Observer Comments

09:41 Tue Aug 20, 2019

Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb 2019

Every year the Mount Washington Auto road holds various races to the summit of Mont Washington. I was lucky enough to witness the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb this week. The race took place Saturday August 17, 2019 and began at 8:30 am at the base of the Auto Road and finished at the very top of the Auto Road. Making this a relentless 7.6 mile climb with an average grade of 12% and an astonishing maximum grade of 22% for the last 50 yards. To make the race even more intense on the summit of Mount Washington was in the clouds that morning, creating a very dense fog for the last mile of the race. Winds were blowing out of the west at 15 to 25 mph, crosswinds like that can make life a nightmare for a biker. So after the race began at 8:30am spectators were already in place along the Auto Road with a large group of people waiting at the finish line.


First place male biker Erik Levinsohn passing the finish line, clocking in at 53:42 (Photo from the Mount Washington Auto Road)
As seen in this photo from the Mount Washington Auto Road http://www.iresultslive.com/?op=summary&eid=4343 crossing the finishing line at 53:42 Erik Levinsohn took first place, with his face saying it all as he uses the last of his energy to pedal through the finish. Erick Levinsohn placed third last year improving his time this year by a remarkable 2 minutes and 21 seconds. I unfortunately missed the first few bikers cross the finish line, but I did get out there in time to see female winner Stefanie Sydlik emerge from the fog and cross the finish line.
Stefanie Sydlik emerging from the fog on the steepest section of the race

Stefanie Sydlik moments before crossing the finish line to take first place for female bikers


Photo from the Mount Washington Auto Road of first place female biker Stefanie Sydlik crossing the finish line, clocking in at 1:10:32

Stefanie Sydlik placed second place in the 2018 race and now improved to first place this year surprisingly clocking in at the same exact time as last year. Both bikers that won, as well as all of the bikers that participated in the race accomplished a very tough ride on Saturday. Being a mountain biker myself I understand the grueling pain of pushing those pedals when your legs have nothing left in the tank, and have so much respect for anyone able to conquer this beast of a mountain.

 


Benjamin Charles, Intern
  

16:54 Sun Aug 18, 2019

The Season's End (My Internship in Review)
It feels just like yesterday that it was the end of May and I was making my first trip up to the Summit on the once slushy, icy Auto Road. It is now my final week and I have had a while to reflect on my experience working for the observatory and I would like to share it with everyone.
 
I have been a part of or have experienced many forms of extreme weather from supercells to impressive snowstorms, but Mount Washington was and is something else. My first week up here I was treated to winds of 100+ mph and was able to be outside for that event. Despite being at the end of the winter season, I still caught a glimpse of rime ice on the tower. I got my first taste of hiking the Whites and I got the chance to fall in love with the State of New Hampshire.
 
This internship has built confidence in my skills as a meteorologist. mountain meteorology is a challenge for forecasters and I had many weeks to face it. It has expanded the tools I use to forecast (Skew-T's are your friends up here) as well as given me a great amount of exposure to interacting with the public through giving tours and conversating with guests in the museum. It solidified my reason for being a meteorologist which is giving and communicating information to people. Every day up here brought something new, whether it be a foot race up the mountain or gathering in the weather room to watch lightning light up the sky. Through my experiences here I feel like I have built up a work ethic that is viable in the professional world, spending a week on a mountain peak to perform your job is notable already, but seeing the tasks observers do every day has given me a new respect for people in my field.
 
I could fill-up the whole websites with stories from my time here, but I think should highlight what I can take away and give to others from this experience. If you are in college or trying to find your way in your professional field, search every corner of that field for opportunities. Opportunities come in many forms, whether it be an internship you happen to come upon online or the people in your field your network. I was able to find this experience through my friend and one of my mentors on the Summit, Ian Bailey. At this point in your career, leave nothing to chance and never stop being hungry for experience.
 
The last thing I would like to say is for anyone who supports the Observatory, thank you and for anyone who is curious, please consider it. Entities like Mount Washington Observatory are key players in the field of science. Organizations like them that strive to educate people and further science through research are important in the process of creating future scientists and generating respect and support for scientific goals.
I would like to thank the Observatory for offering me this experience. I will forever cherish this as I head to Millersville, Pennsylvania for my graduate studies where the weather isn't so extreme.
(Photo credit: Kimberly Stinson) 


Austin Patrick, Summit Intern
  

18:48 Fri Aug 16, 2019

Climate Change in the Classroom

This weekend, we will be conducting our first ever Climate Change Professional Development program! We have invited 8 teachers from multiple different schools and classrooms to join us on the summit to learn about Climate Change and develop tools/resources they can use to present the topic in their own classroom. Our hope is that we’ll be able to effectively communicate a very large, very complex topic (one that could be broken up into 3 semesters worth of material) and help teachers feel a bit more comfortable when discussing it with their students.

 

Studies and polls conducted by organizations such as the Pew Research Center have shown that public perspective on the topic of Climate Change has, itself, changed drastically over the last 5 years. As the graphic above shows, many of these countries have seen a general increase in concern/awareness about of changing climate by as much as 10% or more! On top of that, over 20 major countries around the globe have classified the issue as a major threat; something that absolutely needs to be addressed for the betterment of our planet and humanity.

 

Here at the Observatory, we too have taken note of the effects of climate change that are reflected in our own data and observations. Our average annual temperatures are warming (albeit at a slower rate by comparison), and our winter season seems to be shrinking! Because this is something we research, study and understand well, and because we have the data to show our findings, we wanted to share our knowledge with those who devote their lives to teaching the new and upcoming generations so that they can share it in turn.

It is very exciting to be involved in teaching/leading a new educational program. And it’s going to be a jam-packed weekend! Once the teachers are here and have settled in, we’ll be looking at the difference between weather and climate and different climate regions across the globe, we’ll be discussing the multitude of sources and factors contributing to climate change, and we’ll even take a look at climate assessments and reports conducted over recent years as well as public outlook and response to these issues. Additionally, we’ve developed a plethora of resources, experiments and activities that these teachers will be able to take back to their classrooms to run on their own! Overall, it’s going to be a great weekend for education and science, and I am very much looking forward to it!

We conduct Edutrip and Professional Development programs like this throughout the year, where participants venture up to the summit, stay overnight and learn about a wide variety of fascinating, science/weather-related topics. If you are interested in potentially joining us for one of these adventures, you can learn about them and sign up for them at:

https://www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/summit-adventures/

You should definitely look into these awesome educational experiences! And hopefully we’ll see you up here soon!



Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  

04:59 Tue Aug 13, 2019

May the Mind-Opening Experiences for Science Undergraduates Continue!
A few weeks ago, Intern Anna Smith posted a great blog about the group of undergraduate students who visited the summit on July 12th for an in-depth summit experience with our observers and interns. These students were a part of the 2019 summer Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric and Related Sciences (NEPARS) program, a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation that is run by meteorology faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Plymouth State University. This is the second year of the REU program in which 12 undergraduate students from around the country are selected from a competitive field of applicants to work in pairs with a faculty mentor on a research project for nine weeks during the summer. Here is the official abstract for the project:
 
The Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric and Related Sciences (NEPARS) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site brings together two primarily undergraduate institutions with atmospheric and related science programs to expand research opportunities for a diverse population of undergraduate students early in their education. REU interns will conduct research in areas of mesoscale and synoptic weather, microclimates, biometeorology, mountain meteorology, modern climate, and paleoclimate to better understand their physical processes, their predictability, and impact on society. The primary objective of the NEPARS REU site is to provide learning opportunities to a promising and diverse group of undergraduates which will help them prepare for careers in STEM fields by conducting quality scientific research, building professional networks, improving leadership skills, and developing effective communication skills. Each year a cohort of 12 undergraduate students will be offered paid summer research positions with the NEPARS REU to work with faculty mentors from Hobart & William Smith Colleges (HWS) and Plymouth State University (PSU). Six students and three mentors will work at each research location during a 9-week summer research program. Additionally, the NEPARS REU will partner with the Mt. Washington Observatory and the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at SUNY Albany to offer interactions beneficial to REU student professional development. The NEPARS REU site has a primary focus on participation of rising sophomores and rising juniors that have just completed their first and second year, respectively, at two-year or four-year colleges and universities across the U.S. offering degrees in STEM fields.
 
The REU site will be structured so that students work in pairs with a mentor. This will allow the students to develop experience working as part of a research team, while they will also learn autonomy of research with their own individual project within the team. Modern technology, such as video-conferencing, will be leveraged so that students can communicate across the two locations. The REU site has 4 objectives for students: 1) interact with, learn from, and conduct research investigations with their peers and dedicated mentors through the use of REU pairings and a REU cohort across two research locations, 2) explore and discover the social, cultural, and geographic diversity of others with comparable academic interests from similar or vastly different colleges and universities, 3) cultivate a greater understanding of atmospheric and related sciences beyond the extent taught in the undergraduate classroom and lab, including the development and enhancement of research skills while working with observational and modeling datasets, and 4) develop effective leadership and communication skills through a series of workshops and opportunities to interact with professionals within the scientific community. Additionally the REU site has developed two objectives for the REU mentors: 1) increase interactions between two primarily undergraduate institutions to strengthen the respective programs and support new, as well as existing, faculty research collaborations, and 2) enhance faculty development as undergraduate mentors through training, faculty-to-faculty mentoring, and by working with a diverse student population from a variety of academic institutions.
 
Mount Washington Observatory (MWO) participates in the project in a couple of ways. I, as the Director of Research, mentored a pair of meteorology undergrads, including Anna, last summer. Anna and her research partner Charlotte studied summit weather data to understand how vertical air mass changes (between the boundary layer and the free troposphere) impact daily high and low temperatures. This work is another step toward understanding why the higher elevations of the Northeast US are warming slower than the surrounding lower elevations. The other way MWO participates is by hosting the REU students and their mentors each July for a day of engaging activities at the summit with the observers and interns. Anna also described this often transformative experience in her blog. Students learn about some of the harshest weather conditions observed on Earth, how observers take hourly weather observations in such extremes, and the importance of high-quality weather data to producing meaningful and accurate conclusions about how the weather and climate work.
 
NEPARS REU on the Observation deck
 
Through the program, we hope that students develop an interest and passion for research and experiential learning, but ultimately, we want the REU experience to help students determine what they want to do as a professional scientist.
NEPARS REU in the weather room
 
This two-year REU program is drawing to a close this year, however, PSU and HWS are proposing to NSF to continue the program for another three years. Their proposal will be submitted this month and this winter we will receive a decision. Keep your fingers crossed for another three years of MWO making a positive impact on the lives and careers of undergraduate students in science!


Eric P. Kelsey, Ph.D., Director of Research
  

09:50 Fri Aug 09, 2019

A Chilly August Weekend Ahead

The weekend ahead looks to feature some of the first “fall-like” weather on the summit, even though the calendar only reads mid-August! There’s even a chance we could see our first freezing temperatures of the new snow season (which runs from July to June). We’ll take a look at the larger scale weather features responsible and also put this into context compared to our historical records on the summit.

GFS model 250 mb (jet stream level) winds showing a large trough, or dip in the jet stream over the Northeast U.S. Image courtesy of Tropical Tidbits.

A large upper level low will be moving across southern Canada through the weekend, with a deep flow of northwesterly winds pulling in colder air into New England. At the surface this air will be moderated by the strong still-summer sun, but near Mount Washington’s level this will be an expansive, cool to even cold air mass.

GFS model 850 mb (5,000 ft level) temperatures showing a large mass of cooler air over southern Canada and the Northeast U.S Saturday morning. Image courtesy of Tropical Tidbits.

The coldest air temperatures will likely be during the predawn hours Sunday morning, when the summit will likely get very close to the freezing mark. Winds will also be gusting to near hurricane force (74+mph) during this time frame, adding to the chill in the air. Both days of the weekend will be very chilly and raw overall, with below freezing wind chills on any exposed skin. The summit will spend the majority of the weekend in the clouds, with rain showers and even a few thunderstorms possible Saturday. This will be in stark contrast to the valleys below, where temperatures will climb into very comfortable readings in the 70s Fahrenheit. Please be prepared for very chilly, wet conditions on the summit if planning to visit us this weekend!
 
 3 km NAM model showing potential rain showers and embedded thunderstorms accompanying the cold front Saturday morning. Any storms that develop could contain small hail due to the low freezing levels. Image courtesy of Tropical Tidbits.

In historical context this will not be a record setting cold event for this time of year. The summit typically starts a downward trend in our temperatures right around early August, and daily record lows for this weekend are in the upper 20s Fahrenheit, so a few degrees colder than what is expected. In only one short month below freezing temperatures actually become the norm for us up here, and typically our first measurable snowfall will have occurred before the end of September. Winter and all the exciting weather that comes with it is just around the corner, but for now we’ll enjoy the warmth while it lasts!



Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  

17:49 Sun Aug 04, 2019

My Summer Internship In Review

“It just doesn’t feel real”. That was my reaction after learning that I had been offered a position as an intern for the summer here on Mt. Washington. I was about to work at a place I had never been to before, and live in a region I had never dreamed I would ever live at. I was assigned my first research project, something I had been pondering doing at Penn State, but it was never something I had time to follow through with. The project that I was assigned was completely new, and I learned that I would be working on something that had never been formally researched yet. This summer for me was a summer of a lot of firsts for me. It was also a summer of learning, great times, and great people.

On my first day as an intern, I was incredibly nervous. All of the responsibilities we were given as interns, such as working on our research projects, making forecasts and radio calls, giving tours, and working in the museum were very daunting to me. However, with the help of the employees here, it was made much easier. By the end of the summer, I had given dozens of tours, made several forecasts and radio calls, and worked countless hours in the museum. All the while, I gained confidence in myself and even gained a new vision for the future. I learned about the pleasures of working with people, and incorporating meteorology to education and presentation. My career path became one where I wanted to work with people, as opposed to avoiding interaction.

I have met some incredible people up here, whether they worked at the observatory, at the state park, were members of the observatory, or were volunteers. I have learned something from every single person I met up here, and it has truly been an eye opening experience. I also want to give a shout out to all of our wonderful volunteers. Meeting such unique people every week has been one of the most fun parts of working up here, and the work they do each and every week deserves to be appreciated. Meeting new members and giving tours to people from all walks of life has also been amazing, and I have met some more incredible people doing that as well. 

 The Undercasts
"The Undercasts" (from left to right): Intern Ben, Museum Attd. Carrie, Me, Intern Austin, Volunteer Liz
 
With all of this being said, I am writing this on the Sunday of my last week as an intern here on the summit of Mt. Washington. If I could do this all over again and again, I would. But alas, my time is up here. “It just doesn’t feel real”. That is my reaction to this internship being over, after a summer I will definitely never forget. Thank you to everyone who made this possible, and everyone I met during my time up here. I’ll be back!


Ethan Rogers, Summit Intern
  

18:30 Fri Aug 02, 2019

How does July Add Up?

Now that July is over, let’s look at how this July stacked up in our records.

First, looking at temperatures, the average temperature for this July was 52.4°F, which is 3.4 degrees above our average of 49°F. For up here, that is quite a bit above average since our summer months usually do not see much variation in temperature from year to year. Below is a table of the top 10 warmest July’s we have seen up here.

Rank

Year

Average Temperature

1

1955

53.5

2

2013

53.1

3

2018

53.1

4

2006

52.8

5

1952

52.6

6

1959

52.5

7

2019

52.4

8

1994

52.2

9

2005

52.2

10

1949

51.8

2019 ended up being our 7th warmest July on record. What is unusual about this month being a top 10 warmest month is the fact that we set no daily record highs. Where this year got its warm average was very warm overnight lows. The lowest temperature that we saw this month was 41 degrees, which is the warmest lowest monthly temperature we have ever seen in our history. The previous highest was 40 degrees in July of 1955.

Next up is precipitation. July had quite a few days with measurable precipitation but no days with an insane amount. We were a little above average in days with measurable precipitation but our highest amount we saw in 24 hours was only about 1.69 inches. Most months we will see at least 2 inches in a 24 hour period either due to a tropical system passing nearby or training thunderstorms over the White Mountains. Our total precipitation was 7.72, which is 1.05 inches below normal. July ended up being the 32nd wettest July on record.

As far as wind speed goes, we averaged 25.6 mph this month, which is -0.1 mph lower than the average of 25.7 mph. This made for the 38th windiest July on record. The Highest wind gust was 82 mph on the 14th which is a pretty typical summer time peak monthly wind.



Adam Gill, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
  
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