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Observer Comments

March 2013

17:24 Sun Mar 31st

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Easter Goodies

Happy Easter everyone. I hope that you were able to enjoy the amazing weather we had this weekend. Unfortunately it will be coming to an end as the next storm system moves in tonight. The past two days dozens of people made their way up Mount Washington to take advantage of the great backcountry skiing. Conditions were great for end of the season runs. Several people even wore bunny ears on their climb up for the holiday weekend, making for some interesting pictures next to the summit sign.

And while the actually Easter Bunny wasn't spotted on the summit, he did manage to make his way up here leaving some goodies for everyone at the Observatory. When we awoke this morning we found two plates full of chocolates and jelly beans. There were even Easter eggs so we could have an egg hunt later tonight. Between the awesome weather and visit from the Easter Bunny, it's been a great weekend. I will be sad to see stormy weather moving in, but hopefully it will add to the snowpack improving the skiing conditions for next weekend.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

20:47 Sat Mar 30th

Here on the summit, March came in like a lion with the first eight days having snow at some point during the day. Even after receiving nearly 69 inches of snow in March, you can start to feel that spring is in the air with nearly an hour and a half added to the length of day and warmer temperatures.

Today was a nearly perfect early spring day here on the summit with temperatures in the upper teens and winds from the northwest in the 25 to 40 mile per hour range all day. As I did my hourly observations, I saw a number of hikers at the summit sign and on the observation deck. If you are planning on coming to the summit in the next few weeks, you should keep in mind that while the valley may have temperature in the 40's and 50's, the summit will still have temperatures in the teens to twenties (or colder) with wind chills of ten above to ten below on a regular basis. So as a reminder, bring plenty of layers, and check the weather forecast and avalanche advisory before heading out.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

15:57 Fri Mar 29th

About this time last year I was sitting in my physical meteorology class learning about cloud physics. During one of my professor's lectures he talked about rime ice. He explained that when an object is in the fog or inside a cloud, and the air temperature is below the freezing point, microscopic water droplets can remain in liquid form in a supercooled state. These supercooled droplets that making up the cloud will freeze on contact as soon as they impact an object. As the droplets continue to impact the object and freeze, their accumulation forms ice feathers that grow into the direction of the wind. My professor proceeded to display images of rime ice on the projection screen behind him. The entire class was fascinated with its unique beauty and at the end of the lecture a student asked where the pictures were taken. My professor replied, 'Most of them I found on the internet, the last few were from my trip to Mount Washington .' Little did I know that one year later I would be interning at the Mount Washington Observatory, observing and removing rime ice on a daily basis. After just over three months, viewing all different types of amazing weather phenomenon, rime ice still captivates me most. From the way it dramatically changes the landscape, coating everything with crusty white feathers that extend into the wind from a few inches to a few feet, to its ability to demonstrate temperature change through changes in color and texture. Needless to say getting to see all this in person is one of the many perks of working at the Mount Washington Observatory . With the changing of the seasons it is going to be sad to see the rime ice slowly wither away.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

18:50 Thu Mar 28th

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Northern Presidentials this morning.

Driving through Pinkham Notch during the winter, I always pass a US Forest Service sign that reads 'The White Mountains Are Winter Fun!' And in the winter months, I always find myself thinking, 'Yeah they are!' However, since it is technically spring, I feel like the sign should now read 'The White Mountains Are 'Still' Winter Fun!' or 'The White Mountains Are Winter Fun...Even In Spring!' But, I'm not one to deface federal or private property, so this is more wishful thinking than anything. However, since there is an extended holiday weekend ahead, this is something visitors to the region should keep in mind; despite what the calendar may say, the White Mountains are still a great place for some 'winter' fun.

If you like skiing/snowboarding, the snow at the surrounding resorts is phenomenal and some of the best I've skied on this season thanks to some recent late season storms. Even cross country locations should have enough snow to remain open for this holiday weekend. The ravines are filling in and (I've been told) are skiable if done responsibly (since the avalanche dangers are still pretty high). Just be sure to check the Avalanche Advisories before venturing into the neighboring bowls. If you snowshoe, the trails around the mountains are still in excellent condition for you to walk on without the risk of falling off the 'monorail' much (at least they were when I hiked them last weekend). If you like to hike with crampons and winter gear, the higher summits have you covered as they are still in great condition for you to do this; just make sure you read the forecast and pack accordingly, it is still more winter than spring up here. If you snowmobile, there is still plenty of snow on the trails in the Great North Woods and northern parts of the Mount Washington Valley for you to play on. Sledding and tubing are still very doable. Pretty much anything you like doing during vacations in January/February are all still available to do. However, the milder spring weather makes them much more enjoyable to do (at least in my opinion). So, if you live around the White Mountains or are just visiting for the holiday weekend, hopefully you get out and enjoy some late season activities this season one last time. After all, 'The White Mountains Are Winter Fun...Even In Spring!'

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

16:38 Wed Mar 27th

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Mount Washington from over Maine

Well, five days later and we are back on the summit. Our shortened off-week was due to a delayed shift change last week that got us off the summit a day later than usual. Despite this, I was able to fully enjoy my time in the valley with the added bonus of a beautiful flight to Maine on Monday. With minimal clouds, I was able to snap a few pictures of my other home, Mount Washington. Although it is spring in the valley's, the peaks are still showing obvious signs that they are not through with winter quite yet. Personally, I could go for another week or two of winter but we will see how things play out in the weeks ahead.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:20 Sun Mar 24th

Recently I got to wondering what some of the weather averages and extremes have been since I started working up here on the Rockpile back in October 2007. A quick look through our F6 Monthly Data records pulled up some interesting numbers.

Winds have gusted over 120 mph in 16, and over 130 mph in 6, of those 66 months and twice at or over 140 mph (naturally I was off shift for both of these events). Our peak wind gust during this time was 145 mph back in March 2008 and the average wind speed has been 34.9 mph.

The average temperature through this period came out at 27.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a departure of 1.6 degrees F compared to our historical normal over these months (roughly six winters and five summers). Considering each month we've had 45 above, one exactly at, and 20 below the average historical temperatures. For record daily temperatures we've seen 18 tied maximums, 31 new maximums, 1 tied minimum and 6 new minimums along with one tied monthly maximum and one new monthly record high. The lowest temperature seen was -35 F, which occurred twice and the maximum was 69 F, which also occurred twice. We had four months where the maximum temperature never reached freezing point and eleven months with a max temperature of 65 degrees or more. In two months we saw minimums below -30 F, 12 months had minimums below -20 F and in 6 months the minimum temperature remained above the freezing mark. The warmest month in this time period was July 2010 which averaged 51.7 F and the coldest was January 2009 which came in at an even 0.0 degrees F.

I'm still working on the percentage of days in the fog (it's a lot), days with precipitation and so on.

Since I'm just the IT guy, and certainly not a climatologist or statistician, I'm not going to attempt to draw any conclusions from this brief snapshot in time. It'll be very interesting to see what the next few years bring though....

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:28 Sat Mar 23rd

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One iced-up snowcat.

It may be spring on the calendar, but up here on the rock pile today's temperatures have struggled to make it out of the upper single digits above zero with thick fog limiting visibility to less than 50 feet at times, along with snow and winds ranging between 40-110 miles per hour thus far. Needless to say, our overnight EduTrip scheduled for this evening was turned around by the brutal conditions they found at treeline, nearly 2,000 feet and 4 miles from the summit. I imagine by stepping just a few feet away from the snowcat they quickly understood why they would travel no further.

It's another day at work though for the observers, and like a typical morning I rolled out of my bunk to take my first observation of the day. The day starts off a bit less typical when you quickly transition into climbing 5 sets of stairs and ladders to de-ice the instruments in winds gusting over 100mph however. As groggy as I was suiting up, your heart starts pumping when you're confronted with the very physically demanding task of trying to stand in hurricane-force winds and carefully de-ice sensitive instruments (the wind is also very demanding on our clothing, especially our zippers which apparently need to be zipped up all the way, otherwise the wind will gladly unzip it for you, as I learned today).

The winds are still howling outside as I write this, and it's nearly time for an observation (my last of the day), so I'll be sure to muster up some strength for one more exposure to elements knowing full well that when I'm back inside I'll be lucky enough to be treated to a nice hot meal from our member-volunteers Besty and Sue. Happy Saturday everyone!

For more information on the Mount Washington Observatory and EduTrips and Daytrips to the summit, visit www.MountWashington.org .

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:35 Fri Mar 22nd

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Rime Ice Buildup on the Summit

One of the many questions that we get up here on the summit is 'Why do you need to hire people to live on the summit when you can have automated stations do the same work?' Yes, automated stations are quickly replacing the few manual stations that remain however the weather instruments on the summit require constant supervision to assure that they are working properly. Whenever the summit is below freezing and in the fog, something called 'rime ice' builds up on everything on the summit. Without the supervision of the summit observers, this ice would quickly entomb all of our instruments, making them extremely inaccurate or even worse, breaking them.

So why have a weather observatory on the summit in the first place? Our hourly observations, when sent to the National Weather Service, help improve weather models and in turn help improve the forecasts many of you look at every day. At 6,288 feet, the conditions on the summit represent a level in the atmosphere that cannot be determined anywhere else in the northeast without the use of weather balloons. In addition, due to the unique topography and location of the Presidential Mountain Range, the summit is a prime location for many different types of atmospheric research studies.

I've been guilty of it myself, getting to the summit after a long hike and being disappointed that there are well established buildings. However the benefits that the Observatory offers through atmospheric research and modeling greatly outweigh the view of a man-made building on top of a naturally beautiful summit.

Observer footnote: Thinking about going out for a hike above treeline in New Hampshire? Don't expect melting snow and spring conditions on the higher summits quite yet! Warm and sunny conditions in the valley can turn quickly into extremely strong wind and bitter cold above treeline. Be sure to make smart decisions and check the Observatory's Higher Summits Outlook if you're heading above tree line and the Mount Washington Avalanche Center's daily avalanche report if you're heading into avalanche terrain.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

22:12 Thu Mar 21st

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Drifted 5-mile

The second time was the charm for yesterday's shift change.

Coming up the Auto Road on Wednesday morning, after the summit had received another two feet of snow with the Tuesday/Wednesday Nor'easter, we knew our chances of getting through were not great. After plowing through some major drifts on the 4-mile section, and with visibility rapidly deteriorating, we called it quits and decided to try again on Thursday.

After a bright and early departure at 7AM from the base, we headed up to the 4-mile section with relative ease. However, as we rounded a corner of the Auto Road into a section known as the 'S-turns', we noticed something was missing--a road! A massive drift had completely overtaken the road, pretty much as we had expected, which gave our operator Slim plenty of blading to do.

The fun didn't stop there, as we peered ahead on the 5-mile section, almost this entire stretch of road had been overtaken by snow drifts. The ride was an extremely slow go, back-and-forth for most of the way, as we deliberately made our way through the impressive drifts, shaping and widening the road.

After nearly three-and-a-half hours, we finally managed to make it to the summit at around 10:30 AM.

A day late, no dollars short, and here we are, ready to take on another week on the rockpile!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

21:41 Wed Mar 20th

In preparing for this Mt. Washington volunteer week, I effectively went from one extreme of 'the world's worst weather' to another. My small, coastal hometown in New Jersey was one of the areas hardest hit by Superstorm (Hurricane) Sandy in late October. Since then, with the exception of a few short trips, I have been dealing with the aftermath of that storm, both personally, professionally, and as an emergency management volunteer in my town.

It all started on October 29th, 2012, when I first saw ocean water breach the dunes, and start to in front of the house. Later that evening, five feet of ocean water flowed past the back door of my house, moving at an estimated speed of 7 or 8 knots. During the course of the storm, a large hot water heater floated past in the street, and all of this was happening in a town that was practically abandoned (an evacuation order was in place), in pitch blackness (the power had been out throughout the area since sometime that afternoon). Water entered the first floor of my house, and ultimately rose to a level of about one foot. This meant that at the same time, outside, and in the garage, the water was about five feet deep. It was hard to sleep that night, due to the noise caused by the waves lapping against the side of the house.

By sometime Tuesday morning, the water was out of the house, but was still on the front porch, and in the street. By Wednesday morning (which happened to be a nice, clear fall day) the water was out of the street as well. That morning, the police and emergency management officials returned to town, and emergency operations got underway.

In the aftermath of the storm, it has been determined that of the approximately 500 houses in town, almost every one sustained damage, close to half sustained significant damage, and of those, many are a total loss, or simply have vanished, having been washed away by the ocean. In addition, all utilities were knocked out, cars washed away, boats washed away, and the entire landscape of the town has changed. Happily, in my town, and in most of the surrounding towns, no one was killed, and no one was injured.

I've been fortunate to be able to spend this past week as a volunteer on the summit, and to experience a very different kind of weather. Mount Washington is often dramatic - high winds, low temperatures, spectacular sunrises, beautiful sunsets, and this time did not disappoint. During this visit, we also were able to see the aurora borealis.

In contrast, though Sandy was extreme, and dramatic, what took place during the height of the storm occurred in total darkness, both due to time of day, and the power outage. As a result, it was far more subtle than it might have been had it occurred in daylight. In my experience, most of the damage was caused by the flood waters - largely silent. Although the wind played a role, it hardly reached hurricane strength, and paled in comparison to the winds that we experience on Mount Washington.

What we witnessed at daybreak the following morning, was anything but subtle. No people in sight, no cars in sight, no animals in sight. No wind. No insects. Nothing. Near complete silence. The only sound was the crash and roar of the ocean in the background. Dunes gone, houses gone, roads gone, utility poles gone. The town (which is located on a barrier island) was divided into separate islands by three breaches, or inlets, that cut through the town. Much in the way one is isolated on the summit of Mt. Washington in winter, my town was cut off from the mainland for some time after the storm.

At this point, more than four months after the storm, a lot of progress has been made. Utilities have been restored. Roads have been rebuilt. Breaches have been filled. And, just a few weeks ago, a handful of residents were able to move back into their homes, claiming the distinction of the first people to live in town since the storm.

We have a come a long way, and still have a long way to go. The town will never be the same, but it will return, stronger than ever.

If you live in an area that was affected by Sandy, I wish you well, and hope that you, your family, and town are well on their way to recovering from the aftermath of this terrible storm.

Meanwhile, as I write this, Mt. Washington's extreme weather continues unabated - high winds, blowing snow, and temperatures of about one degree above zero.

Stay warm, wherever you are!

Ed O'Malley – Summit Volunteer

22:58 Tue Mar 19th

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Marty the Feline Sage.

It was a gusty Tuesday morning when I looked out the window through the icy glass and discovered 3 inches of snow had fallen. Overnight, the glistening powder kicked up a blizzard that slammed the summit leaving heavy drifts. The microwave towers and out-buildings were painted with a delicate white veil. Weather like today interrupts normal thought and manipulates your senses.

Marty walked into the weather room. He's a fine cat and a confident master of this place in the clouds. His tail swishes back and forth, like a furry indicator visually representing the variable winds outside. He does this, and other meteorological feats, with no obvious effort...he's that good! Sometimes, I enjoy sitting with him and watching his methods. The light outside and inside made the barrier to the harsh elements disappear, while the clouds and snow enveloped us peacefully and stopped time. We sat on a cloud in silence for nearly an hour, then the shroud underneath us got thinner and we could see the valley below. Soon after that, Marty meowed, as if to say 'later,' and jumped onto a different cloud. I tried to see the earth, but the shroud was solid again.

The mountains in our mind begin as gradual hills, visible from a distance as gentle, purple, hazy things, like clouds. They seem inviting. They are slow mountains, the kind you can walk up easily like walking up a hill, but they are hills that take a full day, a week, or a lifetime or more to climb. Memories, as mountains, can be hidden through the mist, the rain, the fog, or the snow. Yet the acts of emotional effort and taking to high ground and windswept ridges provide the gifts of vision and understanding.

Up on this mountain, Marty is the one who bears witness to the palace of weather whose vast walls extend as clouds from horizon to horizon. Take heed from the alpine wisdom of this feline sage on the summit of Mount Washington where the mind can see forever.

John Bauhs – Summit Volunteer

18:27 Mon Mar 18th

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A preview of our new picture site.

It is often said that a picture is worth 1000 words. And that is why, whenever possible, we try to snap a photo of interesting or unique things we see up here. We then post these images in our Observer Comments or on our Facebook page for people to enjoy. Over the years, we would post an image on our pages and then receive an email or Facebook comment asking if we were selling the image. So, with these requests in mind, we have spent the past few months setting up a site that will finally allow individuals to purchase a picture they might enjoy. Better yet, every time you purchase a print, not only are you getting an image to enjoy, a portion of the proceeds will also be helping to support our small non-profit, member supported organization. So, if you've been interested in purchasing an image or looking at a way to help support us, you can head over to http://mwo.smugmug.com/ and see if anything piques your interest.

While the site is fully usable to start purchasing/rating/sharing today, we are still in a 'Beta' form of sorts as we continue to add descriptions, tags, galleries, improve watermarks, etc. So, please 'excuse the dust' as we work out the finishing touches on this site. And it should be noted that the current watermarking present on the images (to deter stealing) will not be present on the images that SmugMug will print and ship to you. And while not every image we take or post will be available, we will periodically be adding images we take or find in our archive to keep things fresh and interesting. So, hopefully you'll check out, bookmark, and enjoy our new site.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:19 Sun Mar 17th

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Aurora As Viewed From The Summit

As mentioned in last night's Observer Comment we had the potential to see an Aurora Borealis (aka, the Northern Lights). And what an Aurora we saw! At around 12:28AM EDT, the ACE Spacecraft detected the Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the solar flare earlier in the week and soon after, the CME reached earth. By 01:01AM EDT, Auroral activity could be viewed but it was not until later that the summit would clear from the fog for a spectacular viewing. The colors were amazing and some of the Observers were able to capture them. A time lapse video can also be viewed on our YouTube channel and pictures can be seen on our Facebook page. Hope you can enjoy them as much as we did.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:53 Sat Mar 16th

According to NOAA-NWS's Space Weather Prediction Center, a moderate to possibly strong geomagnetic storm is expected Saturday night into Monday morning - possibly allowing for green skies on St Patrick's Day. This means that the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights to some, may be visible in parts of New England this weekend. Best viewing will be in areas with views that stretch well north, away from cities, with the better chances the further north you are located. However, you will want to bundle up as it will be cold and if possibly photographing, be aware summits will be very cold, windy, with a touch of fog tonight.

The Mount Washington Observatory staff does not forecast or monitor these types of events. However, you can refer to the links below or use a search engine like Google for further information surrounding this upcoming event. However, if we see anything or learn of anything further through other blogs, forecast pages we follow, etc., we will try to pass the information along on our Facebook page. Some pictures of past displays of the Northern Lights as seen from the summit can be seen on ourSmug Mug page or on Facebook.

Current Space Weather Conditions
Three Day Space Weather Forecast
Space Weather
Auroral Activity Extrapolated from NOAA POES
OVATION Auroral Forecast
Michigan Tech
University of Alaska Geophysical Institute Aurora Forecast for Saturday, March 16, 2013

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:04 Fri Mar 15th

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Marty Taking In The View

Today has shaped up to be a beautiful day on the summit with views reaching 100 miles. In the distance, lenticular clouds build and dissipate seamlessly, yielding perfectly stationary clouds. Blowing snow whips off neighboring peaks and the sun shines bright, increasing temperatures. Winters slow demise will soon be changing the landscape.

Although winter is the season I look forward to the most, I also enjoy the transitional seasons. Within the coming weeks, the valley will undergo a transition from snow covered ground to budding greenery with vibrant spring colors. The summit may be slower to follow as alpine vegetation wakes from a long cold winter. However, the inevitable transition is around the corner. And in approximately two months, the summit will once again be open to visitors.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:57 Thu Mar 14th

After last weekend's beautiful weather condition many of us in the White Mountain region are looking forward to the spring season. Unfortunately the weather models are showing Old Man Winter doesn't want winter to end. With astronomical spring starting on March 20th, weather models are showing the next winter storm potentially impacting the region on March 19th. Yes, the last official day of winter, the northeast could potentially see the next significant winter storm.

While the storm is still six days out and a lot could change in those six days, the models have been consistently showing the potential storm having some kind of impact on the region. The majority of the models have shown the storm to likely to bring significant wind and snow to the Northeast, while Coastal areas will be more likely to see rain and or a wintry mix. As mentioned earlier there is the possibility for major changes with the storms track and strength and this is only preliminary. To monitor and track the development of this potential winter storm, go to the Mount Washington Observatory's Weather Page. On this page, you will find the 36 hour higher summits forecast, current weather conditions, links to our local National Weather Service office, and several other weather related links.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

23:16 Wed Mar 13th

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Some waterlogged snow ahead of us this morning.

Earlier today, we got to take a paddle steamer to the summit. Alright, not literally, but it certainly felt that way. The warm temperatures from the past few days along with yesterday's fog and rain allowed a lot of water to start running down the mountain. Some of this runoff was visible on top of the snow pack but a bulk of it was running off underneath making for some supersaturated snow packs; especially in areas where ice jams were allowing the runoff to pool under the snow. Normally, when the snowpack is firm, the two tracks on our snow tractor do great but on water logged snow, not so much. The two tracks that normally keep us above it all sink in with ease and start taking on the characteristics of a side-wheeler as they churn the water/snow that covers the mountain this time of year.

Adding to this side-wheeler effect are the sights and sounds that come with waterlogged snow. In front of us, the blade of the snowcat formed a huge, curling wave that was continuously crashing against the snow - it sounded like the small waves that crash along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico or in front of a sizable boat. The more interesting sight though was actually occurring behind us as our 'side-wheeler' was actually forming a small wake at times - while it wasn't a large one, a skilled person probably could have rode a wakeboard on the formations at times. All and all, it definitely made for an interesting shift change and served as a reminder that spring is just around the corner.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

22:45 Tue Mar 12th

What an entertaining Tuesday it's been!

While forecasting this morning, computer models were advertising temperatures hovering right around the freezing point today on the summit. These temperatures are particularly difficult to forecast for, especially when precipitation is involved. The progression of events was anything but boring. See if you can keep up with this:

At 6:45 AM, with temperatures still in the upper 20s, the first band of precip came through, resulting in freezing rain on the summit.

At 7:40 AM, despite temperatures warming slightly, freezing rain changed over to snow. Forty minutes later, at 8:20 AM, freezing rain mixed back in, and continued through the majority of the day.

Snow wrapped up around 10:30 AM, but began to mix back with freezing rain around 12:30 PM.

An hour later, at 1:30 PM, snow changed over to ice pellets (sleet), again with freezing rain still descending on the summit.

At this point, temperatures were hovering at 31F.

Ice pellets fell for approx. an hour, until 2:30 PM, then stopped for a while, and subsequently mixed back in at 3:30 PM.

To make matters even more entertaining, snow made a return around 4:40 PM, but this was just as temperatures hopped above freezing. This resulted in a time period where snow, ice pellets, and (now) plain rain were all falling simultaneously. I know what you're thinking, but indeed, this is possible!

The snow machine shut off at around 5:20 PM, and ice pellets followed suit at 6:00 PM, leaving just rain.

At this point, rain became heavy at times, with temperatures now above the freezing mark. Rain fell moderate to heavy for a good three hours, and ultimately became lighter around 9:30 PM.

Confused yet?

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

16:48 Mon Mar 11th

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Rime Covers the Stage Office on the Summit

Although this week's weather started off under the influence of a coastal storm that dropped over 2 feet of snow in the Boston area, it seemed as if finicky Mother Nature decided to spare outdoor enthusiasts this weekend. The summit cleared for the first time in 5 days on Friday, revealing thick rime ice covering everything on the summit. With a building ridge of high pressure, skies cleared, temperatures warmed, and winds dropped off allowing the Rockpile to look more like an outdoor tanning salon than the site of the world's second fastest land wind speed. It seemed as if over one hundred people made it to the summit and were enjoying the beautiful weather on Saturday.

It is important to remember that even with a spring-like feeling creeping into the valleys, winter still has a strong grip in the mountains. A hike through beautiful, calm weather can quickly turn into a terrifying crawl through hurricane force winds with little visibility and bone-chilling cold. Be sure to check the higher summits forecast before you head into the mountains, and if you're heading into avalanche terrain visit the Mount Washington Avalanche Center's website for an avalanche forecast for Huntington and Tuckerman Ravines.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

17:18 Sun Mar 10th

This weekend we have seen literally hundreds of hikers and skiers out making the most of the near perfect conditions. Both days have given us continuous sunshine, although with some high clouds present today, along with light winds and mild temperatures. It's certainly been a very pleasant break from the freezing fog, ice and howling gales we normally experience at this time of year.

Glancing at the radar it looks like things will be changing soon enough though as a large mass of precipitation is slowly heading our way. With the expected mild temperatures, upper 30s to low 40s tomorrow then falling back to the low 30s on Tuesday, it'll be interesting to see what we end up with - will it be rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow or a little a bit of everything? The ever changing mountain weather is certainly one of the most fascinating aspects of life up here on the rockpile.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

16:41 Sat Mar 9th

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This is BAD!

Here at the Mount Washington Observatory, a fully-functioning mountaintop weather station, we are only as valuable as the quality data that we collect. Our instruments and observations are our life-blood, and it is a full time job (and then some) to ensure this data is of sound quality and flowing smoothly.

Sometimes, ensuring quality data is an adrenaline-pumping challenge, ascending to the top of our tower in 100+ mph winds and heavy riming conditions to remove ice from our wind instruments. Although this is exhilarating and thrilling in its own right, occasionally, the task of quality control is much more peaceful.

Today was an excellent example of the latter. Upon waking up today, I noticed that the temperature profile displayed by our Auto Road Vertical Profile (ARVP) remote stations looked a little strange. Readings were in the 40s F near the base, and steadily declined into the lower 30s F as altitude increased. However, with the summit sitting at a reading of 26F, it seemed erroneous that the highest ARVP site, the station at an altitude of 5300 feet, was reading much colder, at 21F. Since the synoptic setup did not signify that any sort of temperature inversion of this nature should exist, I suspected something was amiss at the station. Since this site is very much within walking distance, I geared up and set off down the road to check out the situation.

About 30 minutes later, I arrived at the 5300 foot site. As expected, the entire setup was caked in snow and rime ice. The pineapple shields that house our temperature and relative humidity probes, which need to be kept free and clear of ice and snow, were not even visible! After a few minutes of clearing, I managed to free all of the wintry mess from the probes, ensuring they start recording quality measurements once more.

With the sun high in the sky, winds ranging from 5-15 mph, no clouds overhead, and temperatures in the 30s, the ascent back to my summit home was nothing short of pristine and tranquil.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:57 Fri Mar 8th

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EST left, Zulu right.

Here on the rockpile, someone is always watching the clock. That 'someone' is usually the observer on duty who is responsible for starting each hourly observation no earlier than a quarter of the upcoming hour. Case in point, I just checked to see what time it is, and at 14:12 EST (or 2:12 PM eastern standard time) I know I have roughly a half hour before I need to get up, put on my gloves, hat, goggles and jacket, and head out the door for an observation which will be an evaluation of current conditions over a two minute span.

After recording all of our typical variables like wind speed and direction, temperature, sky condition, present weather, visibility and sky cover (just to name a few), I'll record our data into a paper form and then send the observation out to our server and also the National Weather Service using something call UTC or Zulu time. UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time is a globally standardized time, which is based on GMT or Greenwich Mean Time. The reason why we use this time, along with every other meteorological reporting station in the world is to sync up all weather reports, especially for our a standard 6 hourly synoptic weather reports where we summarize weather over that time period and measure precipitation and a number of other variables. In the eastern time zone we need to add 5 hours to sync up with Zulu time, which would make 14:12 EST look like 1912Z in our METAR reports.

This Sunday we will be 'springing' ahead and changing most of our clocks one hour into the future; however, we will not be changing the clocks above our weather desk where one clock will still report Eastern Standard Time (instead of Daylight Savings Time) while the other shows Zulu time. It may be a bit confusing for a day or two, but generally speaking our operations will not change much, especially when it comes to what time we report. Talking to folks in the valley for the first few days may be a different story though...

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:39 Thu Mar 7th

photo - see caption below
Photo taken by Volunteer Tim Myers of the cat ride

Yesterday's snow cat ride up to the summit was one of the most exciting I've had this winter. With 20 feet of visibility and extremely flat light, two observers walked out in front of the cat, hitting the posts that line the road to knock off the thick rime ice that built up on them. After this was done, it was very easy to see where the road was, but without these markers it was extremely challenging to determine which way to go. After two and a half hours, our very talented driver Slim Bryant was able to safely deliver the crew to the summit.

If you are interested in experiencing the extreme conditions that the summit has to offer, there are several ways to the top. There are several guided trips offered through the EMS climbing school, Mooney Mountain Guides and Synnott Mountain Guides that hike up and spend a night at the observatory. In addition, the Mount Washington Observatory runs both day trips and overnight themed trips throughout the winter to the summit, taking the Observatory's snow cat up the auto road. For more information on opportunities to come up to the summit in the winter, please visit our website.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

23:13 Wed Mar 6th

My first winter shift as a volunteer is about to end tomorrow. After experiencing 4 or 5 spring and fall weeks here with the Observatory summit crew, including a very memorable and exciting visit last October when Sandy roared thru, I was expecting and hoping for something dramatically different. Way below zero temperatures, white out snow/ wind conditions, the fearsome, incredible Wrath of Winter on Washington.

The week started out as hoped for. Last Wednesday's storm was impressive enough by my valley standards to awe me. I helped change the precipitation can and check on the condition of the Stage Office during the height of this impressive weather event. Even dressed in my best winter attire complete with many warming layers, waterproof outers, balaclava, storm hat with chin strap and goggles for my eyes, the 80 mph wind driven snow found the small areas of bare skin on my face. It was quite painful, like tiny needles being repeatedly stabbed to sensitive spots. Luckily, this unpleasant condition didn't last too long. The single digit temperatures combined with hurricane force winds quickly numbed the same skin that was being bombarded by the snow. I took this fact as a weather god kindness- a small mercy. I knew, of course, that this numbness would too soon lead to frostbite...frostbite to hypothermia...hypothermia- well lets not go there. Sure glad I was not caught hiking a mile above tree line at this time, in these conditions.

Twenty minutes later, I was exceedingly grateful to be able to return to the warmth and protection of my mountaintop home. I shed my frosted outer clothes and settled down with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. I could content myself to watch and 'experience' the remainder of the storm by looking at the Observatory's numerous weather gauges and seeing it through ice encrusted windows.

What followed was the calm AFTER the storm. Thursday morning was sunny and warm. As it turned out, the only 3 hours of sun that I've seen so far. On a hike to the Nelson Crag and a side trip to the head of Huntington's Ravine, I was forced to remove my hat, then my gloves as well as a fleece. Temperatures neared 30 degrees, the wind was unnoticeable. This is winter? I returned tired and sweaty, deliriously happy. I come here not only to help cook and clean, but because walking in this glorious alpine world is the best medicine for my soul. Mount Washington is a cathedral, a place where I come to take counsel with my gods.

The remainder of the week has been a wonderful mix of the good company of Observatory staff as well as the 3 guest trip participants, great (albeit, far too much) irresistible food-mostly created by my co volunteer and room mate, Enchilada Dave-marvelous foggy, view challenged hikes and quiet, restful times. Wild, crazy, winter never returned in any very impressive manner. No matter.

Thanks to summit crew Rebecca, Ryan, Roger and Mike Kyle - oh, you too Marty, wherever you are napping, and all the wonderful hardworking Observatory staff for this experience. I know that I never give you back as much as I take from this 8 day adventure.

Joe Kayan – Summit Volunteer

17:11 Tue Mar 5th

It has been a long week of fog settled on the summit. Since arriving Wednesday, we have only seen three hours without fog. Average visibility has been under a 1/16th of a mile and feels like a blind fold has been placed over the summit. With not much to see outside, observations definitely take less time. However, constant fog and below freezing temperatures have allowed for ample amounts of rime ice to accumulate. De-icing the top of the tower can take a significant amount of time.

Although our pitot tube anemometer is heated to prevent ice from forming, not all of our instrumentation can be heated. Because of this, it is important for Observers to constantly de-ice. To de-ice, it requires an Observer to climb one flight of stairs and three sets of ladders all the way to the top of the tower where the instrumentation is located. Once there, the Observer strikes the safety ring with a crowbar vibrating the metal just enough to shed the rime ice. By doing this, it allows us to avoid actually hitting any instrumentation mounted off the top of the safety ring.

So although this week has been boring by our typical standards of extreme weather, we sure got a workout from de-icing.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

23:12 Mon Mar 4th

So here I am on top of the 'Rock Pile' (sometimes known as Mt. Washington). Being indoors a bit this week, several thoughts have been brought out as to the origins of this 'rock pile'...Is this the un-completed work of the Aliens that came so many years ago, to build the Pyramids, but this pile got the low-bid Contractor, who couldn't figure out how to stack them into the proper shape, as was done in Egypt? And so this guy just threw them in a pile and gave up?...Oh what wonders can pass through your mind as the week goes on!

As for this week, things started a bit dicey, as a large storm was set to hit the mountain on the day of Shift Change (Wednesday). As the storm approached, the crew debated coming up ahead of the storm Tuesday night. However, an earlier shift change Wednesday was settled on. Good thing too as the mountain weather that day was worsening by the minute. When we finally arrived, we made a very quick exchange of equipment and personnel. As the day progressed, the worsening weather lived up to what I was looking forward to; 80+mph winds, snow and fog. It gave the summit and some of the surrounding valleys all it had, with large snowfall amounts accumulating by Thursday morning.

Thursday morning, the weather calmed and the sun came out to show its smiling face (but only for a short time) and we were able to take in some views of all the new snow. However, for the rest of the week, every time I looked at the instruments, I thought I was in the movie 'Groundhog Day.' Every day and night continued to be the same; same temperature, same wind speeds, same visibility, etc. This repetitive pattern has gone on for four days; kind of mild for summit standards (according to the observers).

Although 'dull' outside, the fun still went on in the kitchen, with cooking preparations for the weeks Hiking Trips and a Day Trip that visited the Observatory. Our first group arrived on Thursday, and had a great climb up the west side of the mountain. When they arrived, we made sure to have warm drinks and snacks ready along with my famous, 'Dave's Enchiladas', for a great Mexican dinner; hearty and filling for all. Over the weekend, the second group, a smaller EMS climbing school trip, arrived successfully. Again, we had food and hot drinks at the ready. After both trips we had some leftovers, which incidentally, rarely survive more than a day or two, as they are consumed by the hungry crews throughout the day and night. With the observer working 24 hours a day, there is always someone who is hungry.

And so we approach the end of our weeks stay, and I hope to be back next winter to experience the weather on the 'Rock Pile'. Being from Southern California, where the weather has been sunny and 85 degrees this week, I find that I actually prefer to be up here, where I can experience some winter weather excitement. It has been another great year with Ryan, Rebecca, Roger and the intern, Mike, along with my cooking assistant, Joe. If you're a member and want a fun time, as well as the experience of mountain weather, I highly recommend signing up for a volunteer week. It is a great experience, and a great opportunity to make several new friends.

Observer Footnote: Are you or someone you know interested in an intern position at the Mount Washington Observatory on the summit of Mount Washington, NH? If so, the time to apply is running out - our summer internship application deadline is at midnight Tuesday, March 5th (and late applications will not be considered). For more information, about qualifications and how to apply online, head HERE. And finally, good luck to all our potential candidates!

Dave MacKenzie – Summit Volunteer

18:22 Sun Mar 3rd

For the past four day's fog has engulfed the summit. Repetitive forecasts have made the days long and redundant, leaving some of us with a case of 'cabin fever'. However, if you think about it, cabin fever isn't the appropriate term to use. According to the Merriam- Webster's dictionary, cabin fever is defined as 'extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.'

While the observatory is an isolated location and the current observers and volunteers have yet to leave the summit this week, cabin fever doesn't really describe life at the Mount Washington Observatory . For starters, 'extreme irritability' is not an issue as all of the observers and volunteers get along great. In fact, every night we all sit down together to eat dinner and usually proceed to watching a movie afterwards. The 'restlessness' is also irrelevant. We are constantly staying active between taking weather observations, de-icing the instrumentation, shoveling, performing research, and many other outdoor activities. Lastly even though we are technically in an isolated location, we are never really alone up here. Every week there are Edu Trips , Day trips or Partner Led Climbing trips that come to visit the summit for the day or night.

So is it really cabin fever? With busy and eventful days that are occasionally lengthened from continuous fog, maybe it's Summit Fever. If you have a better idea, we would like to hear it. Visit our Facebook page and let us know.

Michael Kyle – Summit Intern

23:07 Sat Mar 2nd

There are a couple of good options if you'd like to spend an overnight on the summit of Mount Washington. There are the ever popular EduTrips with themes ranging from Weather Basics to Photography. On these trips, transportation to and from the summit is provided via the Mount Washington Observatories Snow Cat. However, if you prefer a slower pace, you can join one of the Partner Led Climbing trips, where you get to hike to the summit with professional guides.

All of these trips include a snack and hot beverage when you arrive at the summit, a hors d'oeuvres hour followed by dinner and desert. After a good night's rest, you'll wake up to a hot breakfast. While you're here, you'll also get a tour of the Mount Washington Observatory, have a chance to see the museum, and explore the summit bit. While we are in the fog about 60 percent of the time, you may luck out and get to see one an incredible sunset and/or sunrise. And while you're here, Marty the summit cat is almost certain to stop by and put in an appearance - He does love to say hi to all of his fans; although he does find those few minutes exhausting, so we usually find him sleeping most of the next day.

If you want that adventure of a lifetime for yourself or a friend, check out an overnight stay with the crew at the Mount Washington Observatory.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

19:37 Fri Mar 1st

photo - see caption below
5.4 miles away from my second home.

This past week, I got to hang out with a former Observatory coworker of mine, Jim Salge. Long time followers of the Observer Comments will know this name and probably know many of his images that he captured during his time up here. Currently, Jim teaches at a High School in the south of the state; however, in his spare time, he has become a notable New England nature photographer (a topic he will be leading during his EduTrip on March 23/24). Since it was his schools vacation week last week, he came up to the White Mountains in hopes of capturing some scenes he had in mind.

The first day we went out hiking, the skies were overcast and were obscuring most of the peaks around the state. So this meant sunset and the blue hour were out as an option. So we set out for Mt Tom, NH in hopes of photographing a Pine Marten or possibly some Gray Jays. That was our goal; however, that goal was never met. While we did make it to our destination where there were plenty of tracks from a Pine Marten and birds, neither of these animals were around when we arrived. In fact, there was nothing around when we arrived. Instead, we were met by deafening silence since the thick snow and rime were acting as sound insulators. It was that kind of silence where your own heart is overwhelming the thoughts in your head. It was very creepy but also very Zen-like at the same time. But after waiting around and getting nothing worth photographing, we decided to descend in defeat as the sun set on the day.

The second day of hiking, the goal was for sunset from Mt Pierce. I had my doubts that we would be able to see anything again due to the weather pattern (the curse of being a meteorologist), but we decided to try anyway. However, due to a scheduling conflict, we would be forced to hike up separately. When I started up later in the afternoon, the low clouds were still all around, so I didn't have high hopes for sunset. However, unlike the day prior, I was determined to see some type of wildlife or something interesting on my way up. Hiking up the first 1.9 miles of the Crawford path, I yet again did not see one thing of interest worth photographing. When I arrived at the Mizpah Cutoff junction, I was feeling disappointed again as I stopped for a snack. However, the disappointment dissolved quickly as I found two Gray Jays hanging out in the trees at the junction; finally, something worth photographing! With renewed hopes, I continued up the Crawford Path, where I reached the fringes of the clouds. Similar to the summit of Mount Washington, rime ice and hoar frost formations were all around - with needles and ribbons draped everywhere - yet more things to photograph. But it didn't end there, during another break; I looked back and saw a creature playing in the snow - yet another thing to photograph. My luck was finally making a turn for the better.

I photographed this strange looking animal and then continued on with this animal continually playing a form of tag with me as we ascended. Eventually this animal scurried off into the woods and I was left on my own again, ascending into the increasingly cotton candy-like forest around me until I reached my destination of Mt Pierce. At that point, I met Jim and showed him this animal I photographed thinking it was a weasel. However, it wasn't a weasel but the elusive pine marten we were hoping to photograph the day before. It was an awesome feeling; like the feeling I got capturing an elusive Pokémon for the first time. And while we ultimately missed out on yet another sunset, after all I had seen, I felt the hike was well worth it. It just drove home the quote that in life, sometimes it's not about the destination but the journey getting there.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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