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Observer Comments

March 2014

18:57 Mon Mar 31st

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Behind the sceens work

This was my first week up on the Summit in a while and I got a chance to get down to the New Summit Museum to get some of the IT infrastructure put into place. All I could say is Wow, what a change since last time I was in the new space. The carpet is all in and looks fantastic. Most of the lighting is in place and just needs some final touches. This new Summit Museum was designed with all state of the art LED lighting to keep electrical costs down while providing the guest an incredible experience.

I spent Sunday morning installing and setting up some of the necessary IT infrastructure to allow all of the new high tech exhibits to be managed remotely. I understand this connectivity is going to allow the Museum Attendant to turn the exhibits on and off and manage other functions.

I just can't wait for the Mount Washington Auto Road to get clear enough for the exhibits to start coming up and installed. I've already got my name on the top of the list to 'test' the Snow Cat simulator.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

15:49 Sun Mar 30th

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Tuckerman Revine

Today's weather was a striking contrast from the previous 100+ mph wind, -45F windchill days with full sun, very little wind and warm temperatures in the 20s, but I must cut to the chase: Patty and I witnessed and took pictures of the avalanche on the southeast snowfields of the summit cone yesterday.

Here's the story: We went out for a short hike along the Tuckerman Ravine and Lion Head Trails to watch skiers climb then descend Tuckerman Ravine and the southeast snowfields of Mount Washington. The day was so gorgeous that we stayed on the Lion Head boulders for over an hour basking in the sun. Our return route took us along the Alpine Garden Trail where we heard a loud rumble then witnessed the avalanche and I was lucky enough to have my camera available to take several pictures of the avalanche in motion.

Mount Washington Observatory Volunteers carry radios when we leave the building so we were able to radio the event to the observers. Skiers began traversing the area looking for anyone who might be trapped. It wasn't until we returned from our hike that we learned what a large magnitude avalanche this was and the news and rescue efforts it was generating. It appears that there are no casualties, fortunately. The pictures I took were used to help the Forest Service Snow Rangers understand the nature of this avalanche.

Beth WIlliams – Summit Volunteer

15:49 Sat Mar 29th

Today's weather was actually enjoyable for a change. A ridge of high pressure cresting in allowed for generally fair skies, low winds, and temperatures right around freezing. In fact, it was the warmest temperatures the summit has experienced since February 21. While shoveling snow from the weather tower and the fire exits isn't fun by any means, when you have pleasant weather like today, it at least makes it enjoyable as you soak up some sunshine. While it would be great to have this fair weather linger into Sunday, the weather pattern has a different plan in store. High pressure will depart this evening as a large area of low-pressure approaches from the south. While temperatures will remain mild, summit fog will be returning, a mix of precipitation will be falling, and winds will be back on the increase. While this may sound like a typical set up on the summit, there are a few things that will make this a bit more noteworthy.

As the warm air interacts with the cold snow on the surface, it may make for extremely dense fog at times as it did last night. There were times overnight when the fog was so dense, visibility could have been measured in inches on the summit - it was that dense! With the mix of precipitation types, snowfield stability may be affected. So, read the Mount Washington Avalanche Centers forecast and take extreme caution. With the amount of precipitation expected, ravine flash flooding could occur, especially if ice jams suddenly break (as seen in this example from Felchner Brook in Vermont). Lastly once all the water logged snow starts to freeze by Sunday afternoon, trail conditions will become extremely icy. So, play and stay safe if you are planning to play outside tomorrow and if unsure about conditions, always remember - the mountains aren't going anywhere, so maybe consider postponing your activities by a day or two.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:26 Fri Mar 28th

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Dinner for 17

Have you ever wondered what it's like to live and work in the same place? The Mount Washington Observatory family is just like any other family; we work during the day and share funny stories and experiences at the dinner table each night. But sometimes, the dynamic changes when we have overnight groups joining us on the summit. With a larger crowd, the dinner table becomes much livelier. Individuals who are brave enough to share personal stories to a group of strangers may eventually realize that perhaps we are not strangers any longer, but rather a group of friends relating to each other through similar life experiences. If you're interested in this unique experience, we've got room for you. Come join us for an overnight trip to see what our family is all about!

Kaitlyn O`Brien – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

00:01 Thu Mar 27th

The higher summits are going to face strong winds in the coming days! With model numbers indicating sustained winds between 85 and 105 mph, gusts will be pushing well above the 100 mph mark! If you're thinking about going anywhere near tree line, be sure to read our Higher Summits Outlook. Getting surprised in the backcountry by quickly accelerating winds can put you in a dangerous situation very quickly.

Although our monthly average wind is highest in January (averaging 46 mph), the temperatures in the springtime allow for some of the windiest storms of the year. Our previous world record of 231 mph was recorded on the summit in April of 1934, and the monthly record wind speeds for the summit in spring are some of the highest in the whole year.

Do you want the chance to experience winds like these in person? The Mount Washington Observatory has a few spots left on our last Day Trip of the season this Monday (March 31st), and if you hurry, you can still join in. Experience the thrill of a two-ton tracked vehicle ascending the Northeast's tallest peak, feel the rush of hurricane-force winds and revel in the beauty of the alpine zone. Register now and join us for the adventure of a lifetime.

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer

05:57 Wed Mar 26th

Mild wintry weather began our week up here, but we jumped right in to plan our meals for the edutrip that arrived the next day, Thursday. The weather Wednesday night turned snowy, very cold and windy so we wondered if the edutrip would be able to come up. The snowcat was able to get them here and we treated them to a pork roast with all the fixin's. They ate well and were grateful for our efforts which makes it all worthwhile. The next morning we got lucky and were able to view a beautiful, rosy sunrise in frigid wind chills. The weather continued extremely windy with low visibility later on, so we weren't sure if the EMS climbing school group would make it on Saturday. It took them all day to get to the top but they managed and arrived very cold, but no one got frostbite or hypothermia.

The next day was almost as cold and windy but visibility had improved. Judy and I were able to photograph a gorgeous sunset Sunday night with alpenglow illuminating the surrounding buildings. On Tuesday because the weather ameliorated we were able to hike down partway to Lakes of the Clouds hut and found evidence of animal urine, scat and pawprints on the trail. We're thinking it is fox since one was sighted up here a month ago. Volunteering up at the summit is a great opportunity to meet interesting people and experience the extreme weather the summit offers like nowhere else.

Betsy Fowler & Judith Leoni – Summit Volunteers

16:34 Mon Mar 24th

Although the calendar reads late March, it feels more like January across much of the northeastern United States. Northwesterly winds behind yesterday's cold front have helped to usher very cold temperatures into New England, with some spots struggling to get out of the single digits today. Last night the temperature on the summit fell to 17 degrees below zero, just 6 degrees shy of breaking the daily record low. With another very cold night in the cards for much of the region, many are starting to question if Winter will ever end?

And if the cold temperatures weren't enough, many are buzzing about the threat of a mid- week snowstorm? And unfortunately, yes, there will be a storm. A disturbance racing across the nation's mid-section will phase with energy currently in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mid-Atlantic coastline late Tuesday. As the system moves northeastward through Wednesday, it will rapidly intensify into a major ocean storm. The rapid intensification, otherwise known as 'bombing out', will result in very strong winds and heavy snowfall. Fortunately for most of New England, the bulk of the precipitation will remain offshore. However, extreme eastern Maine, as well as Cape Cod and The Islands will see a plowable snow and very strong winds.

The summit has received 55.0 inches of snow so far this month, nearly 10 inches above normal. If this weather pattern keeps up, we will certainly be adding to that total before the end of the month next Monday. For those of you who may be curious, we have seen 274 inches of snow since October, which is roughly 40 inches above normal! Will we hit 300 inches? Only time will tell.

Samuel Hewitt – Summit Intern

16:32 Sun Mar 23rd

March continues to impress, in a decidedly wintry way up here on the summit.

Since our shift arrived on the summit Wednesday, we've received measurable snowfall every single day, while temperatures have averaged below normal for that stretch as well.

Wednesday evening's storm brought 4.2 inches of snow to the summit before midnight, with overnight winds whipping up the snow into a white-out.

Snow continued through the day on Thursday as the somewhat surprisingly-potent low pressure system passed through, producing 9.8 inches of snow through the day.

After a cold frontal passage on Friday, upslope snow showers continued through most of the day, dropping another 2.5 inches of snow. Visibility on Friday was as bad as it could be, with heavy blowing snow and thick freezing fog producing visibilities of less than 10 feet at times.

Yesterday, another low pressure system blasted through, and cranked out 4.7 inches more of the white stuff.

Today, another cold front combined with upsloping effects have brought another 2.3 inches of snow, for a 5-day total of 23.5 inches; nearly two feet! As it stands right now, March is already well above the monthly snowfall average, with more most likely on the way!

Ok, spring. We're ready!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:49 Sat Mar 22nd

On Thursday, Director of Research Eric Kelsey and I had the privilege of taking part in the New Hampshire Science and Engineering Expo. Dr. Kelsey judged the egg drop competition and the biochemistry category, while I judged the behavioral science category and was the keynote speaker before the awards ceremony. Boy did we have a great time.

Having both been nerds since grade school (and I say that proudly!), and participants in our science fairs growing up, Eric and I know just how important it is to get kids and teens involved in science, math, engineering, and technology. I remember being excited by science and the experimental process, and participating in my regional, state, and national science fairs as a kid. In my presentation I showed them a photo of myself in front of my 7th grade project, and told them a very real fact: if it weren't for my participation in science fairs as a kid, and the support of my family and teachers, I would not be where I am today. It was great to not only tell the audience, but show them, that their projects today could be their futures tomorrow or the start of a great career. I'm very fortunate to say that I am living breathing proof of that today.

Observer Footnote:If you are looking for an opportunity to make a difference in science while spending your summer on the summit of Mount Washington, take a look at our docent program! With our new museum comes a great new opportunity to teach people about Extreme Mount Washington. Send in your application today!

Cyrena Briede – Director of Summit Operations

17:16 Fri Mar 21st

One year ago to the week, I wrote a comment about how winter does not want to come to an end. The Observer Comment talked about how spring was a few days away but forecast models were showing that another late season storm was in the making. Six days later that storm came through and dropped two feet of snow on the summit, and caused shift change to be pushed back a day. Now one year later, it is looking like we might have a repeat situation with a similar snow storm.

Although spring has officially begun, the summit has received 13 plus inches of snow over the past 48 hours and an additional 3-6 inches of snow are expected in the next 48 hours. However, the end of our shift week looks like the best possibility of a significant snow storm for the New England Region. For the past few days, forecasting models have been showing a Nor'easter making its way up the east coast and into the gulf of Maine for Wednesday. If the current path holds true, then the worst of the Nor'easter will remain out to sea with its impacts mostly being seen in the coastal areas of New England. However, if the path of the storm shifts west by as little as 100 miles, it could lead to one of the more significant snow storms of the year, here in the White Mountains.

This is still a few days away, but the models have been in agreement so far, and show the storm's path remaining further out to sea. We will continue to monitor the storm as it develops and update you with information as we get it. As always, you can go to the observatory's weather page to see the summit's current conditions and the region's weather outlook.

Michael Kyle – Weather Observer

21:45 Wed Mar 19th

Although it may not feel like it today with snow and a wintry mix falling across northern New England, spring is still just around the corner. This spring we have a few great opportunities to become a part of the ever-growing Mount Washington Observatory community, all the while aiding our organization to continue the valuable scientific work done on this windswept peak for over 80 years.

We are currently recruiting volunteers with a passion for education to serve as week-long docents at our all-new Extreme Mount Washington museum at the summit. You will live at the summit for a week, interact with guests in the museum and lead unique educational programs as well. We provide training beforehand, and lodging/food while at the summit. You just provide yourself! Spread the word...this is an extraordinary opportunity for weather fans, retired educators, teachers on summer break, or anyone with an interest in science education. Click the link here to learn more!

An Evening with Ginger Zee will offer an intimate look at the world of storm chasing through the eyes of America's favorite meteorologist. Zee is Good Morning Americas Chief Meteorologist and Senior Meteorologist for ABC News, and will share the trials and triumphs of her ascension in the world of broadcast meteorology. The event will also feature a meet and greet with members of the WMTW News 8 Weather Team, and a silent auction including some great items such as a VIP snowcat trip to the summit and an international 5 day trip to Costa Rica. All proceeds from this special fundraiser will benefit the nonprofit Mount Washington Observatory, helping to support our work in weather observation, research and education on Mount Washington.

Finally, it is never too early to start thinking about Seek The Peak! Our largest annual fundraiser is July 18-19th, but registration is already open, so now is a great time to get started! With thousands of dollars in prizes, free giveaways, tours of our weather station, and a huge after party, it is a fantastic and fun way to spend a summer day in the mountains and help a good cause.

Tom Padham – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

15:33 Tue Mar 18th

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Snow Coach just above 4000 feet.

I just looked at the calendar and there's still one DayTrip with space available. Traveling to the summit in the Observatory snowcat, you will have the opportunity to meet the crew, have lunch, tour our facility, and explore. If you can only plan on being in North Conway, consider visiting our Weather Discovery Center. With a full size model of our historic weather station you can feel what Observers felt as the wind shook the small space. Other exhibits will introduce you to the extreme conditions seen on the Summit.

Another fun activity that I recently enjoyed with my kids, was visiting the Mount Washington Auto Road and Great Glen Trails. With many fun activities such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow tubing, it is easy to make a day of fun. Even more interesting for me was taking my kids to experience what it's like to be on the mountain in winter. Because a full trip to the summit was not available, we took one of the Snow Coaches up to the halfway point on the road. As a Summit Observer, I have passed the Snow Coaches many times before; however, I had never been on one until this past Sunday. Paul our driver pointed out lots of interesting sights and talked about the mountain as we drove. Stopping just above 4000 feet we got out to take in the beauty that is Mount Washington.

It was a great day out with the kids!

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

19:36 Mon Mar 17th

Yet another beautiful day on the Rock-pile! With visibility at 120 miles for much of the day, we were able to see five states (MA, NY, VT, ME, NH) and two countries (the US and Canada; and many more if you count the dozens of country-named towns that surround the area). Despite more wild weather in the wintertime, our clearest days are during periods of cold high pressure in the winter. Although we can only report up to 130 miles for visibility, we can often see much farther than that. One of my co-workers has even seen as far as Cadillac Mountain on a particularly clear morning, a distance of over 150 miles! Due to the lack of moisture in the air, clear winter days generally have greater visibility than their summer counterparts.

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer

16:40 Sun Mar 16th

March sixteenth should be averaging around 13F (-10C), however, that is not the case this year. From midnight until 1600EDT today, we have been averaging -8F (-22C). This alone is a notable departure, but if models pan out this afternoon and overnight, that average is about to plunge even lower. As high pressure continues to build in from the west, a strong northwesterly flow will continue to push cold northern air in, dropping lows to around -20F (-29C). And if projected lows do become reality, there is even a chance that today's daily record low of -19F (-28C) set in 1979, may be tied or broken. If all of this was the first cold spell of the year, it would be exciting; but this winter, it has been more of the norm than the exception and at this point, it is getting a bit worn out. And while I wish I could say that this was the last cold blast of the year, looking at modeled projections ahead, there's plenty of more cold weather ahead, regardless of what month the calendar says. But time changes everything, so, while it may be cold now, I know milder days lie ahead. So, with St. Patrick's Day around the corner, I'll raise a glass of juice (cause I don't drink) to milder days ahead!

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

18:12 Sat Mar 15th

Winds are supposed to ramp up through the forecast period. With temperatures dropping down, wind chills will drop down to as low as 50-70 degrees below zero. This will allow frostbite to form on exposed skin in less than 5 minutes. This will make for some chilly observations, but luckily our warm EMS gear will keep us protected from the elements.

As I've said before, it's really impossible to imagine conditions like these until you've gotten yourself into them. Trust my words when I say that you really don't want to hike through 100 mile per hour winds. One might say that it's 'type II' fun (which is fun afterwards, but not during), but that is only true if you live to tell the story. It's not worth risking injury in an environment where you can't be rescued just to be able to tell a story. Always check our higher summits weather outlook before venturing above tree-line.

Observer Footnote: Despite our remote location, the Mount Washington Observatory offers distance learning programs on a variety of topics. If you're interested in setting up a program with your local school or organization, please contact us for more information.

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer

17:29 Fri Mar 14th

Today is Pi Day, March 14th, which if you know the numerical value of Pi equals 3.14. For the Observatory this also is a special day because it is Weather Observer Ryan Knapp's and our Director of Advancement Cara Rudio's birthday! So happy birthday from 6288 feet!

On a separate note Ginger Zee is coming to join the Mount Washington Observatory in Portland on April 4 at the Port City Music Hall to share her stories of wild weather and storm chasing. From WMTW-TV Channel 8, Maine's Total Weather Team will be on hand to meet viewers, plus Chief Meteorologist Roger Griswold will provide opening remarks. A great evening is in store for all who love the wacky world of weather! Tickets can be purchased today at PortCityMusicHall.com

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:22 Thu Mar 13th

Just over a foot of snow fell on the summit over the past 36 hours, drifting into some really impressive piles around the summit building. As you may know, we measure precipitation every six hours here at the Observatory, measuring the depth in a can approximately 100 feet away from the summit building. On a clear summer day, collecting the precipitation can is an extremely simple task (usually), but last night, Observer Ryan Knapp encountered drifts ranging from waist to chest deep.

We've used the same method for collecting precipitation for much of our history. We measure our precipitation every six hours, simply measuring the depth of snow or water in a can exposed to the precipitation outside. Surrounding this can, there is a piece of metal in the rough shape of an inverted cone called a Nipher Snow Gauge. This helps minimize the turbulence above the can in strong winds, helping to reduce the amount of snow that drifts into the can. Even with this additional protection, observers have to be very careful to make sure the amount of snow that is collected in the can seems valid. Even with the most advanced instruments, measuring snow in windy environments has proven extremely difficult. The problem lies in the fact that on mountaintops, snowfall direction is governed much more on wind than gravity.

Snow measurement is critical for several reasons here on the summit. We strive to be as accurate as possible to help the National Weather Service constantly improve their models. Differences between observations and model output for a specific time help the models better train themselves for future events, in turn helping us forecast more accurately. The amount of snowfall recorded on the summit will then indicate how deep the snowpack is by the spring and therefore how much runoff should be expected downstream when it melts. Lastly, it is an indicator, utilized by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, to predict what the avalanche danger may be around the mountain, helping keep the public safe.

Whether or not you like snow, I hope everyone has successfully dug out there driveways and shoveled their sidewalks! With the added winds today, we will continue to work on the regenerating 5-foot drifts in the entranceway up here on the summit! Wish us luck!

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer

18:03 Wed Mar 12th

I am thrilled to be back on the summit! After the conclusion of my Internship last summer I ended up moving back to Oklahoma where I took a job as a Support Meteorologist at a company known as Weather Decision Technologies. I spent just over six months in the Sooner State working alongside some wonderful people while providing technical and meteorological support to hundreds of clients and customers. I've since moved back to the Northeast, and now I'm happy to say, I'm back atop the summit of Mount Washington working as a Weather Observer and Education Specialist!

As if the excitement of my first day at a new job isn't enough, this morning when I arrived at the base of the summit to meet with our crew, I had the wonderful surprise of being unexpectedly greeted by two friends that I had met last summer during my internship. It was so great to see them again!

It's safe to say that I am back into the swing of things, although I'm finding out very quickly that the winter is very different from the summer up here. Regardless, I'm happy to be back and looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead!

Kaitlyn O`Brien – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:51 Tue Mar 11th

With the impending storm on the horizon tomorrow, the traditional shift change day for summit staff, we've scrambled a bit to accommodate.

Despite the heartiness of the staff and our wintertime transportation (Meow, Snow Kitty!), the weather can still preclude shift change from occurring. In order to guard against the possibility of our shift being stuck an extra day (or maybe even two), we've decided on a bright solution. In fact, a bright-and-early solution! Our counterparts on the other shift will meet at the base of the mountain for a 6:30 AM departure tomorrow morning.

Hopefully, with a quick trip up and down in the Snow Cat, the other shift can settle in, and our shift can get to the base, before the height of the storm later tomorrow morning through the remainder of the day and night.

We're still expecting quite a bit of snow up here tomorrow with this system, with 18-24 inches looking likely, with locally higher amounts, possibly approaching as much as 30 inches!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

15:34 Mon Mar 10th

As I was alluding to in an earlier comment this week, the hits seem to keep on comin' this winter, and another one is on its way.

Although it's a little further into the future than we usually forecast, computer models are agreeing strongly on the possibility of a major Nor'easter impacting the area on Wednesday-Thursday. The exact track and timing of this system are still in doubt, but on the whole, it looks as if major snow accumulations are becoming more and more likely for most of northern New England. Snow will probably begin sometime early Wednesday morning, and last through until Thursday morning. Winter Storm Watches have already been posted for nearly all of northern New England, and will most likely be upgraded to Warnings some time early tomorrow (Tuesday).

This is the latest in a seemingly endless winter of snow and cold. Up on Mt. Washington, we are already nearly three feet above normal for snowfall for this winter season, as of March 1st!

However, signs of the coming spring are on its way, as this storm looks to produce a rain-snow mix across southern NH and coastal ME, and probably a more heavy/wet snow scenario further north.

For more details on the forecast, keep an eye on our 36-hour higher summits outlook in the next day or two as the event approaches.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:42 Sun Mar 9th

You know what they say about March, "If it comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb". This statement mainly refers to the wide range of weather conditions that are possible during this month. The spring months are a period of transition between winter and summer. Because of this, it is possible to see snow one day and then rain and warm temperatures only a day or two later. Looking back at the records, March of 2012 is a perfect example of this here on the summit. Average temperatures for the first half of the month were well below freezing and nearly two feet of snow fell. Then, from the 18th to the 22nd, high temperatures were above 45 degrees, only then to fall back below freezing for the last third of the month. In March of last year, a storm from the 19th-20th dropped 24" of snow on the summit with temperatures in the teens. So far this year, weather conditions have been quite calm with above average temperatures. However, the quiet pattern may change this week…

Over the last several days, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) model has been hinting at the phasing of two weather systems across the center of the country as they head eastward. The combination of these systems would potentially result in a major winter storm for parts of New England in the Wednesday/Thursday time frame. With that said, there is still great uncertainty as to whether or not this scenario will play out. For instance, last Monday, parts of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey were buried with close to 12" of snow. However, only three or four days prior to the event, all signs were pointing to that same storm producing heavy snow over New England. This just goes to show that anything can happen from now until Wednesday, but as an avid snow lover, I am hoping the ECMWF output verifies!

Samuel Hewitt – Summit Intern

21:18 Sat Mar 8th

After spending a few days in the clear, the summit has returned to the all-too-familiar foggy conditions we see so often up here. Being back in the fog made me wonder, how does Mount Washington compare to some of the foggiest locations on our planet? After doing a bit of research, it seems we may be right up there with many of the foggiest places on earth. According to most sources, the Grand Banks of New Brunswick are considered by most to be the foggiest place on earth, with an average of 200 or more days spent in the fog each year. The Grand Banks are in all likelihood not the foggiest place on earth, but perhaps the foggiest place on our planet that is largely inhabited.

A major reason for the Grand Banks being so foggy is their location near the confluence of the cold Labrador current flowing south from the arctic and the much warmer Gulf Stream current flowing north from the gulf coast. Mountains tend to be very foggy places due to adiabatic ascent, where warmer air from low elevations is forced to rise up and over the mountains, which cools the air to its dew point and produces clouds that cap the mountain peaks. Mount Washington is often cited as spending 2/3rd of our days in the fog, which equates to about 240 days, however there are likely many mountainous locations that experience a similar amount of days in the fog, if not more than we see up here on the summit. Most of these locations are uninhabited, and therefore data on their average annual foggy days is unknown. Still, it is rare for Mount Washington to go a few days without any fog at any time of year. Therefore, in closing, Mount Washington may actually be right up there with some of the foggiest locations on earth, and a day in the clear up here is something that should be enjoyed!

Tom Padham – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:50 Fri Mar 7th

While the primary storyline of our new mountaintop museum is the mountain's extraordinarily awful weather, one exhibit in particular requires video footage captured on a good visibility day. The 6th of March was one of those rare bluebird Mount Washington days. Bright sunshine, moderate temperatures and little wind made for an ideal day to do some shooting for Extreme Mount Washington.

Documentarian Tom Guilmette of Franklin, Mass., whose work you will find sprinkled throughout the newly-renovated museum, paid us another visit with one mission to accomplish: capture video footage of a descent down the mountain from the snow-cat operator's perspective. That footage is absolutely critical, since it will be used to bring one of Extreme Mount Washington's most innovative exhibits to life.

You might think that this would be an easy thing to do, especially since we make several runs up and down the mountain in winter. The truth is that this particular shoot has been very difficult to accomplish. Fog, flat light, snow, white outs, schedule conflicts, too much snow, not enough snow, too much wind... It was beginning to feel like Mount Washington and Mother Nature were conspiring against us.

Using a high-tech mounting system and an even higher-tech camera, Tom sat alongside operator Slim Bryant in the cockpit of the Observatory's Bombardier BR275 snow machine and captured video for a good portion of the day. Utilizing very specific instructions from museum designers at Jeff Kennedy Associates and on-site guidance from Director of Education Michelle Cruz, Tom staged a superb shoot.

The footage will be used in Extreme Mount Washington's snow-cat exhibit, where visitors will be able to sit in a simulated cockpit and pilot the machine down the mountain. What you will see through the simulated snow-cat windshield in the museum is exactly what Slim and Tom saw through the windshield on Thursday.

Executive Director Scot Henley was on hand to provide a speaking role during the shoot, but you'll never be able to tell. In order to give museum visitors the feeling of bitter winter cold during the simulated snow-cat descent, Michelle outfitted Scot in Arctic-grade gear, complete with goggles, a balaclava, a hat and a massive jacket with a fur-lined hood. Not a speck of skin was showing, which is our standard practice to avoid frostbite on bitterly cold days. On this beautiful March afternoon, however, we almost melted Scot!

Now the focus turns to the editing room, where the footage will be stitched together to provide summer visitors with a compelling, authentic winter snow-cat experience. If you've ever wanted to drive one, you'll be able to get a taste of what Slim and our operators experience when they're making that same descent down the mountain.

Extreme Mount Washington opens this spring in Mt. Washington State Park's Sherman Adams Visitors Center.

For more information about the project, including photos, illustrations and plans, visit here.

Scot Henley – Executive Director

18:48 Thu Mar 6th

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Bluebird Skies

If you were to judge strictly by the weather today, you wouldn't know that my place of work is often referred to as the 'home of the world's worst weather.'

It's true that we've seen our fair share of tumultuous conditions, but today, March 6th, contained nothing of the sort. In fact, today was the ultimate antithesis.

As I compose this comment at approx. 5:30 PM, we still have yet to report a single layer of clouds in any of our hourly observations since midnight. This is quite remarkable, considering our horizontal visibility today has ranged between 120 and 130 miles, which are just about maximum for our station.

In addition to the remarkably clear skies, winds have been quite tranquil throughout the day as well. Since 11AM this morning, hourly average wind speeds have been no greater than 9 mph, with the 11AM-12PM ranking as the calmest hour of the day, averaging a feeble 4 mph. In fact, there was a 3-minute period during the 11AM-12PM hour where the propellers on our incredibly-sensitive RM Young Anemometer were not turning at all. That's right--3 straight minutes of flat calm winds, which, in a place with a year-round average wind speed of 35 mph, boasting hurricane force winds every other day during the wintertime, is astounding!

What's with the calm, you ask? These effects are the result of a strong high pressure system in place over New England, which is also providing the valleys with this continued streak of very-cold temperatures. A slight warm up is in the cards over the next two days, but after that, unfortunately, for those who are ready for signs of spring, long-range numbers are not trending all too warm. Spring will have to wait a bit longer.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

20:20 Wed Mar 5th

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Summit Volunteer Ernie Cooking Dinner

When talking to people about working for the Mount Washington I usually get a flood of questions covering a variety of topics. There are two topics that normally arise in every conversion: weather and food. Being that Mount Washington is known worldwide for its extreme weather I always expected to get questions about the weather. I am usually surprised when people ask me about what we do for food. Normally people are surprised when I tell them that I eat normal home-made meals just like I do at home. They seem even more surprised when I tell them that we have volunteers come up with us every shift week, and these volunteers help us by cooking and cleaning through the week.

Many people ask me how they can become a summit volunteer after hearing about it; so I tell them that first they have become a member of the Mount Washington Observatory and then sign up for a summer volunteer week. The mandatory summer volunteer week is to make sure that everyone volunteering can handle cooking for large groups as well as the isolation of being on the summit for eight days. So if this is something that interests you, check out our volunteer page for more information.

Michael Kyle – Weather Observer

22:00 Tue Mar 4th

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'Warm' light on a cold summit.

The past few days have been cold. If it were January, it wouldn't be nearly as noticeable, but it is early March, and things are supposed to be gradually getting warmer. Typically on the summit of Mount Washington, March's daily average temperature starts the month around 9F and ends the month around 18F. However, for the first three days of March, we are averaging 17.8F below zero; with day four likely keeping that average right about the same. While the cold continues short term, looking at the models, there is some hope for milder conditions this weekend; however, looking even further out, the Arctic cold returns for next week. Therefore, for now, the layering of clothing will have to continue with warm thoughts continuing in our minds and warm locations residing on our screen savers.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:28 Mon Mar 3rd

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The Sphinx Observatory

We love to pride ourselves in our isolation and extreme weather, but there are a handful of other locations around the world that are similar to the Observatory in terms of extreme weather and remoteness. Here are just a few of them:

Summit Camp: This isolated camp on the Greenland Ice Sheet is constantly moving around with the glacier it sits on. In addition to observing the weather, they perform year-round research projects.

Sphinx Observatory: This location serves as an astronomical observatory, meteorological observatory and research station for scientists looking to do just about anything at high altitude in extreme environments. Perched atop a peak near the Jungfrau in Switzerland, it is only accessible by a train which travels up the mountain through a series of tunnels.

South Pole Station: There are various stations in Antarctica, including the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Although it may not seem like it's located on a mountain, the station has an altitude of over 9000 feet above sea level! This is not due to mountains but instead extremely thick glacial ice covering the continent.

Although Wikipedia isn't the most trustworthy sources, it is helpful to get a general idea of a topic. If you want an interesting article on earth's extreme locations, visit here.

What makes the Mount Washington Observatory special, and very different from all of these other organizations, is that we're a non-profit that relies on receiving the majority of our funding from our members and other generous donors, not grants or the government. That gives us more flexibility to pursue our mission - to advance the understanding of the natural systems that create the Earth's weather and climate by maintaining its mountaintop weather station, conducting research and educational programs and interpreting the heritage of the Mount Washington region.

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer

18:39 Sun Mar 2nd

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He's not sleeping, he's observing the weather.

Last shift, I read an article on NPR entitled, "What We Might Learn From Snoring Weather Cats." The article was based on information contained in an 1883 book entitled Signal Service Notes, Issue 9. (The US Army Signal Corps was a predecessor to todays National Weather Service; to learn more about how the US went from the US Weather Bureau to the National Weather Service, you can click here). The short article peaked my interest, so I downloaded the full copy of the book to my tablet and have been reading it this shift week. The book is filled with popular weather proverbs and prognostics, some very true while others are...questionable. One of the questionable ones is a section dealing with proverbs/prognostics relating to animals. There are proverbs/prognostics for beavers, cattle, pigs, squirrels, wolves, and, wouldn't you know it, cats.

The section on cats was of interest since we have a resident cat up here by the name of Marty Kitty. Since we have a cat and we see foul weather up here frequently, what better place to study these various proverbs and prognostics. So, the proverbs/prognostics the book lists are:

When cats sneeze it is a sign of rain.

The cardinal point to which a cat turns and washers their face after a rain shows the direction from which the wind will blow.

If the cat is bathing in the sun of February, it must go again to the stove in March.

When cats are snoring, foul weather follows.

When cats are washing themselves, fair weather follows.

Cats with their tails up and hair apparently electrified indicate approaching wind.

It is a sign of rain if the cat washes their head behind their ear.

Cats clean table-legs, tree-trunks, etc, before storms.

When a cat scratches itself, or scratches on a log or tree, it indicates approaching rain.

If sparks are seen when stroking a cat's back, expect a change of weather soon.

When a cat washes their face with their back to the fire, expect a thaw in winter.

When cats lie on their head with mouth turned up, expect a storm.

Cats purr and wash…before rain.


This week I have been trying to observe Marty to see if any of the proverbs/prognostics listed are true. So far my observations of Marty Kitty are inconclusive. I rarely hear him sneeze, he is always bathing and is facing all directions when cleaning, he always sun bathes, I rarely hear him snore, even though we have humidifiers, he always seems to have static (electrified as they say), and he always sleeps on his back, good weather and bad. So, if these proverbs/prognostics are true, they do not hold true for cats on the summit of Mount Washington, Home of The Worlds Worst Weather. But they are something to think about and possibly observe elsewhere.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:42 Sat Mar 1st

As my shifts here on the Summit begin to dwindle, I find myself thinking about all the aspects of summit life that I will miss. The sunrises and sunsets, high winds, low visibility, crystal clear skies, and my coworkers. While my transition off the summit is bittersweet, I am looking forward to my new journey with Backpacker Magazine on their Women's Get Out More Tour. I could never take this experience for granted and will always be able to call the Summit one of my homes.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

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