12:33 Tue Jan 21, 2020
A Week of Winds and Welcomes!
Oh boy. What a wild week it has been. Being down an Observer always puts quite a large amount of strain on a shift, with the 2 observers working nearly double their work load. So we certainly do miss Adam. But of course, we hope everything is going well in his new position.
Centennial Birthday Board from AMS this year!
Jay and I came back on shift on the heels of the Centennial AMS conference in Boston. It was a wonderful experience overall! We met many young, aspiring Meteorologists who hopefully will look into our internship positions! And we made many great connections with loads of other professionals in the discipline, while showcasing the best of what the Observatory is/does and what makes this crazy mountain so wonderful! I hope the rest of my coworkers had as great of a time as I did. But wow, without having a full off week to rest and recover before coming back up…
Phew. Jay and I are pretty exhausted.
No time to rest though! Trip Season is finally in full swing, with the weather finally allowing groups to come up to the summit. And we had 3 full trips coming up this week, each of which were full of amazing individuals and lots of crazy, fun experiences to be had! Appropriately enough, the first group to join us on the summit were several individuals working for various branches of NOAA and the NWS!
We had spoken to several of these folks before during AMS, talking up how crazy this mountain’s weather can be. So of course, their interests were peaked with most of them never having made it to the summit before, let alone in Winter. The problem was, the weather was looking INTENSE. We had a low pressure system move through during the day on Thursday, dumping a few inches of snow and increasing our wind speeds to hurricane force! However, things intensified when the low began to move off to the Northeast (to inevitably dump an incredible amount of snow on Newfoundland) and a powerful high pressure system began to advance from the Great Lakes region. With a truly impressive pressure gradient building overhead, our wind speeds were topping out near 120 mph! And with high pressure moving in, it was windy, clear and cooooooooooold (wind chills between 50 to 60 degrees below)!
Nonetheless, we called on one of our trusty Snowcat drivers, Jon Powers, to drive the Cat and try to get the group to the top safely. No problem (relatively) for Jon, and before we knew it this group of very excited meteorologists were safely in the rotunda, ready for a tour! However, I’m not sure any of us were truly ready for the experience about to be had.
We took them up on to the Observation Deck first, to get an idea of not only where we go to take hourly observations, but also get their feet wet in the hurricane force wind speeds. With Northerly winds crashing down upon the deck in front of us, a powerful wind tunnel had established starting in the last 1/3 of the A-frame, across the front of the Cosmo Shack to finally spill out across the Obs deck proper. So you could barely exit the safety of the A-frame before you were getting crushed by the powerful waves of wind. It was difficult to fit everyone safely outside to get the experience, so I positioned myself partway down the wooden beam that runs across the front of the Cosmo Shack and invited people to come sit with me face first into 120 mph winds. It was incredible (and incredibly cold)! As we held on as tight as we could, we watched ice chunks fly past and smash to bits on the deck. It was so exciting, and a bit unnerving for sure. But we were able to get everyone back in safely (minus Keith’s glove) for the next part of the tour.
Me standing face first into 120 mph winds on top of the tower!
The tower. How could we not go up in the tower in these crazy winds (safely of course)? We carefully navigated the group up all the ladders and out on to the parapet, mere feet away from being fully exposed to the frenzied winds coming up. We showed them how to climb up and down the instrument ring properly, and showed them how to properly hang on in these ferocious speeds. My current wind speed record on the tower is 131 mph, so we weren’t quite there. But that doesn’t mean it was any less of a rush standing there, looking Mother Nature in the eye and withstanding her fury face first. And fortunately, everyone was able to get up there and do the same safely! Once everyone had their turn, we descended the tower and showed the group the rest of the Weather Station. I think they were all very excited and pleased to be able to experience such a crazy place! And we are so happy that they could come up and visit!
And of course, this is Caleb’s first week! Hopefully you all enjoyed his blog and got to know a little bit about him. He’s an incredibly fast learner and has met each challenge head on, ready to go! Imagine coming into a new work environment, and suddenly you find yourself working in 100+ mph winds, huge snow drifts, all while meeting a ton of new people! He certainly has taken it in stride, and is a welcome addition to our crew. Jay and I are very much looking forward to working with him through this harsh winter season.
Then we had our first Edutrip of the season on Saturday. Fortunately conditions calmed down enough for the group to get here safely. But not long after the Snowcat left, snow started once again and wind speeds ramped back up to the 80 mph range! It was quite appropriate, as the topic for the trip was Severe Winter Storms lead by yours truly, talking about Blizzard conditions, Nor’easters and Ice Storms. As always, you can see true learning happening when you talk about something in the conference room, then go outside and experience first-hand! People take what you taught them and can actually apply it! It’s one of my favorite parts about running Edutrips; that and meeting fascinating people from all walks of life and all different kinds of experiences. We spoke with Ex-Fire Marshalls, Doctors and Veterinarians, Financial Assistants, Marketing Managers and Media folks, and even a Military Veteran who has had some of the most incredible weather and war-time related experiences I’ve ever heard of. They were all wonderful people, and it was a pleasure to share a bit of science with them while taking them on the deck and into the tower to experience the power and frigidness of our weather up here.
And of course, a huge thank you to my crew (Jay, Caleb, Carrie, Bruce and Andrea) for helping make this a great trip! Carrie was a fantastic trip leader and super helpful in keeping the group organized from start to finish. Caleb was incredibly attentive and helpful as well, working with me to keep everyone busy and having fun, while simultaneously learning the ropes for himself. Bruce and Andrea, veteran volunteers each in their own right, worked so hard, non-stop all week, to provide delicious meals and keep the place clean and tidy! Jay even woke up early to help things run smoothly, and ended the night by giving a talk about Nor’easters, the focus of his Master’s thesis, which was so informative and helpful! If any of you guys are reading this, really, thank you for helping things go so well this weekend!
Lenticular cluds forming just NE of the summit during the Day Trip!
Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
To round out the week of winds and welcomes, we had our first Day Trip of the season on Monday! A group of very polite and intrigued individuals rode to the summit to experience the weather and get a tour. Now, mind you, the wind had been blowing out of its mind since Thursday morning. And while it had lost a lot momentum by this point in the week, we were still seeing winds in the 60-70 mph range for this group. It was so awesome to see how interested and fascinated with everything up here they were. From the top of the tower down to the bunk rooms, these guys were like sponges taking in a ton of information as fast as I could give it to them. They too got their taste of high winds, asked tons of great questions about our work, and enjoyed a hot and tasty lunch before heading back down for the day. As I listened to them rant and rave about the experience, even as they were only just leaving the rotunda, I knew that we had really showed them how incredible and wonderful a place the Obs can be.
So! As you might imagine, we are all quite a bit tired coming up to shift change tomorrow. But despite the exhaustion, we often keep finding ourselves talking about each of the trips, the folks we met, and the crazy weather we were fortunate enough to experience. It was a hard, but enjoyable shift to say the least. And while I am looking forward to 6 days of resting ahead, I’ll be taking all of these good times this week and using them to keep my head up and keep us going strong through the rest of Trip Season! And of course, if you are interested in joining us for one of these awesome trips, check out https://www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/summit-adventures/
Hopefully, we'll see you up here soon!
10:10 Sun Jan 19, 2020
My First Shift on the Summit
Hey! My name is Caleb Buchler and I am the other winter intern at the Summit. I graduated with my second bachelor’s this past spring from Salisbury University with a degree in Geography/Atmospheric Science. I grew up on the east coast my whole life in Fenwick Island, Delaware and, as an avid surfer, always had a fascination with winter Nor’easters. Nothing gets me more excited than strong coastal low bringing snow and swell. It has been a goal of mine to spend a winter (and hopefully many more) in the Northeast and experience these winter storms more frequently. I went a step further and landed myself an internship at “The Home of the World’s Worst Weather”.
I started on the 15th of this month. After last week’s record high temperatures, we were able to drive up in a van to Winter Cutoff before I got my first ever Snowcat ride. I met the other week’s crew after arriving and we had a short observer meeting on what to expect for the next week’s weather before they headed back down to normal life.
Soon after the meeting, Ian was taking me up to the parapet to do my first de-icing as we were in a wet fog at the summit. At temperatures well below freezing, this meant super cooled water droplets froze instantly on contact with any surface. I had never seen rime ice in my life and every weather instrument was covered in it. We used a crow bar to smack any rime ice off. It was “easy” until I was asked to get on the fully exposed instrument ring to clear ice off the pitot and wind vane instruments. It felt as if I might fly out of the ring while de-icing. When I came back in, I learned that the winds were a “mild” 50 mph. Little did I know I was going to experience winds over twice as strong at about 110 mph the following night while shadowing an observation with Ian on the observation deck. That time it felt like I might not make it back to the tower door as each step was a major obstacle. In just four days, I have become very comfortable in 70 - 90 mph winds and experienced winds over the century mark several times. I even got to be in my first post on the MWO Facebook/Instagram page standing next to a 4 foot snowdrift at the door.
On, Friday we had a visit from members of the National Weather Service (NWS). Having the opportunity to meet so many individuals with successful careers in the field of meteorology and different backgrounds in education was very exciting. We also got to see our highest winds of our shift during their short visit!
Last night I had the opportunity to put my forecasting skills to the test as Ian allowed me to post and record the Summit and Valley 48 hour forecasts for the first time. I was elated when saw I got the winds right for last night’s forecast as the low passed through. Two days before that I was struggling to even put together an organized forecast before report time. Taking from the experience/knowledge from Ian and Jay, it was amazing to see how quickly I was able to improve. Having their help really gave me the confidence to trust in my summit forecast which was no easy task growing up in one of the flattest states of Delaware. I look forward to creating many more forecasts and improving my forecasting skills as my goal is to one day find a career in forecasting weather.
My next step is to improve my on camera presence during the Facebook live streams and looking into a research project for the next five months here. I look forward to the tackling the challenges ahead.
Caleb Buchler, Summit Intern
09:12 Mon Jan 13, 2020
A Turn for the Snowy In Our Future?
Brief clearing following the storm on January 12th revealed what was left of our snow.
After seeing record-breaking warmth on the summit over the past weekend and a huge reduction in our snowpack, it looks as though the longer-term models are showing a turn for the snowy. We certainly could use the snow, with only 3” of mostly solid ice as an average for our current snow depth. This snow cover is deeper in more sheltered areas and in between the rocks, but in many other open areas we mostly have bare ground.
A pretty large pattern change is already underway in the upper levels, which will result in a return to at least near-normal temperatures while also seeing frequent storm tracks. This is preferable for the summit to see an expedient replenishment to our snow, as very cold arctic air would likely mean we are under the influence of strong high pressure and not seeing frequent precipitation.
GFS 250 mb winds on Wednesday showing zonal flow across most of the country, and a split flow on the west coast with the polar jet to the north and subtropical jet across Baja California.
“Zonal flow” is the term meteorologists often use with this upper level, or jet stream pattern where the jet stream is mostly oriented due west-east with little in the way of dips. With this pattern for us in New England we’re often directly under the jet stream, with weak, but quick moving and frequent storm systems. We’ll see two weak clipper-like systems centered around Tuesday night and again Thursday with this pattern, resulting in around 3-6” or 4-8” of snow total for the summit.
GFS model showing a significant storm with heavy snowfall for NH and the White Mountains Saturday night.
After this there has consistently been a large storm system affecting the Northeast during the Saturday-Sunday timeframe. This storm is able to take advantage of the jet stream digging, or dipping much further south while also strengthening, resulting in more moisture and energy for the storm. For us here on the summit and also the northern half of New England temperatures should remain cold enough for all snow, and much of the area may potentially see a solid 6-12” of snow from this storm. This storm also looks to be a pretty significant wind event for the summit, possibly reaching our highest readings so far in 2020, surpassing the 119 mph gust we observed Saturday the 11th. After surviving the dreaded “January thaw” that is fairly common this time of year it’s a relief to see plenty of snow in our future!
Total snowfall from 1/13 to next Wednesday, Jan 22nd showing the potential for more than a foot of snow across most of New Hampshire. Weather model images courtesy of Tropical Tidbits.
Thomas Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
13:35 Fri Jan 10, 2020
Hello from the Summit of Mount Washington!
Hello from the summit of Mount Washington!
My name is Eve Cinquino, and I am one of the winter interns here at the Observatory. I’m originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and I’m so happy to be joining the team this winter and sharing my experiences with all of you!
On January 8th, I took my first Snow Cat trip up to the summit. We all piled in to the Observatory’s Snow Cat and enjoyed a relatively uneventful (although bumpy) ride up to the summit. We stopped part way up to get out and check out the views, although visibility was quickly dropping. There was a storm blowing in and once we were above treeline the visibility was only about 1/8 mile.
When we arrived at the summit, we unloaded gear and had a very brief shift change meeting before the opposing shift headed down mountain in order to make it down before the winds got any stronger. My first afternoon was spent learning the ropes—I got to hammer rime ice off the weather instruments, learned how to record the evening radio show, explored the Sherman Adams building, and met Marty, the observatory cat.
The next morning, cloud cover lifted and I got my first view from the summit! While we still couldn’t see down into the valley, the views were absolutely stunning—it feels like we’re on an island in a sea of clouds.
On Thursday morning we recorded gusts up to 114mph—definitely the most extreme wind that I’ve ever witnessed. The observers tell me that wind around 70mph can be “fun wind” up here—you can go outside and get blown around, but once it gets much faster than that it’s “scary wind”—it’ll knock you down and blow you to the other side of the deck, where it takes all your energy to get back to the building entrance. By afternoon it had settled down enough for me to go outside and check out my new surroundings in some “mild” 50 mph winds!
I’ll be interning though the end of May, so you’ll be hearing a lot more from me as I adjust to life at the summit and begin work on my research project. A big shout-out to our volunteers this week, Kelly and Patty, for going above and beyond for our dinners (fresh bread!) and being great company!
Eve Cinquino, Summit Intern
11:23 Tue Jan 07, 2020
My short time here on the summit!
Hi, my name is Nicholas Rousseau, and I am a research intern from Plymouth State University. It has been thrilling to spend the past 10 days at the Mount Washington Observatory. During my time on the summit, I worked with the observers learning about the operations here at the observatory and working on a research project for Dr. Eric Kelsey. The research project I have been working on involves understanding why the summit of Mount Washington is warming slower than lower elevations of the Northeast. For my project, I wrote a Python script to Identify transitions of the planetary boundary layer during Mount Washington Observatory's nearly 88-year climatology. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity to do research somewhere so beautiful and with such extreme weather. I got to experience the strong winds that Mount Washington is so famous for and also enjoyed the amazing views of the mountains when visibility Is high. The picture below I took on the morning of December 19th when doing the building walk around.
All the observers have been amazing mentors during my time here on the summit. They have taught me all about the hourly observations, forecasting, AMS radio call, de-icing the instruments, and much more! This internship has taught me many skills that will advance me in school and a future career. I will never forget this amazing experience and I will miss staying up here on the summit. In the spring, I'll be going back to Plymouth State University to finish my junior year of college and continue my research with Dr. Kelsey.
Nicholas Rousseau, PSU Summit Intern