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Observer Comments

February 2013

18:13 Thu Feb 28th

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Graphic Courtesy Of The Nation Weather Service

The Northeast is accustomed to the cold temperatures of winter and so far this season we have seen our fair share of cold days. In just the past three weeks the Northeast, along with many other regions of the country have seen multiple snowstorms. Here on the summit the mercury has dropped to some of the coldest temperatures seen in recent years. With the recent weather patterns nearly the entire country has experienced a cold snap; except the Southeast. The only region spared from the chilling grasp of winter thus far has been the Gulf Coast, but only until this weekend.

Starting tomorrow cold air will plunge south as a result of a deep upper level trough encompassing the eastern half of the United States. Nighttime lows will be dropping into the lower 30's for much of the Gulf Coast. In fact over the weekend, low temperatures along the Gulf could rival the low temperatures along the Northeast's coast. The cold temperatures will not last all day; once the sun rises temperatures will quickly warm along the Gulf

For anyone reading this in the southeast be sure you listen to your local meteorologist for more details. Taking appropriate precautions for your outside pets and plants during this cold snap will most certainly be needed. Lastly when you think temperatures are too cold to handle; take a minute to visit the current summit condition page at the Mount Washington Observatory website. I promise after seeing the temperatures your temperatures outside will seem warmer.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

17:58 Wed Feb 27th

I have now been working on the summit of Mount Washington for three winters and have seen most of what Mount Washington can offer. I have seen wind speeds as high as 140mph, temperatures as low as 35F degrees below zero, and blowing snow so dense, visibility is next to nothing. However, the one thing I have yet to see is an avalanche; and I hope to keep it that way. This past off week I participated in one of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education's ('AIARE') Level One class. Through the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School, I partook in a three day, 24 hour AIARE class where I learned about safely traveling and assessing avalanche terrain.

In this three day class, I learned more then I ever could have imagined. The knowledge and skills I gained will, without a doubt, be put to use outside the White Mountains, but the knowledge I gained of my own backyard opened my eyes to what Mount Washington can offer outside the realm of weather. One of the most interesting things, for me personally, was learning about wind slabs. As winds race across the summit of Mount Washington and deposit loose snow on the leeward sides of terrain features, top or cross loading can occur. As this snow loads into these areas, a simple human trigger can be all it takes to cause them to avalanche.

If you are considering recreating in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I encourage you to take advantage of all the resources available to help make safe decisions. Between the Mount Washington Observatory's Weather Page, the Mount Washington Avalanche Bulletins, or signing up for an AIARE class through Eastern Mountain Sports, you can gain incredible knowledge.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

00:21 Wed Feb 27th

Meteorology, like most of the sciences deals with numbers; things that can be made into graphs. Wind speed in miles per hour or meters per second, millibars, visibility in miles, temperature in degrees, dew points and relative humidity, rainfall and snowfall in inches or feet, are all objective. These are the things that can be measured. That is the realm of science. But there is something else up here, that only those who have been here can experience; the subjective parts of weather. When the wind speed gets up in the 70 mile per hour range or higher, you feel the wind not as a gas that is moving very fast, the wind takes on a fluid quality. You are trying to stand in swift moving liquid that is attempting to push you downstream. It is like trying cross a fast flowing river with water that comes up to your waist or chest. The higher the wind speed, the stronger the force trying to wash you away. Wind is not a liquid though, and while that feeling can be measured in pounds of pressure per square inch, it is more a feeling, and that is what subjectively is.

This week we got to experience that feeling when the wind reached a peak gust of 102 miles per hour. We also had a bluebird day, with light wind and clear sky and undercast; like the snow and ice capped high peaks were the only parts of the world. These are all feelings, subjective things. These are the things that attract people here, and why we keep coming back.

Bill Ofsiany – Summit Volunteer

16:44 Sun Feb 24th

It has been a beautiful winter weekend atop New England's highest peak. We expected more 'exciting' weather to accompany our sixth Edutrip of the winter season, but we will certainly take what we can get! With temperatures in the mid-20s, slight winds, light snowfall and visibility around half a mile, conditions have been reminiscent of a calm winter day in the valley. Due to low icing conditions and very little wind, the observers had the opportunity to install the mechanical wind sensor, which measures wind speed and direction through a combined wind vane and propellor system. This anemometer is more commonly associated with summer months, so it was a strange sight to see it alongside our hardy pitot tube static anemometer.

This particular Edutrip's theme was 'the EduTrip for Educators,' led by Steve Roberts and Mark Parsons, President and Vice-President of the New Hampshire Science Teacher's Association respectively. In addition to summit exploration and tours of the weather room and observatory museum, we were treated to a post-dinner show of weather-related demonstrations that teachers could repeat in the classroom. Temperature and pressure experiments, in addition to common misconceptions regarding the physical sciences were covered. The Observatory will be sure to benefit from these simple, informative and fun activities while visiting regional schools, museums and science centers in our Outreach Program.

For more information on Winter EduTrips or Education at the Mount Washington Observatory, follow the links!

Will Broussard – Outreach Educator

17:34 Sat Feb 23rd

Today has been one of those foggy nondescript sort of days with nothing much happening weather wise. We've all been watching the latest weather models and wondering how much snow we'll pick up tomorrow - looks like somewhere around 6 inches or so up here. With temperatures in the 20s and only light winds some of it may stick around for a while too instead of being blown straight off into the ravines.

This shift, amongst other things, I've been working on code to collect images for a replacement camera that should hopefully be going in to our webcam network in the next week or so. As many of you are probably aware the Presidentials cam failed a few months back. After some scrambling around we have found a camera that should hopefully be suitable in that location, at least for the short term. We're testing it now and updating our collection code, once this is complete and, assuming the weather cooperates, the camera will be mounted and setup in the correct location and that wonderful view will be back on line - stay tuned.

We'll I'd better be going as we have an overnight EduTrip up tonight and it's time to mingle with our guests.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:36 Fri Feb 22nd

Mount Washington is the location of the world's fastest surface wind ever recorded by man. In April of 1934, a wind speed of 231 miles per hour was recorded by the summit crew. Holed up in a wooden house chained to the summit, the observers strained to hear the clicks of the old-fashioned anemometer, which indicated wind speed. One of the observers on the summit even had to go out and clear ice off of the anemometer immediately before the record gust.

Fly a kite high enough (20,000-40,000 feet in the air…that would require a lot of string) and in the right location, and you could likely hit wind speeds exceeding those that hit the summit on that windy day. A river of air rushes around the upper latitudes, powered by differences in temperature between the cold poles and the warm mid-latitudes. Travelling up to 300 miles per hour, and sometimes even faster, the jet stream has winds equivalent to an extremely strong category 5 tornado. Airplanes use these jet streams to make flight times shorter and save on fuel costs, but these jet streams are also extremely important in governing our weather.

Low pressure systems often form when the jet stream bends, allowing warm air to move north in front of the system and allowing colder air to move south behind the system. These areas of warm and cold air give rise to the warm and cold fronts that spin around low pressure systems. These fronts allow precipitation to fall and clouds to form.

Now, why do some of these storms bring us feet of snow while some just bring a dusting? It all depends on how much water is in the air that makes up these storms. A storm which evolved and traveled over land is often moisture starved and will not bring much in terms of precipitation. On the contrary, a storm that brings heavy snow often originated over water and contains more moisture. Powerful Nor'Easters form when the jet stream dips down towards the Gulf of Mexico and rises back up just offshore in the Atlantic, allowing the low pressure system to tap into moist air over the Atlantic and travel up the coast. These storms eventually deposit this moisture in the form of rain or snow on the northeast.

A handy way to see what the jet stream is doing is to look at model maps on various websites, such as Unisys, Wunderground or the weather gun (amongst others). Go ahead and take a look!

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

22:33 Wed Feb 20th

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My first winter week as a volunteer on the Rock Pile has been exciting. I have been looking forward to this week since June 2012 which was my first summer volunteer session on the mountain.

We have experienced some very good weather with low to moderate winds and good visibilities. Then on Sunday the Observers forecasted 110-120 mph winds for Monday. These forecasted winds would give me the opportunity to join the Century Club. The wind force on the body was unbelievable as I ventured out unto the deck early Monday morning. Struggling to stand up and to get around the wind did bring me down onto the deck one time.

The experience has been wonderful, the full time crew is great and my volunteer co-worker, Mark, is a great cook.

Now in my remaining hours on the mountain I would like to give my salute and farewell to the Top Cat. Yes, Marty the Cat who is in control and also maintains the remote controls.

Gary Casperson – Summit Volunteer

18:37 Tue Feb 19th

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Stairs coated in rime ice above an undercast.

This morning the temperature was 20F on the mountain with 40 mph winds, which, just a week ago, I would have described as 'windy and cold.' A week volunteering here at the Observatory has given me a new appreciation for 'windy and cold.' Yesterday morning I was able to experience winds of 115 mph with higher gusts, along with cold of 15F below zero. It was an amazing experience to be able to go out in that, with the warm observatory just a door away, making safe what otherwise would have been life threatening conditions.

It has also been great to be immersed for a week in what I would describe as a weather culture. I learned about big things, such as coastal storms and winter weather patterns in New England. And small things, like the tubes used in the pitot system measure high wind speeds through air pressure. I learned about snowflakes, rime ice, and temperature inversions just by listening to the staff and asking a few questions. The people drawn to live and work here are just as interesting as the weather itself!

I've now spent a week here in the summer (this past August) and a week in the winter. I cannot recommend more highly the experience of spending a week at the Observatory as a volunteer. I hope I'll be back in years to come.

Mark Sobkowicz – Summit Volunteer

19:13 Mon Feb 18th

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Sunset through the Weather Room Windows

As can always be expected from the 'rock pile', the last few days have been a time of extremes. So far this shift, we've seen wind speed ranging from two miles per hour to 129 miles per hour. Temperatures have ranged from a high of 16F degrees to a low of 19F degrees below zero. Visibility from the Observation deck has ranged anywhere from 50 feet to 120 miles. This morning when the winds hit 129 miles per hour and the temperature was 15F degrees below zero, the calculated wind chill was 65F degrees below zero. At those temperatures, exposed skin can start to experience frostbite in less than five minutes.

As I took the picture to the right, I couldn't help but think how harsh and unforgiving the environment is, just on the other side of those panes of glass and Lexan. From inside the building, you can hear the roar of the wind. Loud pops and bangs can be heard as the concrete and steel rebar of the Sherman Adams building contract at different rates as the outside temperatures get fluctuates up and down rapidly. As you’re outside doing Observations, feeling the wind and cold on your body you quickly realize you can only survive in the beautiful yet hostile environment because of the buildings and gear we have around us.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

16:23 Sun Feb 17th

One of the benefits of working for eight days straight on the summit, is the six days off the summit we have to relax and travel. This past off week, I took advantage of my time off and visited the Boston Museum of Science; one of the participating science centers of the ASTC Passport Program. You see, with my Observatory membership, not only can I access Premium Content and other material from the Mount Washington Observatory, but I get free admission to over 300 science museums who participate in the ASTC Passport Program. And the Boston Museum of Science just happens to be a participating member! Simply presenting my membership card at the ticket counter gave me free admission; but not just for myself. With my Family/Dual level membership, I was able to bring up to three family members with me.

The expanse of exhibits they have was incredible; so many, that deciding what my second favorite exhibit would be was quite difficult. However, if I had to choose, it would likely be Dinosaurs: Modeling the Mesozoic. My first choice though, was easy. Inside the Blue Wing on the lower lever, is the WeatherWise exhibit with a very special display all about the Mount Washington Observatory! For a museum that sees so many visitors, it was great to see a display about our unique weather. If you have yet to visit the Boston Museum of Science with your Observatory membership, I strongly suggest taking a fun, educational day for some exploration. If you don't have an Observatory Membership, I urge you to support the Mount Washington Observatory and take advantage of all the great benefits a membership offers.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:51 Sat Feb 16th

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Commute Up On Wednesday

No two days on Mount Washington are the same. This might be hard to believe since the summit can be in dense fog for days at a time and many of the daily tasks on the summit have not changed much over the years. While I might be new to the summit, I'm constantly hearing the other observers say things like "This is new..." or "I've never seen that before..." leading me to believe it's not just my opinion. There are a plethora of differences that keep the days from being the same up on the summit. Whether it is hosting EduTrips, DayTrips, or Partner Led Climbing Trips, connecting for a Distance Learning program, or just monitoring changes in the weather, every day is different. The summit's environment brings unexpected twists and turns.

An example of this can be seen in last weekend's snow storm. The storm allowed for the formation of large snow drifts that blocked sections of the Mount Washington Auto Road, causing our weekly commute up the mountain to be slow going. Along the way, we opted to get out of the snowcat and walk ahead to avoid motion sickness until a path was cleared. Another example was back in January when we started a shift week with recorded high temperatures and ended the week with bitter cold. However, not every difference is weather dependent. Sometimes it's just little things like talking with guests on trips and learning that one of them lives in the town next to where you grow up; or writing an Observer Comment while Marty the cat decides to take a nap or your keyboard. With the constant changes, it really makes every day at the Mount Washington Observatory an adventure. Seeing and experiencing these changes firsthand makes working here so enjoyable, and I am truly grateful.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

18:14 Fri Feb 15th

Prior to working at the Mount Washington Observatory, I held jobs that dealt with Forensic Meteorology and Research Meteorology. A Forensic Meteorologist is someone that acquires data (weather reports, METAR's, radar imagery, satellite imagery, local accounts, etc.) for a location and assists in interpreting the cause and effect that weather may have had in a particular case - such as a criminal investigation, insurance claim, death, etc. In a similar fashion, a Research Meteorologist is someone that acquires data either directly (by setting up instrumentation) or indirectly (like those listed above) and then taking that data to draw a conclusion to their thesis. While the two were different in many ways, they both held at least one thing in common - data; and the more data available, the better the results.

In both jobs, when subjects were near a well-populated area, it was a gold mine of data acquisition. There would usually be several weather stations to pull from, several news agencies to turn to, several eye witnesses to talk to, possible audio and visual resources, and a larger historical data set to look at for similar occurrences from the past. However, most of what I was doing was not in populated areas, which took me out of the gold mines and left me panning for gold by any means I could. In those cases, since there was rarely a station already in place, I either had to deploy a unit to gather data or start gathering data from as many neighboring resources as possible. And since most of my work was done in the rural parts of California, neighboring resources could sometimes be several hundred miles away. So, needless to say, I ended up with several binders and gigabytes of information just so I could whittle down the information to something that was usable and easy to understand. It was a lot of work but rewarding once the 'Eureka!' moment was met.

Now, keep in mind, all of this was back in the early 2000's, so accessible weather data was nowhere near what it is like today. Home weather stations, similar to the ones we have available, were not nearly as affordable as they are now and days. While a few hundred dollars may still seem steep, back then, these stations were closer to $1000 each. So, it should be no surprise that online networks, like those seen through wunderground.com or elsewhere, were not nearly as robust as they are today. In a similar fashion, Mesonet networks were just an idea on paper for many. However, as profession grade networking and sensors became more affordable, schools and organizations started to put up Mesonet networks around the country. The first example of a real world Mesonet that I experienced was our Auto Road Vertical Profile and even then, it was one of only two or three available at that time. Since then, our network has expanded across the White Mountains and several other Mesonet networks have sprung up around the country, further filling in the gaps on a more localized scale.

Smartphones were a novelty and kind of a joke back then but now and days, they are in the hands of millions and are now being utilized in further filling in the gaps of weather data (The P.I.N.G. Project is a perfect example of an available app). And trained weather enthusiasts are starting to contribute more and more each day through programs like CoCoRaHS, SkyWarn or others around the country. It all makes me wonder what my work would have been like if all these methods were in place back then. Better yet, it makes me wonder what will come next for tracking, recording and better understanding the weather around us.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:36 Thu Feb 14th

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Happy Valentines Day!

Meow from the summit of New England. Not only has today been a purrrfect day on the summit with a beautiful undercast, but it is also Valentines Day. A day for me to say thank you to all my fans, supporters, and fellow four legged friends. The support you have given me and my fellow Observers has been incredible. Through memberships, connections with our educational staff, visits to the summit, and outings to the Weather Discovery Center, I have been privileged to meet so many of you. So, will you be my Valentine?

Marty – Summit Cat

21:01 Wed Feb 13th

Having completed two prior volunteer weeks it was time to try a winter week. With a great deal of excitement and anticipation the week had arrived. Now I have been on the summit for one shift and as I write this the shift change meeting is taking place before we depart. What a spectacular experience this has been with many firsts. First ride in the SnowCat from the base to the summit with the added bonus of riding in the cab. First winter volunteer week at the Observatory. First time living with generator power for a period of 24 hours. First time seeing the ocean from the summit on a day of 130 mile visibility. First time seeing Portland's city lights. First time hearing blowing rime hit windows. First time seeing the Cranmore ski trail at night with lights. First time baking with yeast at 6200+ elevation. First time for overnight mountain climbing guests with one of our Partner Led-Climbing Trips; what hearty and determined individuals. And lastly, first time with fellow volunteer, Jan. What a wonderful week it has been. A sincere thank you to the staff: Steve, Mike, Brian and intern Mike for a great week. Oh, and must not forget Marty, Lord of Mount Washington.

Often I am asked the following questions by those that have an interest in volunteering: Who provides the food? Food is already stocked. There are two refrigerators, two chest freezers and a well stocked pantry. There are many cookbooks in the kitchen and if you have favorite recipes make sure to bring them along. The basics are here, specialty items you may want to consider bringing. Dairy, fruits and vegetables are brought up weekly on shift change day. Who decides the menu? You do, comfort food is always good. Where do volunteers sleep? Volunteers have their own bunk room. Cellphone reception/computer? Yes, there is a laptop computer for volunteers to use at any time. Cell reception depends upon where you are located in the building. Is there 'down' time to hike and enjoy the summit? Absolutely, the Observatory staff is very concerned about volunteer's safety and will advise when and if weather conditions are unsafe for outdoor activities. Do you have to be a professional cook? No, if you have cooked a Thanksgiving dinner or food for your family you are good to go. All staff and volunteers sit down together for an evening meal. Can I visit the weather room? Absolutely, you will find that you will be there many times during the day and asking lots of questions which the staff answers very willingly. I do not know anyone that wants to volunteer with me, what do I do? Not to worry, this is the third time volunteering for me. Only one time have I been with a friend. You will be paired up with another solo volunteer and with enough time to communicate with that person prior to shift change day. Part of the experience is making new friends.

So, with this brief Q&A why not become a member and summit volunteer, you are always needed and most welcomed by the staff. Should you like to become a volunteer and discover the Observatory click onto About, Jobs and Volunteering on this website.

Looking forward to another volunteer week in September 2013.

Susanne Laundry – Summit Volunteer

17:22 Tue Feb 12th

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A sample day in the life as an Observer at Mount Washington Observatory:

-5:30am: Wake up, immediately realize you're on top of a mountain and you need to be outside in 15 minutes, fully dressed and awake to take the first observation.

-5:40am: Get ready for, then go outside, covered from head to toe after having a brief conversation with the night observer who is now going to bed about what's been happening outside, if there's precipitation that's fallen or any instruments we need to keep an eye on or change, etc. After your first 'ob' is done, repeat this task a quarter of each hour for the next 12 hours, alternating with the other day observer on shift.

-6:00am: After your first 'ob', start daily check, reviewing and checking all of yesterday's observations based on a set protocol.

-9:30am-11:00am: Check is done and now as the Education Specialist you need to set up for a Distance Learning Program entitled 'Extreme Weather Observations' to a class of 4th graders in New Jersey.

-11:00am: Write up an article covering MWO's educational offerings for an upcoming meteorological tech magazine.

-1:00pm: Help out with weekly cleaning chores since your shift is headed down for the week and there are no maids on top of Mount Washington.

-1:30pm: Get back to studying METAR! Each observer at MWO is certified as weather observer and you must pass an exam through the National Weather Service to make sure you know METAR code.

-4:00pm: Write a comment for MWO's website! Clean up your space for the next shift to come in and have some of your belongings packed up to ensure a quick and safe shift change (you never know when the weather is going to quickly disintegrate).

-5:30pm: You're done! Free time to hang out before dinner at 6 with all of the observers, interns and volunteers.

-7:00pm: Watch hockey, read and book and get in bed tired as can be at 9pm.

-9:00pm: Go to sleep and get ready to do it all over again (unless it's Wednesday and it's time for days off!!).

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

23:09 Mon Feb 11th

Winter seems to be fully hitting its stride recently, with plenty of cold air and snow to be had over the last few weeks.

The National Weather Service uses quite an array of terms to describe winter weather events, so much so that there is probably a good deal of confusion in circulation. So, let's take some time to clarify some of the terms you may hear before, during, and after these events:

Winter Weather Advisory: Issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) when a combination of winter weather is expected (sleet, snow, freezing rain), and will present a hazard, but will not meet warning criteria.

Winter Storm Watch: Issued by NWS when the potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations exist. A watch will be issued 24-36 hours in advance of the impending storm.

Winter Storm Warning: Issued by NWS when heavy snow or significant ice accumulations are occurring or imminent. Winter Storm Watches are generally upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning 24 hours in advance of the impending storm, unless there is some change in the forecast.

Blizzard: The technical definition of this phenomenon requires the following criteria to not only be met (in combination with each other), but prevail for a period of 3 hours or longer: sustained winds or frequent wind gusts in excess of 35 mph, and considerable falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to 1/4 mile or less. The threat of a blizzard will warrant a Blizzard Watch, which will be upgraded to a Blizzard Warning 24 hours before the commencement of the event.

Freezing Rain: Precipitation that falls as liquid, but freezes on contact as it strikes the ground due to below-freezing surface temperatures, creating some of the most dangerous travel conditions winter can dish out. A purely freezing rain event, below warning standards, will prompt the issuance of a Freezing Rain Advisory.

Sleet: The technical name for this phenomenon is "ice pellets." Sleet occurs as snow falls through an elevated warm layer (a layer in the atmosphere with temperatures above freezing) and melts, and then refreezes as it drops below this warm layer before hitting the surface. Pellets of ice are the result of this process, and they are distinguished from snow because they bounce upon hitting hard surfaces.

Alberta Clipper: One variety of winter storm that is named for the location in which it originates--the Alberta province of Canada. Low pressure systems originating in this vicinity can gain strength as they travel east-southeastward and "clip" the northeastern United States, often saving the most significant snows and winds for northern New York and New England. Clipper systems can vary greatly in intensity and effects, from a few inches to a foot of snow. In general, though, these systems are faster-moving and less intense than their headline-grabbing counterparts--Nor'easters.

Nor'easter: A unique type of storm that occurs exclusively in the northeastern United States. A Nor'easter is a coastal low pressure system that rides along the eastern seaboard, intensifying as it treks further north. Although nor'easters can occur year-round, they are much more common in the fall and winter months, and are responsible for the most significant snowfall events in the northeast during the winter. Nor'easters are named for the strong northeast winds they often harbor, along with heavy precipitation.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

18:32 Sun Feb 10th

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Deck Drifting

This weekend's Nor'easter certainly did not disappoint.

While the massive snowstorm left behind some astronomically high snow totals (upwards of 40 inches) along coastal New England, originally, we were not expecting much on the summit.

Computer models had a hard time agreeing, as they usually do, on the exact path of this storm. Originally, it appeared as if we wouldn't see too much of the white stuff up here on the summit--maybe a foot or so (still a decent mark, but nothing we're not accustomed to). However, as the forecast morphed on Thursday, the day prior to the big event, it was looking more and more like we could end up seeing quite a bit more.

And that we did! Snow began on the summit at 8:40 PM EST on Thursday evening as the first of a duo of low pressure systems approached New England. The snow continued all night and through the entire day on Friday, dumping an average of three-quarters of an inch per hour, from 7AM Friday through 1AM Saturday.

At that point, though, the snow machine really kicked in, dumping approx. 6 inches or so in the six-hour period from 1AM through 7AM Saturday as heavy snow bands moved inland from the coastal storm. The effects of the mountain terrain definitely helped our cause as well, as snow continued on well into Saturday night, even though snowfall had concluded in valley locations around us. The last flakes wrapped up just after midnight on Sunday, making for a more-than-48-hour snowfall event.

All in all, we received a total of 24.5 inches of snow on the summit, which was in fact partially estimated, as winds howled in excess of hurricane force through the height of the storm, rendering our precipitation can virtually ineffective. However, having experienced the tremendous drifting during the night first hand, I have no doubt that our estimations are not an exaggeration at all.

Trudging through drifts up to my waist in an effort to collect the precipitation can twice during the night, with snow being whipped up into a blizzard that reduced visibility to about 10 feet or so at the Nor'easter's apex, I had no doubt that Mt. Washington was in the midst of a significant snowfall event!

This was not an unprecedented event for us by any means, but it was still one to remember, particularly considering the bust-of-a-winter we experienced last year.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

00:10 Sun Feb 10th

The Snowcat ride up on Wednesday was great and lasted about 1.5 hrs. What a great week to be up on the rock pile! We had record high temps, and incredible winds peaking to about 117 mph. Two groups visited at the beginning of the week. Five hikers from NH, NY and NJ. We had a very nice visit, and woke up to a beautiful sunrise.

On Saturday a group of eleven came up for an edutrip. Again, a real nice group of people from all over---NH, IN, CT and VT. They had fantastic weather, and spent a lot of time outside. The mountain cooperated with another beautiful sunrise. I was thrilled to have some windy, winter weather to experience, but also sunny days with visibility, which was great for photography. As always the week was great!

Food, friends and the beauty of the mountain. Oh, and Marty...the ever entertaining cat!

Pam Trett – Summit Volunteer

18:34 Thu Feb 7th

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Cloud Cover Begins to Increase Ahead of the Storm

What tools do we use up here to determine how much snow might fall in a storm? There are many different models which are able to predict how much liquid precipitation may fall from a storm, however this cannot be automatically translated directly to snow depth. The water to snow ratio is determined by several factors, including humidity and temperature and crystal size and shape.

One of the best tools for snow prediction that I have been shown during my internship on the summit is the Hydometeorological Prediction Center's winter weather maps. Instead of pinning certain numbers for snow total predictions to certain places, these maps show the (un)certainty in the models. It is inherently incorrect to say 'Boston is going to get X inches of snow', as there is always uncertainty involved in this prediction. With HPC's winter forecasting maps, you can understand the extent of this uncertainty.

Now, one may ask 'why do we even have meteorologists if computers can do all the work?' Models are not always correct. Upon waking up the other day, I saw a snow total map of New England for the upcoming storm that included predicted snowfall of 5.5 feet. Before deciding whether I should jump for joy or be concerned, I consulted our staff meteorologist. Certain models are more accurate in some situations than others, and I had glanced at one that typically does not track Nor'easters very well. After taking a look at some other maps, I had a more realistic understanding of what to expect for snow totals. It takes both knowledge of the biases of certain models and understanding of what's happening in our atmosphere to accurately forecast weather. It is therefore impossible for a computer to predict weather more accurately than the combination of a computer and human.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

06:38 Wed Feb 6th

As some of you might have seen on the Mount Washington Observatory Facebook page last night, the observers took advantage of the cold temperatures to display the properties of Charles' Law by use of balloons. In the past, the observers have used experiments in the extreme cold to show how boiling water crystallizes when thrown into the air and how a soapy solution can be used to make bubbles that freeze before sinking to the ground. While you might not see the extreme cold as we do here on the summit, you can still enjoy the science of cold air. Here is a simple experiment that you can do right from you own home.

This experiment demonstrates the freezing points of different liquid solutions. To run this experiment all you need to do is partly fill three containers; one with regular drinking water, one with a saline solution (salt water), and one with Soda. If possible place a thermometer in each container. If you only have a thermometer that measures air temperature that just place it near the three containers. Then place the three containers and thermometers outside. Ideally you want to put the containers out when the temperature is warmer than 32F and dropping. If that scenario is not possible then just place the containers outside when temperatures are 32F or colder.

When the containers have been outside for at least 30 minutes go out and check if any of them have begun to freeze. If they have begin to periodically, every 15 to 20 minutes, check the containers temperature. For colder temperatures you may want to check more periodically. When observing the containers monitor at what temperature each one begins to freeze at. This will, in the end show you the different freezing points of different solutions.

These are the results you should get:

Solution / Temperature Range:
Water / 32F or less
Saline Solution / 27F to 29F or less
Soda / 20F to 15F or less

**Please note that temperature ranges for the saline solution and soda may vary depending on the amount of salt and sugar in each one respectively. The more salt or sugar the colder the temperature required for them to freeze.

These are just three suggested solutions to try. It is encouraged to try whatever you have around your house. Some other ideas are orange juice, pudding, or chocolate/maple syrup. Just be mindful that some solutions will require temperatures below zero to freeze.

Good Luck, have fun, and stay warm.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

21:33 Mon Feb 4th

photo - see caption below
January 2013 Hourly Temperature Chart

This past January saw a temperature spread of 83F degrees here on the summit; with the coldest day being on the 23rd, with a low of 35F degrees below zero, and the warmest being 48F degrees above zero on the 13th.

During the month, the previous monthly record high of 47F degrees above zero was broken on the 13th, with a temperature of 48F degrees above zero. Three new daily records were also set, and two daily records were equaled. The records that were equaled and broken were the result of two warm fronts that passed through the region.

The day the summit reached 35F degree below zero, while cold, was still 12 degrees warmer than the all-time record low temperature of 47F degrees below zero set on January 29th, 1934.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

20:56 Sun Feb 3rd

Dear NFL,

In light (punt intended) of your recent loss of power, we would like to offer the summit of Mount Washington's Sherman Adams building as a location for next year's Super Bowl XLVIII. Here on the summit, we not only receive grid power from the valley but can switch to generator backup with almost a seamless delay. With two large generators running on kerosene, the summit of Mount Washington rarely loses power. Not to mention that the Observatory has enough battery power to continue operations for eight hours. So, if you would like to contact us about our amazing ability to work in extreme weather or want more information on our operations, you can visit www.MountWashington.org.


The Mount Washington Observatory

P.S.- This comment was written and posted in less time then it took the power to be restored in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer / Education Specialist

15:38 Sat Feb 2nd

'I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.' - Andy Rooney

I would like folks to know that although I am writing this from the summit of Mount Washington, I did not climb it; but traveled in the warm comfort of the Observatory's snow cat. And, although I have climbed this mountain many times, I must say that I find complete happiness by both climbing this mountain and being chauffeured here in the comfort of a snow cat.

My last visit here was on December 31, 2012 when I joined a group of adventurous folks to ring in the New Year in a most unique fashion. Once again, the snow cat brought us warmly to the summit. We stopped a few times along the way to experience the worsening conditions and tried to ambulate in the high winds. It was truly invigorating! When we arrived on the summit, we found it difficult to walk in 70 mph winds and everybody's surface had to be covered to prevent frostbite. Thankfully, the Observatory checked to make sure we were well prepared with the proper attire ahead of time!

A local chef, Ken Bacon, prepared a 16 course dinner of Asian cuisine for New Year's Eve. I kept thinking, 'Are we really on the summit of Mount Washington?' At 11:30 PM, Cyrena Briede, Director of Summit Operations for the Observatory, took us out to experience 90 mph sustained winds! Yikes! What a great way to start the New Year, unless of course, we were blown off the mountain! Luckily no gusts of wind took anyone airborne and we all returned inside for a champagne toast at midnight! I cannot think of a better way to have spent New Year's Eve.

Now, once again, I am on the summit, but this time I came as a volunteer for the Observatory summit crew and for two groups of guests. The first to arrive were an incredibly hardy group from Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. With temperatures at 10 below zero (with lower wind-chills), they hiked all the way to the summit from Pinkham Notch. They were so happy to find a warm welcome followed by a beef stew dinner and a comfortable bed for the night. Two of the climbers had never been hiking before. Wow!!! We were beyond impressed that they would make this climb their entry into the world of hiking! Yet, they both claim that they plan to do the same hike again. I suppose that the average hike will look easy to them after this brutal, but exciting experience.

I awoke this morning to a sunrise that left us speechless! The colors were brilliant with wisps of summit fog streaming by as the sun began to rise. Just spectacular, and so unique to this summit!

Tonight we will be hosting an Observatory EduTrip. These trips take place during the winter months to allow anyone to experience Mount Washington's summit weather. More happy folks will be enjoying the magic that this mountain provides, and I am thrilled to be once again on this magnificent mountain where I find such complete happiness!

Gail Langer – Summit Volunteer

21:01 Fri Feb 1st

Growing up, every car I rode in had a crank on the door that was used to roll the window up or down. However, as I got older, friends started to get cars with power windows, where, with the flick of a switch or button, the window went up or down. As a kid, I was fascinated with this and when I rode in a vehicle equipped with this feature for the first time, I would 'experiment'. I would push the button down, and the window would go down, and with a push of the switch on the opposite side, the window would go up. When you first experience something like this, you treat it like black magic, tapping the button both ways and seeing the reaction; down a bit, up a bit, up a tiny bit more, up the whole way, down half way, down a bit more, down the whole way, up...until the driver yells out to knock it off or locks the system on you. Admit it, we've all done it at some point in our life, or still have friends/kids that still do this to this day; tapping the button to see the cars black magic make the window go up or down.

I use this analogy because that is how the weather has been feeling like this winter; like Mother Nature is carpooling with Old Man Winter, and he is playing around with the 'power weather' feature in her car for the first time. I picture Old Man Winter in the passenger seat, tapping the power weather button both ways to see the reaction (of temperatures); down a bit, up a bit, up a tiny bit more, up all the way (setting record highs), down half way, down a bit more, down the whole way, up the whole way again...testing the patience of Mother Nature, but more importantly, testing the patience of everyone experiencing the swings caused by Old Man Winter's...'experimenting'. And here we sit, waiting for Mother Nature to finally snap and lock the controls on him or tell him to stop messing with our weather.

I mean all of this in good fun; as a meteorologist, I know this isn't what is driving our weather. But it is fun to imagine once in a while. In all seriousness though, I do hope the weather settles down to at least normal for a bit. It would make my job a bit easier and would make packing for a week at a time a whole lot easier. It's taking up too much space in my bag each week to bring up spring clothing along with my deep winter clothing. So, fingers crossed that February normalizes a bit. And although February just started, so far things are looking up...or down, depending on what aspect of winter you are examining (temperature, precipitation, snowfall, etc). But I know the accuracy of long term models drops off dramatically, so let's not get ahead of ourselves, or myself, just yet. We'll just have to take it one day at a time like always. So, stay tuned...

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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