living in the valley. One can sometimes feel disconnected from valley life away from friends and family; and keeping in touch through social media is great but it can only fill the gaps so much. However there is one thing that can keep us connected, and that is football.

Being able to watch a game on the summit while friends and family are watching in the valley can give you something to do together while you are apart. Its something that we miss, getting together for an afternoon of good food and company to watch a game. But having a TV that broadcasts the same picture to everyone can eliminate that feeling for just long enough. So it only makes sense that for a big game like tonight's, we are enjoying each others company as a shift watching the game and feeling just a little more connected to the valley.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:20 Sat Jan 19th

Being a new Intern at the Mount Washington Observatory and new to the state of New Hampshire, the past few days have been one new experience after another. Hailing from southern New Jersey where the highest points are casinos and lighthouses, Mount Washington's summit is a whole new world. The views from the top of the mountain are like none that I have seen before. To the west there are mountains for as far as I can see. To the east are mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, to be seen on a clear day. Though I have yet to have a clear enough day to see the ocean I am looking forward to the opportunity. In addition, I am looking forward to exploring the surrounding landscape and potentially viewing an Aurora. So far, interning at the Observatory has truly been a unique opportunity. As a meteorologist, it's exhilarating to know that I'm shadowing, working, and learning from the seasoned Observers.

My second day here, I completed my first Summits Outlook and while working on it I started to see why Mount Washington lives up to the name of having 'The World's Worst Weather'. When I started forecasting, the temperature was 10 degrees below zero and the winds were gusting up to hurricane force. When I finished two hours later, the conditions had changed significantly. The summit cleared from the fog under partly cloudy skies, the winds decreased, and the temperature plummeted nearly seven degrees. The rapid weather changes directly influence the environment on the mountain and it was truly amazing. During my college studies and outdoor adventures, I always heard remarkable stories about Mountain Washington's weather and until now, I didn't fully understand how incredible it could be.

If you have never been to the summit of Mount Washington, you should visit. With multiple ways to experience the summit in the winter, by multiple means of transportation, you will not regret it. Mount Washington EduTrips or DayTrips offer a ride in the snow tractor; while Partner Led Climbing Trips offer a guided winter mountaineering experience. Hope to see you on the summit!

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

21:12 Fri Jan 18th

We have received a large number of calls and inquiries about Thursday's events here on Mount Washington. Thank you to our members and fans for the concern. As you may have already heard, all involved are safe and sound.

There was an avalanche in Huntington Ravine on Thursday afternoon that affected a party of twelve climbers who had made prior arrangements to stay overnight here at the Observatory. The group included the 'Ascents of Honor' team (including Former Reconnaissance Marine Keith Zeier), videographer Thom Pollard and a large group of accomplished climbers.

The bottom line is that all twelve climbers made it out and are safe. The Observatory did not play a direct role in the search and rescue activities, but we were glued to our radios, listening intently as rescuers made their way to the climbing party and helped to get them to safety and medical attention. The US Forest Service is the lead agency for search and rescue on that part of the mountain, and their mountain rescue personnel were reportedly assisted by as many as nineteen volunteers who suited up and took to the trail to pitch in.

We wish the entire Ascents of Honor team the very best, especially the three injured climbers. We also salute the Snow Rangers, NH Fish and Game, Mt. Washington State Park, the US Forest Service and all the dedicated volunteers who answer the call, time and time again.

Scot Henley – Executive Director

17:48 Wed Jan 16th

It's January 2013 and we are finishing our week on the 'Rock Pile'. It might sound pessimistic, but the number 13 has, historically, been unlucky. My grandmother had all her family for Christmas dinner every year but never sat at the dinner table as she would have been number 13. Many buildings are missing a 13th floor. The first woman to die on Mount Washington, Lizzie Bourne, died February 13th at 23 yrs. old. Fearing there was some credence to the myths, I decided to look deeper. My mother, well on her way to 107, was born on the thirteenth. My older brother was also born on the thirteenth. We lived in southern New Hampshire at number 13 West Rd. My immediate family numbers 13 presently.

The life I've led, very rewarding, is a direct result of my mother's influence and Irish stubbornness. Not unlike Lizzie, I grew up with asthma but my mother never let it control my life. My older brother, now deceased, was always my mentor (and sometimes savior). Jeanine and I, as I mentioned, lived at 13 West Rd. for 40 yrs., raised three great kids, and became members of a great New England community, a very rewarding experience as well.

My wife and I have been volunteering here since 2002 but it is our thirteenth week on the summit. The fact we lived close enough, we had the opportunity to fill in. Every visit has had its memorable moments and some exciting ones. We have tried to walk the deck in 100MPH winds, watched the moon rise and the sun set at the same time, rode to the summit in near zero visibility, and stood on the deck with 5,000+ ft. undercast, making one believe they're the only ones on earth. We have hiked to Lake of the Clouds hut and around parts of the summit cone in very different weather conditions and, best of all, met dozens of wonderful people. This year was no exception, with four groups visiting adding to an ever increasing circle of friends capped by a visit from Good Morning America and WMUR staff.

We leave today with hopes of returning for yet another adventure. A sincere thanks to the crew here and the valley staff for always making us feel at home. The number 13 may, in fact, be unlucky but you couldn't prove it by us. Happy New Year to all and let's make this another great year, no luck involved.

The Kinneys – Summit Volunteers

15:16 Mon Jan 14th

This year's January thaw has given Mt. Washington a new high mark.

That mark is 48F--the highest temperature ever recorded in the month of January in the Mt. Washington Observatory's 80 year history.

During the waning hours of my shift on Sunday morning (January 13th), all of our temperature devices were hovering right around 39F, as they had been throughout most of that night. The models were forecasting a serious jump in temperatures on that day, which looked likely to come when winds, which were blowing around 30-40 mph, began to relax.

Suddenly, around 4:30 AM or so, the summit inherited a much quieter tone, as winds abruptly dropped off. At that time, the mercury showed a dramatic spike. This phenomenon occurs because wind acts as a great 'stirrer' of the atmosphere. A steady breeze ensures that the air is sufficiently mixed, preventing any uneven heating and/or cooling, and thus, generally guarding against temperature spikes that appear to be anomalous or extraordinary (frontal passages are an exception to this rule, where a spike in winds is usually accompanied by a spike or stark drop in temperature).

During the 5AM - 6AM hour, all three observers kept our eyes glued to our temperature sensor display, as it soared from 40F inexplicably up to 47F, reaching its peak sometime around 5:45 AM. It was at this time that I ran out to our official maximum thermometer, located on our observation deck, to see what it had recorded. Sure enough, it was displaying a reading that day observers Brian Fitzgerald and Steve Welsh later recorded as 47.6F.

Due to our perpetual desire for accurate data, the situation didn't end there. In an important matter such as a possible monthly record high, we want to ensure that this reading grabbed by our maximum thermometer was not a fluke. To do this, I later assembled all of the temperature data from each of our temperature-recording instruments, and compared, looking for inconsistencies.

Examining all of this data revealed that, before, during, and after the time of the temperature peak, all of our instruments were quite consistent with each other, right down to the recorded time of their respective maximum temperature readings. Knowing that, I made the decision that this 47.6F (rounded to 48F) reading was valid, and sent it to the record books as the all-time record for the month of January! The previous monthly record was 47F, set back on January 19, 1995.

It is always exciting as a scientist to see long-standing records broken, particularly extraordinary records such as this. It should be kept in mind, though, that this was a one-time event; a 'snapshot' in a long history of climate data. This event, by itself, cannot be used as evidence for or against any theories of climate currently circulating in the mainstream.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

16:56 Sun Jan 13th

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Brian outside during a program!

It's been a busy week up on the Rockpile, and for a moment we get a bit of a breather between trips and visitors to the summit; playoff football anyone? It's been a particularly busy week for Distance Learning Programs, which as the Education Specialist, and the staffer charged with delivering programs, it's been fun and very rewarding getting to reach out to as many schools and students as possible. For those of you who don't know exactly what Distance Learning programs are all about, essentially they are one hour-long educational lessons about weather and climate, presented live from the summit of Mount Washington by either myself or Rebecca, my counterpart and fellow Weather Observer/Education Specialist on the other shift with support from our Outreach Coordinator in our North Conway office. These interactive programs are an exciting way to learn about weather from the point of view of someone working in the meteorology. Typically these programs are also much cheaper and easier that full-fledged field trips. We offer several program topics suited for students ranging grades 4-12, which are built around New Hampshire Frameworks and National Education Standards, including: Extreme Weather Observations, Fundamentals of Climate, Life and Works at the Mount Washington Observatory, The Alpine Zone and custom programs as well to fit all schedules and curriculum needs. As long as your school has videoconferencing technology (i.e. a Polycom, Tandberg or a LifeSize system) we can set up a connection for your classroom to the 'Home of the World's Worst Weather.' For any students, teachers or interested parents who are curious about bringing our weather station into your class room visit our Education Page on our web site and get in touch with our Education Director Michelle! Rebecca and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:47 Sat Jan 12th

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One of many puddles of water

Weather is extremely variable by nature. Despite the calendar saying January, and our climate data telling us that our high temperature today and tomorrow should be somewhere in the vicinity of 5F, nature has a different plan.

Today's daily record high is 40F, and we've managed to hit 38F so far today, with more moderation expected through the evening and early tonight. This record may very well bite the dust at any time.

The unseasonable warmth has turned our snowy summit into a mish-mosh of water and slush.

Tomorrow's daily record high is 41F, which will almost certainly be broken. In fact, with temperatures expected to continue warming tonight, our low temperature tomorrow may not even drop below the record high. Now that's some serious warmth!

The more interesting record, though, lies on a larger scale: 47F, which is the all-time record high for the month of January. Considering one computer model predicts a high of 46F, and another predicts a high of 51F, this record could be in jeopardy tomorrow. A lot of little factors, such as amount of sunshine vs. cloud cover, amount of snowpack, wind direction, etc. go into forecasting the exact high temperature. An unexpected few minutes of sunshine could be enough to drive the mercury over the 47F mark, while slightly higher winds could be enough to keep the air sufficiently mixed to prevent an anomalous 2-3 degree temperature spike.

So, for now, we watch and wait to see if the monthly record falls by the wayside!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

18:29 Thu Jan 10th

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The Observatory's Snow Cat Parked on the Summit

Last night when I sat down on my bed to begin a good night's sleep, I noticed a loud humming noise-almost like someone had an extremely loud sound system turned up playing a song that consisted of one constant bass note. It was the type of sound that you feel more than you hear. For a split second, I went back to my college years and assumed my neighbors had turned up their music too loud, but then I remembered that I wasn't in a dorm room living situation any more. Mother Nature decided to play her wind instrument last night-the Sherman Adams building. The sound was caused by wind screaming over the building, with gusts well over 100 miles per hour outside.

The wind continued through the night and made today an exciting day. Winter is getting into full swing, and the Observatory has almost daily trips visiting the summit. With a trip scheduled to head to the summit today, the snow cat was successfully able to push through snow drifts and winds gusting over 100 miles per hour to the summit.

Normally, you can sit down at a computer or glance down at your phone to see traffic and road conditions. When the Observatory's Snow Cat drives up the auto road however, the snow cat operator knows very little of what he or she might encounter. The road is only traveled on a few times a week and snow cat drivers can encounter extremely deep snow drifts along with extreme blowing snow and whiteout conditions.

If you want to experience winter on the mountain yourself, the Observatory offers both overnight and day trips to the summit throughout the winter. There are plenty of spots still open, so we hope to see you on the summit soon to meet you in person!

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

22:00 Wed Jan 9th

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Summit Sunset

Anytime that you have the opportunity to come to the summit of Mt. Washington, you never quite know what type of weather you will be greeted with. Being that this is my first winter week on the mountain as a summit volunteer, I had been wondering what type of weather I would encounter. I never could have imagined that the weather would be so varied and ever changing with each passing day.

Our summit ride up in the Snow Cat on Thursday gave us weather that we never could have dreamed of. The visibility was unbelievable and with every new bend on the Auto Road, the views kept getting more and more spectacular. Although I would have loved an entire week of weather like that, there was a part of me that wanted to see the mountain give us a full blast of winter weather and oh boy, did we get it!!!! Over the weekend, we had days when the winds were gusting in the mid-90s and visibility dropped to mere feet. I had thought that I had been in strong winds before but the mountain gave me a real taste of high winds with blasts of 96mph that literally threw me onto the deck...it was amazing!!! Other days this week gave us calmer winds, beautiful views of the valley, beautiful sunrises and spectacular sunsets. This week, Mt. Washington gave us a little bit of everything.

As a middle school science teacher, I have had the opportunity to videotape my experiences and teach my students from the Home of the World's Worst Weather. My experiences on the mountain this week will be something that I will continue to share with them and one of my greatest hopes is that many of my students will visit the mountain this summer with their family as a result of my teaching. Then, they will be able to see, first hand, the beauty and majesty of this area.

I teach because I want to make a difference in the lives of my students. Being here this week, gives me the opportunity to teach them in such a unique way and I can never thank the Summit Crew enough for their help this week. Rebecca, Ryan and Roger were there all week to answer questions from an inquisitive middle school teacher, provide suggestions on what to film for my students, share their experiences with living and working up here and welcomed me to their home on the mountain for the week.

I strongly encourage everyone to become a member of the Mt. Washington Observatory and during this winter, spend some time at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. Learn more about the incredible work that this highly dedicated crew performs each day and learn more about the awesome power of this mountain. Spend some time on the slopes and if it is for you, apply to become a summit volunteer so that you can live this awesome experience for yourself.

Adam Scott – Summit Volunteer (Rhode Island)

18:34 Tue Jan 8th

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Neil standing on the summit.

The late, great Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once wrote: 'I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.'

I came to Mt. Washington in the winter to live by the edge. Make no mistake, here, you are not communing with nature, you are merely baring witness to a power to which you, as an individual, or we as a society have absolutely no control over. You can watch in awe as the mountain joins forces with the sun to reveal itself to the outside world by violently ripping away shields of fog, snow, ice and cold, but you can do nothing to influence it. You can enter the world of the powerful winds that patrol and control the summit, but never for a minute can you lay claim to a partnership with it; for if you do, and you lose respect for its dominance, it will crush you. Each time you open the steely-cold-ice and snow encrusted door that leads from the Observatory to the summit A-frame, you are treated to a brand new natural wonder, a world that forces you to change the way you view everything. As a member of the Observatory, you have a unique chance to be part of this experience. And I recommend taking advantage of the opportunity.

I want to thank the good people, and true world class professionals of The Mount Washington Observatory for allowing me to live with them and watch the work they do. I considered it a privilege to have helped to sustain them in their quest to forecast, record, and educate the rest of us on what goes on here. It allowed me another opportunity to find a way to live closer to the edge.

Neil Lovett – Summit Volunteer

18:38 Mon Jan 7th

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Observation Tower Encased in Ice

Early this morning, the summit cleared after being in snow and fog for the past few days. This allowed our volunteers to get out and do some hiking. As we first cleared, we still had a layer of clouds below the summit. However, as a cold front passed with drier air behind it, those clouds eventually disappeared over the next few hours, leaving a sky that was almost completely clear.

As you can see from the picture to the right, the tower is almost completely encased in ice thanks to the varied wind directions we've seen over the past couple of weeks. If you look just above the 'A-frame', you can just see a sliver of an opening where the Deck Webcam is located. While we know everyone enjoys seeing the views from our various webcams, many times, it's just not possible to safely get up to them from the outside to clear off all of the ice and snow. So please be patient as we do our best to keep them clear or until nature can assist us in melting them out.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

20:03 Sun Jan 6th

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Saturdays Sunset

Shoveling is typically an intern/day shift duty, so working the night shifts, I don't often get the opportunity to help out on this task. This week however, I got an opportunity to take up a shovel and help out my fellow daytime counterparts. Normally our shoveling is centered on 5 different exits/zones: the front entrance, the northeast exits, the south tower exit, the deck-level tower exit, and the top of the tower. By the time I woke up this afternoon, there were only two exits left to choose from: the deck level tower exit and the top of the tower. Since shoveling snow off the tower drops onto the deck and affects shoveling that exit, we typically will start at the top of the tower then do the deck level last. So, I volunteered to take the top of the tower.

So I took our beefy 7 inch sidewalk ice scraper/chipper and a steel shovel and headed to the top of our tower. Over the past few days, we have received several inches of snow but the top of the tower also sees rime ice accumulations from what we remove from the weather instruments every hour when we are in the fog. So, by the time I got up there, there was about 6-12 inches of accumulated snow and ice to remove. Making it slightly more difficult was the fact that we had several pairs of feet stomping it down yesterday as our overnight guests took in a spectacular sunset yesterday evening. While it would be a tough task, it would be far from the worst I have dealt with. So with tools in hand, I got down to business.

Now with the tower, there is an order that I work in to make things work out smoother. First, clear the slots below the railing, then chip and cut up all the compacted snow, shove the lose snow through the gaps, then take the ice scrapper and remove anything solid that remains. After nearly two hours of work (and several unsavory words grumbled at times on the tougher spots), I was able to get it all cleared. Now, if you live in a location where it snows and have ever shoveled something out, there is such a huge sense of accomplishment when all is said and done. Regardless of the fact that it is already starting to fill in, at the moment right after I finished, I was on top of the world. To put this into something more comparable in case you've never shoveled something out, the feeling is like when you bag a summit after a long hike, beat a video game boss after days of trying, or beat the top ranked team in your division, or created fire on your own. Think of the movie Castaway (2000), when the character Chuck Noland makes fire for the first time and exclaims, 'Aha! Look what I've created. I have made FIRE!' In my case, when I was done, I exclaimed, 'Aha, look what I've done! I have cleared SNOW!' Luckily though, no one was around to see me making a fool of myself as I exclaimed my accomplishment to no one...at least that I know of, it was pretty foggy...

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

22:54 Sat Jan 5th

After an absolutely incredible Snow Cat ride up the mountain on Thursday, the weather turned back to cold, foggy, and windy for Friday and much of the first part of today. We're currently reporting a snow depth of twenty-four inches on the ground. That doesn't mean when you walk around the summit you're going to be up to your knees in snow everywhere, that's just the average estimated depth. You can find places that have drifted much deeper and other areas where the winds have scoured the snow off down to just a thin layer of ice. Winds have also been up and down over the last few days with minimums in the mid 20's and peak gusts of nearly 120 miles per hour.

It's not just outside where winter has set in, our tower has snow inside, now blown in through every crack and crevice. A couple of shifts ago I was still able to work in the tower cleaning up some cabling and working a few other projects; however, the temperature has dropped below zero making it more difficult to work. We'll see if things warm up in there in the coming days so I can resume with the work that needs to be done.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:48 Fri Jan 4th

Some days the mountain is not welcoming to guests. Today an Eastern Mountain Sports climbing trip was scheduled to hike up and spend the night with us on one of our Partner Led Climbing Trips. However, the weather seemed to be working against them. Cold temperatures, high winds and poor visibility made even getting observations tricky. For a group climbing to the summit, this becomes even more dangerous.

For us, we are never more then a few steps out the door and can get inside to warm up and take shelter. Climbing the mountain does not offer this safe shelter and keeps even the most experienced mountaineer on their toes. This is why it is so important to check the weather before you head out and make an educated call when you reach tree line on whether or not you should head down. There will always be another day when the mountain weather is more welcoming.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

19:43 Thu Jan 3rd

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Deicing the 5300' ARVP site w/ Cloud iridescence

As we ascended the mountain this morning, there was an overabundance of blue skies surrounding the summit. However, it wasn't 100 percent clear as there was a small strip of Altocumulus Lenticularis hovering just to the east of the mountain. Lenticular clouds are always neat to see and watch as they morph into various shapes minute to minute like a natural atmospheric lava lamp. As we ascended the mountain for shift change day, I continued to keep an eye on these clouds, just in case anything caught my eye to photograph. As we started to ascend the 4-mile section of the Auto Road, the cloud started to glow in all sorts of colors. At first, I brushed it off as a corona around the sun but as we moved up the mountain, the waves of colors started to change and morphed in all sorts of directions and I knew we were seeing something rarely seen from the summit: cloud iridescence. So, I had the snow tractor stop at Cragway turn just in case this would be a short lived event.

After snapping some shots, we were off again. As we climbed, the colors were continuously changing. If I had my way, we would have been stopping every couple of feet. But I knew we had to relieve the down going crew, so I kept it to myself. However, we did stop one more time at the 5300 foot site for the Auto Road Vertical Profile and I was able to snap a few more images of this unique natural event.

So, what is an iridescent cloud? It is when a thin cloud is formed with similar sized droplets that diffract the light as it passes through and allows the cloud to shine with several bands of colors similar to that of a corona. In fact, the colors are being caused by corona fragmentation. However, a corona is formed when similar sized droplets cover a large area of the sky near the sun creating several bands of color that appear to radiate out from the sun. Cloud iridescence forms in localized areas and can form anywhere in the sky although typically it is somewhat in proximity to the sun. In the case of today's event, the eastern lenticular cloud and our elevation gain allowed the colors to be spread unevenly across the thin edges of the lenticular cloud. It was a colorful sight and one I was glad we all got to witness.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

23:16 Tue Jan 1st

'Brrrr' is the word to bring in the New Year!

It's been one of the most topsy-turvy weather weeks that I can remember.

It began immediately upon our arrival, as a major Nor'easter shot up the coast, prompting a last-minute early shift change. We received nearly 16 inches of snow with that event, with winds gusting up to 112 mph, creating massive snow drifts around the summit and on the Auto Road. A second winter storm on Saturday brought another 6 inches of snow.

The weather was just getting started with us, however. Every day of our shift, with one lone exception, has seen a gust in excess of hurricane force. On top of that, we've had four days with at least one gust in excess of 100 mph, which may very well turn into five as winds are expected to remain strong tonight and early tomorrow.

Sunday was the most impressive of the windy days, with winds averaging in excess of 90 mph for fifteen straight hours, and winds peaking at 118 mph! On top of that, temperatures that night plummeted to an unexpected low of 16 degrees below zero, resulting in some very dangerous wind chills on the summit.

Winds remained strong for New Year's Eve, gusting up to 112 mph, and temperatures struggling to climb through the single digits (above zero).

Another cold frontal passage this morning has sent the mercury tumbling once more. As I compose this comment, our thermometers are reading a frosty -18F, with winds gusting up to 90 mph. The wind chill at the moment is a frigid 62 degrees below zero!

After one more chilly day on the rockpile tomorrow, we're all set to head back into more reasonable temperatures on shift change day!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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