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Observer Comments

17:10 Fri May 22, 2015

Mount Washington's Iceberg


When hiking around Mount Washington you never know what you will find given our dramatic weather. While hiking on the trails, one of our summer interns came across this large ice block frozen in a basement. To give you a perspective on the size of this giant ice block, it comes just two feet shy of the top of the basement and fills the whole room. Now how would you like to come home to your basement filled with this? Unfortunately this ice block will not be melting anytime soon without the help of some sledge hammers and ice chisels. Due to the size of ice, it will affect the surrounding air temperature keeping it below freezing and the core of the ice solid. In addition, since the basement is well insulated the whole basement acts like a giant freezer. Here is an interesting fact; before modern technology, sailing ships would freeze the bottom of their hulls to keep their storage fresh. Also large blocks of ice were shipped on wagons so that they would still remain frozen upon arrival.

Of course one of the most fascinating things about this picture is the layers of ice and their different colors. Water is a fascinating substance by how the properties of freezing change according to temperatures. When water freezes near 32F/0C, it takes on a whitish color due to the crystalline structure of the ice. Towards the bottom of the ice it is clear like glass. This occurs when water freezes well below the freezing level and the crystalline structure is very organized. We can actually use these layers to help identify when in time they froze. During the early part of winter, Mount Washington was very cold with several weeks at or below zero. Having that knowledge we can then determine that the ice clear block occurred during that time and then each layer afterward could be connected to an event.

Will Hatheway, Intern

18:51 Wed May 20, 2015

A Wonderful Volunteer Week on the Summit

Another shift as an Observatory volunteer is sadly coming to a close. We started the shift with a tenuous ride up the ice covered road with the wind howling. Winter wasn’t quite ready to release its grip on the mountain. Once up top we did the shift change and then got about our daily chores. The prior shift’s volunteer had left a large piece of ham so the getting the first night’s supper on the table was especially easy. The rest of the week’s meals presented some substitution challenges, as it was just prior to freezer restocking, but it worked out. Ever make enchiladas with a meat mixture of stew meat/breakfast patties/Italian hot sausage? I brought a few food items along in my luggage and they helped get me through the week.

As this was a shift with only 3 other people I had time to enjoy some of the perks being a volunteer has to offer, including getting out for a few long hikes on the Crawford and Tuckerman trails and going out on the deck to see some amazing sunrises and sunsets. This was the sunrise on May 18.


I was also able to do some people watching and took photos for a few guests when asked. A large group of Observatory members plus the Governor of NH visited the summit via the Cog Railway as part of the annual meeting. A few stopped down to say hello and chat.

Every shift I’ve been on, at shift change Kaitlyn, co-director of Summit Operations, asks me how the week went and I jokingly say “best week ever”. But in reality it usually has been. Each time up here I get to know the Observers a bit more, and there are new things to see and learn, new cooking challenges, new interns to meet, and of course the ever changing weather. All these new things build upon the experiences from the prior shifts. As a bonus, although this is my vacation from work, I always head back there with a better grasp of how critical reliability, teamwork, work ethic, and comradery is to the success of any given operation. Life and work at the Observatory is quite different than most other workplaces, but the lessons one can learn here to take back to your own workplace are invaluable.

So whether you are looking to get away from it all, to do something different for vacation, to enjoy the mountain, or even to get a lesson in team building I’d highly recommend  it and become a member. The benefits are many, including the opportunity to do a shift as a volunteer.

Steve Crossman, Summit Volunteer

14:29 Sun May 17, 2015

Kicking Off Summer

Today is Sunday which means I have now been at the summit of Mount Washington for a total of three whole days. It is hard to quantify how much I have learned, and the awesome in the hours I’ve been here. I have been a student of meteorology for three years now which has certainly helped me learn the ins and outs of weather forecasting, but putting it to practice atop the Northeast’s highest peak, is already proving to be an experience of tremendous value.

                My name is Nathan Flinchbaugh, and I have been fortunate enough to be selected to spend a large portion of my summer working as an intern at the Mount Washington Observatory. As a native of Pennsylvania, I got bit by the weather bug at a very young age. As I grew older, my interest in weather patterns grew to the point that I enrolled in the meteorology program at Penn State University, where I am still currently a student. While I consider myself a PA guy through and through, Keystone State weather always left me desiring a little more. Sure, I grew up with snow in the winter, but not 200+ inches. And yes, we got our fair share of thunderstorms in the summer, but never to the strength of a Mount Washington storm. And Pennsylvania does have charming rolling hills and ridges, but nothing that could possibly compare to the beauty, danger, and enchantment of the Whites.


                When I saw that there was an internship position open at the observatory, I immediately knew it was an opportunity I could not pass up. And in March, when it was time to come up for my interview, not only would it be my first trip up the Auto Road in a Snow cat, but actually my first time ever to the state of New Hampshire period. The trip did not disappoint. Visibility was over 100 miles that day with virtually no wind, which is rare for Mount Washington.

                The trip up this past Wednesday, which happened to be my first day on the job, was just as invigorating, but in a different way. A potent cold front had just passed through New England the night before, and Mount Washington was returning to its wintry roots. About a mile or two on our trip up the Auto Road we were forced to pull over and put chains on the tires to negate the heavy icing taking place in the miles ahead. As we made our cautious crawl to the top, winds became unforgiving, and the fog became dense and heavy. The first task I helped with when I arrived at the top was de-icing the tower, which had become encased in rime. Winds had diminished to the 50-60 mph range, but nevertheless, standing on the tower while getting pelted with freezing rain and wind, I knew I had arrived at the home of the world’s worst weather.


                Luckily, conditions improved quickly, and Thursday and Friday turned out to be beautiful spring days. These were the days I got to really learn the basics of taking observations and coding them in by shadowing the full-time observers, as well as several mountain forecasting techniques.  I am very much looking forward to what the rest of the summer brings, and what I will learn.

At the end of the day, I always take time to explore around the summit. This is when I’m able to really focus on the breathtaking views that the summit offers in the fleeting moments that it’s no longer hiding in the clouds. And whether it’s watching the sunset over the Green Mountains of Vermont, staring up at the planetarium-like night sky, or watching the dim glow of Montreal’s city lights off to the distant north, it’s in those moments I discover there’s no place I’d rather spend my summer.

Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern

14:31 Fri May 15, 2015

From Glaze to Haze

Our shift's arrival to the summit on Wednesday was shrouded in fog and caked in slippery glaze ice. It was not exactly the welcome we were expecting, but Mount Washington is not exactly known for its warm hospitality. Nevertheless, we braved the slick roads and low visibilities and made it to the summit in decent time (thanks to the chains on our tires).


It never ceases to amaze me when I witness the amount of glaze ice that can accrue on the summit after a single night of sub-freezing temperatures accompanied by fog. Towers, buildings, instruments, and all other surfaces were completely encased in chilly confines, giving us all a hankering for glazed donuts.


It would not take long for this shiny coating to loosen its grip on the summit paraphernalia, though. Temperatures yesterday climbed above freezing enough to begin the melting process, while today's highs soared well into the 40s, eating away at the glaze with much efficiency. The sounds of large ice-chunks falling off of all the summit towers has been the proverbial theme song for the day today, which has struck quite an ominous tone during our weather observations. The crystal-clear horizon of the dry winter months has morphed into a more milky and hazy air quality, which will stick with us until snow begins to creep  back into our forecasts.


With the ice managing to melt as quickly as it did, the Mt. Washington Auto Road opened its gates to the public on Thursday morning, allowing ascents to the summit for the first time since October of 2014! With as long and brutal as this winter was, it was a welcome sight to see cars climbing Home Stretch--a scene signaling that summer has officially arrived for us summit-dwellers.

Mike Carmon, Co-Director of Summit Operations

18:44 Tue May 12, 2015

Snow is Quickly Melting on the Summit!
The last few days have been beautiful here on the summit! Changing my heavy-duty winter EMS outfit out with my lighter-weight summer EMS gear feels so nice. I even managed to get a short-sleeve ob in this week! As temperatures have warmed, even hitting 90 in the southern part of the state, the snow pack on the summit has dwindled. The only snow that remains on the summit is in isolated patches, and even those patches will be gone soon. Looking north along the ridge of the Northern Presidential Range, it is extremely evident which direction our prevailing winds come from. The East side of the ridge has an impressive amount of snow on it, which will likely last for another month or two!

Our Tucks Zoom webcam has captured some impressive melting in Tuckerman Ravine. Below is a time lapse of that view. Note the crowded Saturday and Sunday at the beginning of the clip. Also, check out the wet snow avalanches that occur towards the beginning of the video! If you're interested in seeing this view every day (or at least every day our webcam on top of Wildcat has a clear view), we offer this view to our members, so become a member today! Non-members can still access the general view of the Ravines here, which refreshes every 5 minutes.
The before and after pictures are quite impressive as well! It's amazing what 12 days of melting can do!  This link only works on Chrome browsers, but shows the below image in slider form.

 Summer is coming! We can feel it here on the summit!

Michael Dorfman, Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:57 Sun May 10, 2015

Stalled Out Sunday
If you’ve glanced at the forecast lately, you already know that it’s going to be a soggy next couple of days.
With thunderstorms looking pretty likely this afternoon, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the frontal activity that will produce this week’s wet weather.
The origins of these conditions began with a low pressure system racing through Canada. While the system strengthened, a deep cold front stretched down into the United States, but as the storm spun northeast towards Greenland, the approaching front stalled just north of New England. 
And this brings us to where we are now, with the idling front slowly sinking over us.
Let’s take a look at some satellite imagery…
Satellite viewImage Courtesy of NCEP and the University of Washington Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences
There’s quite a bit to look at right now…
We can see tropical storm Ana sitting over the Carolinas, as well as a strong system over Nebraska (heading our way!).
However, the main feature that we should note is the front sitting over NH. Notice how it basically strings into the warm front extending from the Nebraska low.   Therein lies our weather for the next few days.
The Nebraska low is expected to approximately track along the long frontal band. This means that northern New Hampshire will sit pinned along frontal boundaries for a good chunk of time. Essentially, we’ll be resting roughly at the intersection of cold air moving in from the northeast and warm air moving in from the southwest.
This creates prime conditions for rain and chances of thunderstorms. To produce heavy rain or thunderstorms, the atmosphere needs to provide an unstable environment that will be conducive for rising air, or convection. This instability can be likened to that of a hot air balloon. The more heat you add to the balloon, the higher the temperature within the balloon, and the less dense the air. And so the balloon rises…
The mixing of warm and cold air that occurs at frontal boundaries produces a similar effect that can lead to cloud formation, rain, and even thunderstorms if the atmosphere is properly unstable.
The lift provided by airflow over mountains can also help spur rising air needed for cloud formation, precipitation, and thunderstorms.
Let’s take a look at where the lightning is coming in at the moment…
Satellite viewImage Courtesy of the WWLLN and the University of Washington Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences
So no lightning around the summit quite yet, but with lightning strikes emerging around Lake Champlain, I do expect we’ll see some lightning strikes around the summits this evening.

Nate Iannuccillo, Summit Intern

18:04 Sat May 09, 2015

Observing the World With My Ears
Friday, everyone at the Observatory took turns to go out for a hike. While Kaitlyn went to Mt. Clay (see yesterday's comment), I chose to go east into the Alpine Garden, out to Lion Head, and back up the summit cone. The surrounding mountains and distant vistas were a sight to behold. The earthy smell of the melt water rushing all over the mountain was a hearty scent to take in. The sun shining overhead felt warm on the skin and couldn’t help but make one happy and wanting to be out. And while I enjoyed seeing, smelling, and feeling yesterday's weather, I also paused and took in the sounds of the afternoon too.

When I got to the junction of the Alpine Garden Trail and Lion Head Trail, I paused and really listened to all that was going on around me. At first, all that could be heard was the beat of my heart and the equally rhythmic sound of my lungs. However, after these dampened and slowed to a more normal “background” pace, other noises came into focus. As snow melted the sounds of water varied from slight drips, to gentle babbling brooks over and under surrounding terrain, eventually giving way to the thundering sound of the waterfall in Tuckerman Ravine. As trees warmed, snow that was once clinging to them gave up their grasp and could be heard falling off making splat noises that come from slushy and corned spring snow. Various birds could be heard fluttering by and occasionally pausing to call out to their potential mates. Bugs could be heard buzzing and whirling about and they set forth to make the most of their short lives on the summit. Occasionally a light breeze would rustle the branches of a tree, the sedge, and up and around various boulders. Hiker, skier, and snowboarder conversations could faintly be overheard and occasionally the call of whoops, hollers and cheers could be heard exuberantly coming from Tuckerman momentarily dominating the soundscape. Footsteps in the snow from distant hikers along with the swooshing noises from the turns of skiers/boarders on neighboring snowfields sliced through the air.

However, as I focused more and more on what I could hear, a faint rhythmic ticking noise could be heard. Tick...tick...tick...what was that…? Then it hit me, it was the the faint but ever present sounds of the second hand on my watch ticking away and eventually breaking my concentration. While I could have remained there in that moment for a while longer, it was time to break my focus, continue on my hike and gradually make my way back to the summit and work. While the moment had to come to an end, it was nice to pause for a moment and really listen to the world around me; something I think we should all do from time to time.

Short description of imagePano of Friday afternoon looking from Boott Spur (left) to LaFayette (right)

Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist

19:21 Fri May 08, 2015

B&H: Breaking and Hiking!
Today was one of those days that begged you to get outside, and I couldn’t pass it up! We started off under nearly clear skies and by 7AM the temperature was already 47 degrees. The wind was practically non-existent, allowing for the sound of trickling water from the melting snow to be clearly heard as it rushed through the rocks below; searching for the most direct route off the summit. After a productive morning, I headed out for an afternoon hike over to Mount Clay. 
View of Great Gulf WildernessLooking into the Great Gulf Wilderness below
 By this time, the temperature had reached 53 degrees! 
Mount Washington Cog RailwayOur friends at the Mount Washington Cog Railway hard at work
It was a perfect day to leave the office for a bit and get a quick training hike in for Seek the Peak this July!  
View of Mount Washington from Mount ClayGlancing back at Mount Washington from Mount Clay
If you haven’t signed up yet, there’s still time. Visit seekthepeak.org to get started today. I’ll see you there!

Kaitlyn O'Brien, Co-director of Summit Operations

15:57 Thu May 07, 2015

One Last Sunrise
Wednesday was the last day of my winter internship at the Observatory, and so I felt obliged to get up to see the sunrise for a final time. I’m usually upstairs in the weather room by 6:40 for our morning radio weather report to the AMC, but the last time I was able to really sit and watch a sunrise was probably back in March, right after daylight savings began. Wednesday’s show wasn’t spectacular, but it was crisp and quick and struck me because of how far north the sun rose. When I’d last seen it the sun came up over Wildcat, while today it rose over the northern end of the Carter-Moriah’s, just shy of Nelson Crag. Of course, I’ve seen this progression with the sunsets as well, but it was more jarring to see the location of the sunrise shift in one big jump, and it made me think about the transitions that are taking place up here.

This past weekend we saw spring hit the summit with full force. The Cog welcomed its first guests of the summer, skiers and hikers flocked to the summit as we hit 50 degrees for the first time this season, and we just about broke into applause when we saw the Mt Washington Auto Road crew round the corner onto homestretch in their gargantuan effort to clear the road of snow. Songbirds have returned to the summit (I have a lot of respect for the ravens who were a presence throughout the winter) and the melting snow is crawling with spiders and other insects, and even a caterpillar or two. Inside the Observatory things are changing too. This week the storm windows were taken down and we enjoyed a fresh breeze in the weather room, our forecasts are including periods of lighter winds and days without wind chills, and Marty Kitty is finding time to get outside and to enjoy some belly rubs in the sunshine on his favorite chair (he’s also shedding a lot…).

This period of transition makes this feel like an appropriate time for my internship to end. I would certainly enjoy staying on the mountain through a full year to see the rest of the cycle. Soon the leafing of trees will be creeping up the valleys and the alpine gardens will go into full bloom, and it probably won’t feel like summer was long enough when the fall foliage begins sweeping south and the first snow flies. But if I had to pick one season to spend up here, there’s no question it would be winter. This has been an exciting and memorable four months, with too many incredible moments to list (I’m only a little bit jealous that the other shift was up for that 141 mph wind), and an experience that far outpaced my expectations. Most of all though, it has been a great pleasure to spend this time with my shift, to learn from them and get to know them under some pretty unique circumstances. I am grateful to them and everyone in the organization for this opportunity, and to the many volunteers who kept me so well fed this winter. It is a special feeling to have been part of the community of people who have worked and lived on top of Mount Washington. Good luck to the incoming summer interns!

Sunrise from Mount Washington May 2015My last sunrise from the summit

Adam Freierman, Summit Intern

15:40 Tue May 05, 2015

Snow... No Snow

Another week (well just about another week) has passed, and another amazing change of scenery for the White Mountains. At the beginning of the shift I wrote a comment talking about how winter has taking back control of the higher summits. Now it is safe to say that spring has taken back the higher summits, as 15 inches of snow has melted, leaving the summit almost bare of snow.

Before and after fifteen inches of snow melt on Mount Washington

Thanks to gorgeous, sunny, warm weather all weekend, followed by above-freezing temperatures and fog, the summit’s 19 inches of ground cover has dropped to just 5 inches. The spring thaw has allowed for the Mount Washington Cog Railway to make their first trips to the summit this weekend, while the Mount Washington Auto Road’s road crew made tremendous progress in the clearing of the snow from the road. While chillier weather is in the forecast, the temperatures will remain close if not slightly above average for this time of year. Soon enough, the Sherman Adams building will be open 7 days a week, both the Cog and Auto Road will be running their summer schedules, and you can once again come visit the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather”!

Michael Kyle, Weather Observer/IT Specialist

16:15 Mon May 04, 2015

Quiet Times

It's been a quiet week on the summit.

There aren't many quiet times working at the Observatory's summit station, but late April-early May is one of those times. Because of that, it’s been a bare-bones crew up here. There’s myself, Kyle, Tom, and our intern Adam. And Marty, of course!


We certainly appreciate all of the visiting guests and summit volunteers throughout the year, as it gives the staff a chance to get to know our members and supporters of the organization. However, it's also nice to occasionally have some more quality time with your shift, where we can unwind and get ready for the busy seasons to come!

This week, without a volunteer, we've been responsible for our own meals, which isn't the case for most of the year. Since culinary is a hobby of mine, I've gone to work most nights cooking dinner for my crew, which is a lot of fun considering the summit kitchen has a ton more space than my own apartment's, and the selection of ingredients is seemingly limitless! Cooking is a method of relaxation for me as well, so it’s a great way to unwind at the end of a 12-hour shift!

I started the week off on Wednesday with a simple pasta dinner, but with my homemade marinara sauce (of course!).  

On Thursday, it was brinner time (breakfast for dinner!). Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage...you name it! It's always a favorite up here.

Friday was Mexican fusion night, which consisted of soft tacos, roasted potatoes, rice and beans!

The last two nights have been more of a collaborative effort amongst the four of us, with homemade mac & cheese, beef sandwiches, and plenty of sides to fill us up!

While my plan for today is still up-in-the-air, I'll finish off the week with one of my specialties up here—homemade pizza!  

Mike Carmon, Co-Director of Summit Operations

21:03 Sat May 02, 2015

Photography From The Winter Of 2015

 Truly talented photographers can probably make incredible shots anywhere, anytime. But for the rest of us I think its all about being in the right place in the right time. The summit of Mount Washington is definitely the right place, and over the course of this past winter I was fortunate to come across some stunning scenes. Maybe pictures don't quite convey -90 wind chills (so glad its almost summer...) but they are a great reminder of some of the reasons we are all so thrilled to live up here. Here are a few of my best pictures from my winter internship:


Adam Freierman, Summit Intern

17:23 Fri May 01, 2015

Spring Is On The Way!

Although this past week definitely took us back a bit, with the month of May now underway it seems that Spring is finally set to arrive across the higher summits. April ended on a very snowy note with 55 inches of snow falling through the month, more snow than we’ve seen since the month of January. All of this new snow along with the mostly below freezing temperatures led to an increase in snow cover above tree line, with a low of about 9 inches of snow depth on the 18th increasing all the way up to 19 inches to end out the month.

The beginning of May will bring much warmer temperatures to New England this weekend and into next week, with the stronger sun angle liking resulting in a quick melt out of much of the snow in place across the higher elevations. High pressure will result in plenty of sunshine by Sunday, with temperatures climbing to their warmest readings so far this year in the mid to upper 40s through Monday. Beyond this, a cold front will bring temperatures back into the 30s and 40s, with a mostly rain event on Tuesday causing further melting.

With the expected melting, the Auto Road and Cog Railway are working very hard to prepare for opening fully for the season. The Sherman Adams building will also be officially open to the public for the first time tomorrow. Although it may not look like it outside yet, Summer is just around the corner!

All this snow won't be lasting much longer! 

Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Meteorologist
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