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Observer Comments

09:32 Sun Jun 25, 2017

Mount Washington Observatory Fall Internship

Our application deadline for the fall internship is only a few short weeks away, so now is the time to apply! The fall internship runs from late August to late December, and is a fantastic opportunity to gain work experience for those with a background in any of the sciences.

The fall season also often features the full range of weather the summit can experience. Early fall can still see thunderstorms or potentially even tropical systems along with “warm” temperatures in the 50s and 60s. By late September, the summit usually has already seen measurable snow, with much more to follow heading into October. Fall foliage is also in full swing in the surrounding valleys during this time, which can make for some great photos with the high peaks of the White Mountains living up to their name surrounded by autumn colors.

By the end of the fall internship winter is fully underway, and we often see some of the extreme winter weather we’re so famous for. December in particular we’ve recorded some of the biggest extremes in our 85-year history, with temperatures as cold as -46°F and winds up to 182 mph. If you’re interested in applying for our fall internship be prepare for plenty of shoveling, deicing, and some of the worst weather on earth! For more information click the link here

Views at sunrise during the fall season last year 

Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist

08:39 Fri Jun 23, 2017

The Crawford Path: 200 Years of Hiking in the White Mountains

Mount Washington, and the White Mountains in general, have a long and diverse history. There are now many paths extending from the summit, leading into nearby ravines and forests, allowing travelers and hikers to enjoy the beauty and scenery that New Hampshire offers. However, there is a particularly historic and well known path that is centuries old.

The Crawford Path, running 8 1/2 miles from US Route 302 to the summit of Mount Washington, will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of its existence in 2019. It is known as the oldest hiking trail still in continuous use in the United States, and has a very intriguing history.

The start of the Crawford Path (pictured top) ascends Mount Pierce before following the southern Presidential ridge to the summit.

There were certainly trails leading to the summit, as well as traversing through the White Mountains as early as the existence of the Indian settlements of the area. Timothy Nash, an early European settler, was one of the well-known travelers said to have found Crawford Notch while tracking a moose over Cherry Mountain. From his expedition, a road was eventually built from Lancaster through the notch to Portsmouth.

The Crawford family were of the first permanent settlers in the Crawford Notch area (then called the White Mountain Notch) in 1793, and aided in developing the popularity of the area – thus allowing the area to be named in honor of their presence. They provided shelter for early travelers, building and maintaining various inns near the base of the mountain, and even guiding them up to the summit. Thus, they became famous mountain guides of this area of the Whites; this news quickly spread, and encouraged other hikers to come and explore the area. Around 1819, after seeing the trouble travelers had to go through to summit Mount Washington, Abel Crawford and his family helped to establish a proper path that would lead to the summit easily, cutting through the trees and brush that were tangled beneath the rock pile.

This trail became widely known, attracting travelers and hikers of all sorts to take this new path. As more visitors flooded the area, they carved more paths, allowing many to experience the journey to the summit.

Of course, with the advancement of travel and transportation, more accommodations would be added to the famous Crawford Path and the surrounding area with the steady stream of hikers arriving to the notch. By 1840, the first path built was converted to a bridle path, expanding the range of travelers that were able to traverse their way to the summit, now on horseback. With the arrival of the railroad in 1851, more tourists began to find their way to the notch, with more and more hotels were being built to hold the growing tourist population.

This not only allowed the general public to travel to the summit – scientists, poets, and artists took advantage of the now widely popular area, allowing for anyone to experience the beauty of the region without having to be skilled in treacherous mountaineering. Charles T. Jackson, the state geologist at the time, brought his instruments to the summit on horseback, and crafted his report on the state’s geology. He was led up by Mr. Abel Crawford himself, now a well-known guide of the White Mountain region.

Henry David Thoreau found his way to the mountain in 1858, also utilizing the Crawford Path. Despite the many hotels built for travelers, he chose to camp near the mountain, very characteristic of his transcendentalist-inspired writing and ideals, and was led up the mountain with the help of a guide.

As general tourism began to die down with the burning down of these grand traveler-accommodating hotels, hiking societies, guidebooks, and new trails began to pop up nearing the 20th century. One of the first to write a White Mountain Guidebook, M.F. Sweester, said “the Crawford Path “can be followed without a guide by any one of ordinary intelligence,” showing how well-kept this trail was made by the Crawford family, but to this day still maintains its natural, remote beauty, as it did when it was first blazed.


Even with the advancement hiking culture through the decades, all of these trails can in some way be traced back to the settlement of the Crawford’s and their ground-breaking paths to the summit of Mount Washington.


http://ultimatehistoryproject.com/crawford-path.html - article author footnote: "The first ascent of Mont Blanc was indeed in 1786, but the Belknap and Cutler expedition to Mt Washington was in 1784."



Julia Moreland, Summit Intern

18:32 Mon Jun 19, 2017

Week 2 on the Rockpile

After spending a long six days off of the summit, we finally made it back to the top. Being up here for a week at a time gives you a sense of refreshment from being in such a cool environment. As last week’s heat wave settled into the region there was only one place that I would have loved to be, and that was up here on the summit of Mount Washington. While temperatures near sea-level soared above 90 degrees, the summit remained in the lower 60s with a light breeze around 80 mph. Needless to say, returning to the Observatory after dealing with those abnormally high temperatures, to me, was the equivalent of jumping into a pool on those hot summer days.


Unlike last week, the first day back up here was not as hectic as last week. While fair weather persisted for through Thursday, I was finally able to get out on a short hike and relieve some built up stress caused by countless hours of research in such a short period of time. After a long day of staring at a computer screen I was able to hike down to the ridge between Washington and Clay and found several patches of snow remaining in heavily shaded areas. Moments like that made me reminisce of the winter months and made me wish that I had brought my snowboard up to the summit to get in some mid-June runs.


No matter what the conditions may be, there is always something interesting going on if you take a look around. One of the more exciting moments during this week was the incredible display of an atmospheric optical phenomenon that I’ve been waiting to see again for quite some time. On Saturday, we had the pleasure of seeing an optical effect known as a “halo”; more specifically, a 22 degree halo with a rare 9 degree halo within. The moment that I heard there was an observable halo, I jumped right out of my seat and ran outside to take a look. This optical effect is caused when incoming visible light from the sun passes through randomly oriented, hexagonal ice crystals contained within high level cirrus clouds. As the light passes through the column-like ice crystals it is refracted (bent) at an angle of 22 degrees, creating a full ring, or halo, around the sun. I have seen a few partial halos in my life, but I have never seen one as strong as the one we saw over the weekend!


Although the work week is coming to an end, I’ll be enjoying every last minute of it before packing up and heading back home to southern New Hampshire.

Sam Webber, Summit Intern

08:58 Sat Jun 17, 2017

Adjusting to Life on the Mountain

Being from New Jersey I have not spent my life in the mountains. Accepting this internship ensured that I would be experiencing quite the adventure this summer. On the first drive up to the mountain I knew this was going to be such a new experience. Everywhere I looked was filled with natural beauty: waterfalls, trees, rocks and of course the amazing weather. The weather on the mountain changes so rapidly unlike home. It can be beautifully sunny with light winds one day and by that night the fog has rolled in and winds ramp up 40 mph. It's so crazy! There is so much to adjust to with my time on the mountain not only with the ever changing weather conditions.

 An average day for me begins at 6 am (earlier than I am used to!) and ends around 8:30 pm. After waking up it is time to get right to work and make the long commute to work: upstairs. Living and working in the same building is so convenient but it also means that I need to remind myself to spend some time outdoors! Once upstairs the hard work begins. Research, forecasting, posting to the media, working in the museum, doing observations and helping with weather readings are all some of the many tasks that I do daily. There is never a dull minute. Once the work begins it persists at a steady pace throughout the day. The various tasks I do daily all require different skills. Taking weather observations and forecasting obviously requires meteorological skills, working in the museum requires people skills, publishing to the media requires writing skills and doing research requires organizational skills and attention to detail. Having to change up my work style throughout the day keeps things very interesting and keeps me on my toes. It also gives me the chance to figure out what I enjoy doing the most.

Along with the adjustments to work and the weather there are also some adjustments in home life. One of the most important adjustments is living with everyone's favorite weather observer, Marty! I have never had a cat before so having Marty around is something I am not used to but definitely enjoy. He keeps the summit feeling like home when you're hard at work all day. Another happily accepted change is having dinner prepared for me daily by the summit volunteers. It is really great to walk downstairs after a hard day's work and have a hot and tasty dinner waiting on the table for us. Overall, there are many adjustments to make when living and working on the summit but they pressure you to grow as a person and allow you to experience amazing new things. I love it up here and welcome all of the challenges and adjustments that come with it!

Nicole Tallman, Summit Intern

18:11 Thu Jun 15, 2017

Star-Gazing on Top of Mount Washington

Going out and staring at the night sky has always been one of my favorite summer activities. Although, I usually only stargazed on the surface by a lake. Knowing that there were going to be clear skies last night, it gave me a chance to check out the sky from 6288 feet. This made me feel as though I were that much closer to the stars.

My fellow interns and I went out to check the sky out on the observation deck. Since we had to be up by 6 AM, we could not stay out too late. We went to watch the stars at around 9:30 PM when the sun was set and the stars were starting to show themselves. Sadly, the only camera I had with me was my phone. The picture quality is not that great, because all that can be seen is darkness. However, the other interns and I were able to point out a planet (we think it was Saturn) and the big dipper. We then decided to head inside and go to sleep for the night.

I have seen better quality pictures of stars and other night phenomena provided by the Observatory. One of the pictures I have seen shows many stars in the background of some of our weather instruments on the parapet. Just look at all of those stars! If I were there for this, I would have felt like I was in space.


After seeing Mount Washington's night sky, I went and purchased a field guide to the night sky. Hopefully I will be able to see more stars and other night phenomena sometime during my stay here during the summer. Maybe then I would be able to identify more constellations and planets!

Jillian Reynolds, Summit Intern

15:46 Tue Jun 13, 2017

Taking a Closer Look at the "Rockpile"
Although my internship at the Observatory this summer has been entirely focused on meteorology so far, I study geology in college and often I find myself inspecting the boulder formations while working and while using the auto road to travel up and down the mountain on shift change days. I picked up a geology book from the museum shop (The Geology of New Hampshire’s White Mountains) to learn a little more about a region that is clearly very unique from a geologic standpoint. I am fascinated by the combination of volcanic, metamorphic, sedimentary and glacial processes that have shaped Mount Washington into the mountain it is today. Ironically, many of the rocks in the “granite state” are not granite! New Hampshire got its nickname from the lucrative 19th century industry when granite was obtained in quarries for building cities such as Boston. Granite formations are common in the bedrock, but the nickname can be misleading.
Littleton Rocks Formation
Driving up the auto road, one of the most easily recognizable geologic features is the complex folding in the weathered metamorphic rock known as schists, shown below. The rocks that are exposed on the summit of Mount Washington are part of the Littleton Formation, which are also visible on the higher peaks of the White Mountains. The signature folding is visible on many of the boulders around the summit in the alpine zone. Sediment from volcanic eruptions deposited on the bottom of the prehistoric ocean during the mountain-building event that formed the White Mountains, later metamorphosing and deforming under extreme pressures and forming those signature folds.
However, note that in this picture, the fold shown is concave downward, like a rainbow. This stratigraphy is upside down from the base of Pinkham Notch, for example, where the folds are “rightside up.” The explanation for this comes millions of years later, during the glacial events of the Pleistocene Epoch which formed trademark features of the Presidentials. The most recent Pleistocene glacier, known as the Laurentide ice sheet, carved some of the U shaped valleys, such as Crawford Notch, Huntington Ravine and Tuckerman Ravine. It also inverted the rocks at the summit of Mount Washington with its extreme frictional forces.

Elizabeth Perry, Summit Intern

12:30 Mon Jun 12, 2017

The Science of Sunsets

Sunsets and sunrises are lovely phenomena indeed. The coming and going of the days and nights are incredible in it of themselves, but there is something about the painted flames of color seeming to emerge out of nowhere that makes people stop in their tracks. You may have found yourself with strangers on the side of the road, on the beach or upon a mountain gazing at the deepening reds and oranges, exclaiming your admiration for the beauty, despite never having met them before in your life. That really is a wonderful thing that nature does – we all forget about the darker parts of the world and focus on the light.

As a scientist, I am intrigued not only by the natural beauty of sunrises and sunsets, but also the science behind the colors. I have been fortunate enough to witness many sunsets during my short time on the summit so far, and all of them have been different in many ways, especially from ones I’ve seen in the valley.


There are many factors that determine the types of sunsets that we see, including location, seasons, cloud type, and smoke, among others. To begin with the typical trends, sky colors are produced as a result of the scattering of light by air molecules in the atmosphere. Because air molecules are much smaller than the wavelengths of light, they have proven to be very effective at scattering light (known as Rayleigh scattering). However, due to these molecules being closer in size to the wavelength of violet, and the sensitivity of the human eye to blue light, we see a blue daytime sky. As it nears the end of the day, the lovely colors often seen at sunset can be attributed to the fact that at such a low zenith angle, the sun’s rays must pass through a thicker amount of atmosphere before reaching the earth. This increases the amount of violet and blue being scattered out, causing the observer to see a more reddened color – the longer end of the spectrum with regard to wavelength (NOAA).


Image credit: Bob King of http://astrobob.areavoices.com/.

Many sunsets with a crisp, clear sky can be remarkable, as you are able to see the gradient of color from the horizon to the darkening night sky. However, when a cloud runs ablaze with the tip of the sun on the horizon, it can appear as if the sky was magnificently painted in a range of acrylics. Cloud type/height is one of the most important factors, as they act as a multi-layer backdrop for the colors of sunset and sunrise. The most vivid colors will often be seen in the highest clouds, typically cirrus and altocumulus, as the light has not had to pass through the lowest layer of the atmosphere (known as the boundary layer) which contains large particles of dust and haze. In the case that the lower cloud deck is lighting up with vivid colors, this is an indication of a dry, clean boundary layer with much smaller particles. Clouds such as altocumulus often exist at inversions, where there is typically a sizable amount of wind shear. This can create a wavelike effect that can change dramatically and create a wonderful display as the sun rays hit them (NOAA).


This is where the phrase “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” stems from, and there is actually quite a bit of truth to this old saying. In the case of an evening sky

covered heavily with mid to high level clouds displaying the vivid oranges and reds, it is likely that weather and instability in the upper atmosphere is likely to dissipate, indicating more stable air/high pressure moving in. If you see this at sunrise, however, it likely means that this stability has already passed, means there is likely weather on the way, moving in from the east.

It is not only clouds within the troposphere, the first layer of the atmosphere that can contribute to the colors. Particles in the stratosphere can also induce some intriguing optics. In the case that there is volcanic ash/smoke present in the atmosphere, vibrant colors can be observed, especially after the sun is set. Typically these particles are invisible during the day due to scattered sunlight, but within the half hour after sunset, the stratosphere is still illuminated and allows these upper level clouds to appear. This effect can be magnified if a recent eruption from a volcano spews ash into the upper atmosphere.

One of the most rare and interesting aspects of the rising and setting of the sun is the famous “green flash.” It is a phenomenon that occurs primarily at sunset and over the ocean, where temperature inversions are frequent. Just as the top of the sun’s disk sinks below the horizon, a fleeting green hue may appear. This is due to light being refracted by the atmosphere – the blue light is scattered, while yellow and oranges are absorbed, so all that is left are the red and green wavelengths. This will make it appear as if there are a red and a green sun stacked on one another, leaving the green flash to appear just as it dips below the horizon (Library of Congress).


Image credit: ESO Photo Ambassador Gianluca Lombard
After looking through some of the archived log books up here on the summit, I found that many of the comments included an observation of the green flash. Truly remarkable things can be seen from up here on the mountain!


Julia Moreland, Summit Intern

17:10 Fri Jun 09, 2017

The Strange Clouds of Mount Washington

Any weather watcher, whether a professional or just someone who enjoys following along as an enthusiast, is familiar with the common cloud types identified by meteorologists. They are categorized by shape and base height, using Latin derived names such as cumulus meaning ‘heap’ or cirrus meaning ‘hair.’ These naming standards were first developed as early as 1802 by English meteorologist Luke Howard. The majority of common cloud types became standardized by the end of the 19th century. Weather observers at the summit continuously monitor the skies and take note of any interesting or unique cloud formations.


Figure 1: Chart of common cloud types, from UCAR Center for Science Education, 2012.

However, as weather observations have become more frequent and advanced in the last several decades, new and strange cloud types have been identified. Many of these extraordinary formations can be seen right here from the summit of Mount Washington.

The most commonly seen ­­of these oddities is a lens shaped cloud known as a lenticular cloud. The lenticular cloud, also known (elevation depending) as stratocumulus, altocumulus, or cirrocumulus lenticularis, often forms around obstructions in the atmosphere, especially mountain ranges. As stable, moist air flows over a boundary (such as the White Mountains), the protrusion of the boundary causes turbulence. Waves caused by these disturbances, will form lenticular clouds if the temperature and dew point are equal at the apex of the wave. These clouds are so bizarre that they may be a reason for some UFO reports by uninformed onlookers near mountain ranges.


Figure 2: A lenticular cloud seen above the summit sign seen in 2015.

Just this morning, summit staff received a show of another unique cloud attribute classified as asperitas, previously known as undulatus aspertatus. This is one of the newest supplementary cloud features, formally added to the International Cloud Atlas in March 2017. These formations appear to move like waves, undulating overhead as they move through the sky. They are extremely dynamic, and are caused by wind shear at cloud level. While today they were preceding thunderstorms to the summit’s north, these choppy, wavelike clouds are not always seen near to the time of convective activity.


Figure 3: Asperitas clouds seen by summit staff at around 7:30 AM this morning.

Mammatus are another supplementary feature of various cloud types. They are characterized by sacs of cold air hanging off of the base of a cloud. Unlike asperitas, these clouds are often associated with severe weather nearby. They are also associated with extreme vertical gradients of temperature and moisture at cloud height. Both mammatus and asperitas clouds are currently being researched by atmospheric scientist across the world to find out more about what mechanisms generate their formation. We also got to witness the asperatis clouds slowly become mammatus, two rare cloud elements in one day!


Figure 4: The mammatus clouds are characterized by the pouches of cold air hanging off the base, as seen here today.

The next time you visit the summit, be sure to try to identify the clouds overhead and below. Whether it’s a common fair weather cumulus or one of these unusual sights, remember to appreciate the science and beauty of our atmosphere.

Margaret Jividen, Summit Intern

20:21 Tue Jun 06, 2017

The Return of the Intern: My First Week Back

In January of 2016, I had the privilege of coming up to the summit of Mount Washington as the student intern from Plymouth State University. Although I got to experience some of the most extreme weather during my shortened, two week internship, I knew that I wanted to come back for more! So, when the time came to apply for the summer internship I submitted my application and was given the opportunity to return to the summit for the summer. Words cannot even explain how excited I am to be back here!


I am originally from Derry, New Hampshire but attended college at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. I recently graduated from PSU with a Bachelor’s of Science in Meteorology and will be returning in the Fall to begin working toward a Master’s of Science in Applied Meteorology. I’m excited to get back to Plymouth and start graduate school but I know that I won’t want my time here at the observatory to be over with.

At first I thought that the summer internship wouldn’t be as exciting as the winter internship, but that assumption was almost instantaneously shut down. On the first day we were lucky enough to be in the midst of severe thunderstorms that were impacting the Northeast all day. We all crowded around a radar display on several different occasions watching hail and lightning reports appear as the squall line moved eastward; we knew we were in for a treat. As the storm finally made its way over the White Mountains, we began to see wind gusts over 60 mph and half inch hail soon after! While we all crowded around the windows in the weather room, we finally got what we were looking for, lightning strikes! Lightning made contact with the summits around us while one was a direct strike!


While the thunderstorm was very exciting, it was only the beginning. Winter decided to pay us one last visit during this shift! Seeing colder temperatures and a mix of snow and sleet in the forecast got my inner weather nerd fired up for the next few days. Long behold, I got to experience what I was hoping for, snow in June! There’s something about winter weather that never fails to amaze me, and being exposed to those types of conditions during late May and June just brought that amazement to a whole new level.


Seeing almost every season condensed into one week has already exceeded my expectations of what I would experience through the internship. It’s been a great first week back on the Rockpile and I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer and seeing what the higher summits have to offer!

Sam Webber, Summit Intern

17:04 Sun Jun 04, 2017

My Home For the Summer

Hello! My name is Jillian Reynolds and I am here to tell you about my first week of being a weather intern for the Mount Washington Observatory.


I am from a small town southeast of Buffalo, NY called East Aurora. Every summer my family and I spend our days relaxing at my cottage that is located along Lake Erie. It was here where my love for the weather began after watching thunderstorms develop along the lake's horizon.

I recently graduated from the SUNY College at Brockport with a BS in Meteorology. All throughout my college career, my friends have always told me that I was crazy for wanting to intern on top of the tallest peak in the northeastern United States. I have wanted this ever since I got a tour from one of the past interns about 5 years ago. Luke, the intern, showed me around the weather room, the observation tower, and let me see the different tools they used to measure the weather. Everything was so new and exciting for me because I have never experienced extreme weather like this before.


After volunteering this past summer, I was able to interact with the observers and interns more. Each of them explained how to measure and forecast for this unpredictable type of weather.

So far, being an intern is everything I hoped it would be and more. I get to help the observers with forecasting, talking on the radio, and measuring observations. I also get to assist with research for the Observatory's Director of Research, Dr. Kelsey. Through this internship, I hope to learn more about what is like to work for the "Home of the World’s Worst Weather" and becoming part of a meteorological team.


Jillian Reynolds, Summit Intern

15:35 Fri Jun 02, 2017

My First Week!

Hello fellow weather lovers! My name is Nicole Tallman and I have the privilege to be one of the interns for the Mount Washington Observatory this summer. I first heard about Mount Washington at the 2016 American Meteorological Society Conference, or as us meteorologists call it, AMS. I was greeted by the very friendly Dr. Eric Kelsey and told all about the wonders of Mount Washington. Hearing about the extreme storms including the direct hits of thunderstorms to the summit was what originally peaked my interest. I looked into the observatory, applied for the 2017 summer internship and now here I am! 

I am from central New Jersey where I live and attended school. I have just graduated with a BS in Meteorology from Rutgers University this May. I also studied geology as a minor. Mount Washington is the perfect place to combine my love for both meteorology and geology. At Rutgers University I was able to pursue my passion in meteorology by holding an executive position on the Meteorology Club my senior year as well as being a weather broadcaster for our campus TV station for all 4 years. Outside of meteorology I also was a part of the Governing Council and a member of the honors and service co-ed fraternity, Alpha Zeta. I filled my free time by helping my campus and the community through these organizations.  


My first day on the summit started with awe-inspiring views of valley fog between the peaks of mountains during our adventurous drive to the summit. Already, I was hooked. The day only got better as the potential for thunderstorms rolled in. As I mentioned earlier I am an avid lover of thunderstorms and this potential had me stirring with excitement. Being filled with uncontainable joy was quite the first impression on my fellow interns and supervisors. When the storm hit it came with what seemed like all cylinders firing. There was a rise in wind speed, hail, and my favorite: lightning. While collecting hail there was a strike of lightning that had to be the closest strike I’ve ever experienced. Instead of being terrified as many would I was drawn towards the windows in pure joy. Having this thunderstorm hit us on my very first day at the summit was a sign that this place is meant for me. The amazing weather hasn’t ended there. Today I have had my first experience with rime ice and freezing fog. While I was not jumping for joy over the fact that the temperatures have dropped I am still very excited to learn about unfamiliar weather phenomena.


Nicole Tallman, Summit Intern


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