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History

Mount Washington’s infamous weather has captivated visitors and scientists alike for hundreds of years.

In 1870, a group of determined scientists embarked upon an expedition to observe the mountain’s winter weather, hoping to improve forecasting knowledge. Failure was universally predicted, but the hardy team persevered and gathered a wealth of data that was widely recognized by the scientific community. Their observations captured the attention of the United States Signal Service, a precursor to the National Weather Service, who took up the cause and maintained a weather station on the summit until 1892. The mountaintop station was one of the first of its kind in the world, setting an example followed in many other countries.

Taking advantage of fair weather for a re-supplyTaking advantage of fair weather for a re-supply

Forty years later, an enthusiastic group of civilians founded Mount Washington Observatory to continue the Signal Service’s work. Using modest funds from a research grant and a small handful of donors, Bob Monahan, Sal Pagliuca, Alex MacKenzie, and Joe Dodge re-established the mountaintop station on October 12, 1932. Life at the top was far from luxurious, with no time off and no pay, but the ambitious crew was steadfast in their mission to advance understanding of weather, climate, and Mount Washington.

On April 12, 1934 their determination paid off when the Observatory recorded the world’s fastest surface wind speed ever observed by man: 231 mph. The value of a permanent mountaintop station was recognized, and Mount Washington Observatory was established as a private, nonprofit organization to observe and maintain a record of weather data, perform weather and climate research, and foster public understanding of the mountain and its environment.

1932 Observers (L-R) Alex McKenzie, Bob Monahan, Joe Dodge and Sal Pagliuca1932 Observers (L-R) Alex McKenzie, Bob Monahan, Joe Dodge and Sal Pagliuca

Today, more than eighty years later, that spirit of exploration lives on, that quest for learning burns bright, and that passion for education is stronger than ever before. Though the faces and instruments have changed, the work of our founders continues in a vibrant, healthy, constantly-evolving institution that has established itself as a national resource for weather and climate observation, research, and education.

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