09:52 Wed Aug 31, 2016
Comments from a Volunteer
Wow, the week evaporated! It's Wednesday morning and my time on Mt Washington summit as a volunteer is about to end. You see Wednesday is shift change day. We arrived a week ago to early morning fog that quickly became clear skies. We will depart in the clouds and rain.
When I signed up for this adventure last March, the visibility of what to expect was poor, maybe a 1/16th of a mile. I leave knowing this opportunity has unlimited visibility and was beyond my expectations.
First off our duties as a volunteer include cooking dinner and treats for the staff and any guests of MWOBS tours as well as cleaning of the living area. These tasks are shared with a co-volunteer and for me this week it was Mickey. I truly enjoyed her company and had fun planning and sharing the work. The pantry is well stocked so dinner options are many and since I enjoy being in the kitchen, cooking and baking for others was a delight for me. And the staff and guests truly appreciate your efforts.
So once you plan and complete the above, the remaining free time is yours to enjoy the mountain, the views or a book. I chose to hike on the good weather days and found the trails an inspiring challenge.
Now to the reason everyone comes to the summit of Mt Washington, the weather and views. I have to say I saw a lot of what is possible: awesome sunrises and sunsets as well as clear skies and a view to Camels Hump, 79 miles, in the Vermont Mountains. At night the stars and Milky Way were ever so clear. We even saw fireworks down below at the Cog Railway and waited for the sound to reach us after seeing the explosion. And on the extreme weather side, I experienced 70 mph winds with a peak gust to 91 mph and wind chills below freezing. A thunderstorm slightly to the north one of the evenings was a cool light show.
As I end this week, I wish all others who chose to take this journey clear skies and unlimited visibility (KMWN 185329Z 03003KT 130SM SKC 08/M01). But then again, you may prefer thunderstorms and high winds (KMWN 185329Z 29078G91KTS 0SM +TSRA VV000 05/05 RMK PKWND 290101/47).
Thanks to the staff, Mike C, Adam, Caleb, Ryan and Jan along with Mickey for making this time such an elevating week.
Laura Pickett, Summit Volunteer
17:17 Sat Aug 27, 2016
8 Years on the Rockpile
It's hard to believe (although I'm sure I say that every year) that it's been 8 years since I first stepped foot on the summit of Mount Washington as a summit intern on August 27, 2008. Having never lived outside of the state of New Jersey, my move up to New Hampshire was one I looked at with tremendous trepidation. It was 8 years ago, I was a scant 22 years-old, and I had never had a full-time job, having just graduated college.
The ride over the last 8 years has been tempestuous to say the least, but Mount Washington never fails to provide its trademark twist on all things related to weather and the Observatory. What never ceases to amaze me about this unique location will always be the extremes. I'm sure I take it for granted a lot more than I used to, but 100 mph winds will never EVER get old. If they do, well, then I give one of my shift-mates permission to bludgeon me over the head with one of the Obs' crowbar's, and snap me back into reality (I may delete this sentence later).
I wrote my first comment as an intern on August 28th, and in it I noted that "The weather for the past two days has been so clear and calm that it’s been difficult to be inside at all." Hard to believe, but Mount Washington can provide those stretches of picturesque weather. Little did I know what was in store for me over the next 8 years...
In my next comment that week, I wrote "The winds picked up pretty quickly during the night, and I awoke to the howl of 70 mph gusts. It excited me a great deal, because I was finally going to get to experience the infamous winds that drew me up here in the first place." 70 mph winds; exciting at the time, but there was oh so much more to come...
In November of 2009, a particularly memorable wind storm resulted in the following comments: "Around 5:20 a.m., Steve and Mary Ellen had awoken, and the morning transformed into a Hays Chart-watching session. We were all getting excited about each gust and hoping it would be surpassed by the next. Just before 5:25 a.m., the winds lulled to about 90 mph, then unexpectedly, an incredible roar jolted the building. I bolted to the Hays Chart to discover a reading of 9.8" (nearly off the chart), which converted to 137.4 mph! For the second time during the evening, I couldn't believe my eyes!"
137 mph: now we're talking! That peak remains my personal record wind gust to this day. I've come close a few times, but have never surpassed that 137 mark...YET.
All of the crazy weather I've encountered was something I was anticipating (although not particularly ready for), but as they say, it's what you're not expecting that's most exciting. In this case, the people!
Getting to know and working with the staff that have come and gone during my time at the Observatory's summit station will leave me with the best memories by far when my time at MWO is all said and done.
From Brian Clark and Ryan Knapp, who were the first to train me as an intern, to Steve Welsh, my long-time shift leader and knower-of-all-things-IT. From Stacey Kawecki, the one I could always talk Jersey with, to Jordan Scampoli, my fellow fall-intern who cracked the whip with our nightly shift wall-sit sessions. There was Mike Finnegan, who never failed to give out hugs freely on shift change days, and of course Becca Scholand, who's passion and dedication to MWO never failed to show through. And there's Brian Fitzgerald, one of the few who left only to return as our new Director of Education. Finally, Slim Bryant, our seasoned Snow Cat Operator who got us up and down the Mount Washington Auto Road in harrowing conditions safely, week in and week out. There are far too many interns to list as well, but I certainly remember each one of them and the unique impacts they had on this place.
And then there's the two most recent departures from the summit, namely Mike Kyle and Kaitlyn O'Brien, whom I worked closely with through a time of crazy transitions and seemingly perpetual upheaval on the summit. Saying farewell to the two of them as they moved forward in their careers was particularly bittersweet, but memories and lessons from those trying times will always be amongst the top highlights of my career at MWO thanks to those two fine and dedicated individuals.
There's no time like the present though, and I couldn't be happier with the makeup of my current shift. Working alongside Adam Gill and Caleb Meute is as fun as it is rewarding, due to their colorful personalities, unmatched work-ethics, and unrivaled dedication to the Observatory's mission. This summer we've also been flanked by Jan Berriochoa, our hard-working Museum Attendant, who never fails to remind me how lucky I am to be working in such an amazing place.
Amazing indeed, and I'm looking forward to seeing what another Rockpile winter has in store!
Mike Carmon, Senior Weather Observer & Education Specialist
15:59 Tue Aug 23, 2016
I Don't Want to Go
I don’t want the summer to end. It’s that simple. I’m moving to France in a week; and I should be really excited; but mostly I’m just sad that I’m leaving Mount Washington.
Moonlit Self Portrait
Taking this internship was kind of a risk for me. Knowing that I was moving overseas at the end of the summer, taking an unpaid internship probably wasn’t practical. Thankfully I never let practicality get in the way of opportunity. In combination with my other job, I worked more this summer than I ever have in my life. But that’s the thing about Mount Washington. You don’t really feel like you’re working, because you want to be here.
I wasn’t sure how useful I would be seeing as I’m a mechanical engineer and not a meteorologist, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there were plenty of useful projects for me to work on. I came to the Mount Washington Observatory to learn, but I also wanted to be useful because I really care about the work that they do. I’ve done design work, wiring diagrams, system troubleshooting, and lots of soldering. I think my favorite project I worked on was a solar panel exhibit for the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. I was able to put my education to work by designing and programming the electronics system, and soon an exhibit that I helped design will be installed in a museum. That’s a really cool feeling.
So if I spent my summer doing engineering, did I actually learn anything new up here? Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! I’m not sure if the altitude makes your brain absorb more information or something, but all three of the observers on my shift, Tom Padham, Mike Dorfman, and Ryan Knapp, are walking encyclopedias. Between the three of them they can answer any question I come up with, weather related or not. I don’t think I can actually quantify the amount of knowledge I’ve gained this summer, but for example I did not know what a lenticular cloud was before I came here, and now I can pull words like “anticrepuscular ray” out of my head and use it correctly. This summer has seen a major overhaul of my understanding of environmental systems on a global scale, and it’s pretty awesome.
One of the main reasons I came to Mount Washington was to figure out if I wanted to continue my education in a scientific field as opposed to engineering. I think that participating in the weather observations and seeing how that data is collected was the most important thing I could have done this summer. I know I don’t want to be a meteorologist, but I will possibly need to collect remote environmental data at regular intervals someday. After this experience I think that I do in fact want to be a scientist.
This summer I’ve worked a lot and learned a lot, but the thing that made this summer so memorable for me was the people. It’s pretty scary starting a new job, and it’s terrifying to know that your new job involves living on a remote mountain top with the same seven people that you work with for a week at a time. What if you don’t get along? What if you’re lonely? What if the cat hates you? I guess all of these things could have happened, but thankfully they did not. Our shift got along so well, that we even chose to see each other on our off weeks.
My top 5 memories from the MWO:
5. Accidentally photographing another galaxy
4. Staying up until 3AM to experience eight direct lightning strikes to the summit
3. Seeing the International Space Station whizzing brightly overhead
2. Winter conditions with 110 mph wind gusts my first week
1. Every single theme night
My top 5 shots of the summer:
Ice on the parapet
Milkyway behind the tower
First cog of the day
Undercast pouring over the mountains like a waterfall
Shout out to my brother from another mother, Chris Hohman, for being a ridiculous human being in an absolutely perfect way. You are one of my very best friends. How Do We Take Pause?
And shout out to Tom Padham not only for being an excellent boss, but also for being a great friend and a leader without fear.
So thank you to the Obs and everyone who supports the Obs, and thank you to Chris, Tom, Mike, Ryan, AJ, and Dan for making it so much fun.
The crew on "Decades" night
This was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I will definitely take what I’ve learned here with me, and apply it to my future endeavors.
To quote my favorite Doctor, “I don’t want to go”.
Meredith Campbell, Summit Intern
17:03 Mon Aug 22, 2016
Making Storm Stories of My Own
One question I get asked often times up here is, “What got you into weather?” As the final hour of my internship on top the best place on Earth gets closer and closer, I thought it would be fitting to share my story.
When I was a young aspiring scientist in 3rd grade, I was sitting on the couch one fateful evening watching the weather channel as a program I’d never seen before came on. I don’t remember what completely happened at the start, but I know the program was about a powerful tornado that ripped through a town in the Midwest. I remember I was so afraid of the videos that were playing throughout the show; depicting this incredibly strong atmospheric phenomenon showing such strength and beauty at the same time spinning and whipping around winds with ease.
I was actually so afraid I had to switch to a different channel.
There was something inside of me though, something that told me to turn back to the show. I kept flipping between the channel and something else due to the shear fear it gave me. However by the end of it, I couldn’t stop watching. I thought the whole idea of a super powerful thunderstorm that could create such an awesome sight gave young Christopher Hohman a curiosity that has grown to the passion of my entire life. From that point on I watched every storm story episode I could, and “local on the 8’s” became my favorite news program.
I remember telling everyone from that point on how I wanted to be a meteorologist. I would get every book I could get my hands on to learn as much as I could about the subject. I knew from a very young age it’s what I wanted to do when I was young, and I truly have to thank my family for not discouraging me from my dream. I know it’s very easy to write a little kid off for having a dream, I can’t tell you how many times I was told, “Don’t worry, Chris. You’ll change what you want to do when you grow up soon enough.” My parents always told me I was capable of doing anything, so I took that to heart and let it guide me throughout my schooling career to drive me when times were difficult. I always knew this was the science I wanted to dedicate my life to, so to actually be on top of the world recording weather uniquely seen to only this part of the world? I’d say it’s beyond a dream come true.
This summer has been unique to me because it’s the first in almost 10 years that I didn’t either go to summer camp, or work at one for a whole season. It was strange at first having entire weeks off to hike around the Northeast, but from my first week I knew I’d rather be at the mountain than melting in the blistering heat. My first week I was able to actually be in winds that gusted over 100 mph, and experienced actual rime ice! The rime ice was actually something I was most excited about seeing, after learning about it in my classes earlier in the year, it was automatically the coolest ice formation I’ve ever heard of. So to be able to walk around the summit in a winter wonderland, I think you can tell from this picture I was a little bit more than just excited.
Christopher Hohman, Summer Intern
I think some of the biggest take-aways I have from this internship is just the experience I’ve received from everyone up here. I think we all share that common story of being super excited about weather as a kid, so everyone up here has been extremely eager to answer even the simplest of questions I may have. We all are extremely passionate about what we do up here, I mean us interns willingly took this internship for no pay, we do it because we love the field and want to further it as far as we can. So there is a very strong sense of a family up here on the summit. We all look out for one another, and pitch in a little more if someone is sick or can’t make it up on time for shift change for any reason. We genuinely enjoy the company of one another, and I’ve forged friendships that will last a life time. Meredith, Dorfman, Tom, Dan, and AJ have been some of the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Our hiking trip to Katahdin wasn’t even a question if everyone could go, we just all knew at the start of the summer we were going to do something big like that. We all are extremely close, and wish the best for one another in the best ways possible.
To say Meredith and I became friends quickly might be a bit of an understatement. She came a week before me, so when I pulled in my first day I thought she was one of the observers because of the MWO gear she was already wearing (I hadn’t received mine yet), little did I know I was talking to someone who would eventually enter into the closest circle of my friends. We were nicknamed the “Bobbsey Twins” by some of the volunteers because we’d be together so often. We even have our own code of sign language to communicate with one another. Meredith you are one of the greatest people I’ve ever met, and it’s been a complete honor to work with you. I wish you all the best at the International Space University in France (I know right? Insane); and I expect pictures daily when you’re at the ISS. I would say keep in touch, but I think that goes completely without saying.
I won’t forget any moment of this internship, not one second. This has been the greatest time in my entire life. Spending my off weeks driving across the Northeast as far west as Geneva, New York spending time with my loved ones, and as far east as Millinocket, Maine hiking around Baxter State park with second family. I thank each and every one of you for giving me this experience, and the ability to grow not just as a meteorologist, but as a person as well. Before I finish my last post, I’ll share with you my favorite pictures of the internship:
(Sweet lenticular in the back of this one)
Whenever I end something grand in my life, I always like to pick a song that I listened to a lot during it to sort of be my tribute to that time in my life. I’ve always picked one, but this time two songs just meant so much to me I couldn’t decide. So if you’d like to hear the “Songs of my internship” here they are:
“Concerning Hobbits” –Howard Shore (Listened to this whenever I just liked the view a lot)
“Watermelon” – Tom Rosenthal (Probably the greatest song ever created by man)
Thank you. All of you in my life for have made me the person I am today. I will never be able to show how grateful I truly am. Thank you for helping me create my own storm stories.
Thanks for reading.
20:40 Sat Aug 20, 2016
Most Memorable Weather Event (So Far...)
I was asked by fellow Observer/Meteorologist Tom Padham the other day, what my most memorable weather experience has been while working up here. With over ten years on the summit, one would think it would be easy to narrow that down to one defining weather moment. However, as I started looking back at things, choosing one moment was a bit more difficult than I thought it would be since I have so many moments to choose from. Do I choose the times where I literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face? Do I choose the night I felt the coldest ambient temperatures I have experienced? Do I choose the times I have seen severe weather up here where continuous lightning, hail, heavy rain, and downdrafts of 100+ mph made it feel like the end times? So many events to consider, but the one that sticks out the most is the night of October 29/30, 2006.
When my shift started at 6pm, winds were averaging speeds over 100 mph. With sustained speeds of 100 mph, that meant wind gusts were well over that, frequently reaching the 120’s, 130’s, and even a few 140’s. As the winds built, I almost didn’t know how to mentally digest it all as I was flooded with emotions - excitement, happiness, wonder, and fear to name a few. I had been here for almost a year, so 100 mph winds were nothing new however, winds of this magnitude were. And I was about to start the night shift when I would be left alone until morning. My coworker at the time, Jim Salge, told me before heading off to bed, wake him (or the intern) up if I need someone to help out.
So come 10 pm, I went solo, working cautiously and trying to get my daily tasks done as what sounded like a freight train barrelled towards the summit. During these high winds, it had precipitated which meant the precipitation can in the middle of the summit would need to be collected. If conditions are deemed too dangerous to go out (lightning, high winds, etc), we have the option to collect it and report it at a later time. Leading up to the collection time, I had decided it wasn’t worth it and we would collect it in the morning. As midnight rolled around though, winds lulled to a sustained speed of about 80 mph. With speeds like that, getting the can is a cake walk for me. So I swapped the can, returned to the weather room, measured it, de-iced the instruments, collected the outdoor data, and submitted my observation per usual. The most challenging part of my night shift was past, so I breathed a sigh of relief and was ready for whatever was sent our way the rest of night. I didn’t have to wait long though.
The next hour, winds started to build, and build, and build. Sustained winds were rising well above 100 mph with gusts in the 130’s...140’s...then crossing the 150’s. A cup of water on our weather desk was rippling like the T-rex scene from Jurassic Park. The sound outside the storm windows was deafening and unlike anything I had ever heard in my life even to this day. Chunks of rime and ice could be heard hitting the windows like some sci-fi horror film. The difference in pressures in the building from the the gusting winds were making my ears pop every few seconds. This was unique...this was awesome...this...sucked! I read the clock and as we started to crest in speed, it was time to go deice the instruments and gather our weather readings. Yea me!
I suited up, strained to open the door to our tower and started to climb the stairs giving me the feeling like I was heading to the gallows. I was trembling as I headed up the stairs thinking, “What are you doing!?” I strained to pull the door open to go in the lee (sheltered side) of the building and gather the temperature readings and heard the ferocity of it all whipping around me outside. Step one was done, now to the matter of deicing. I grabbed a really long crowbar and thought, I will try to do what I can from the safety of the lower parapet. I reached the top, went up a few rungs of the ladder, and swung into the wind seeing my crowbar move like the bullet-time effect scenes from the Matrix. And just like Neo from that movie, all I could say was, “Woah!”
Feeling good enough about my deicing task, I retreated back to the weather room shaking from adrenaline as I felt gusts I have never felt before. I got back to the weather room and saw my coworker Jim up as he could hear/feel the change in the winds, and wanted to ensure I was still alive and kicking. Pulling up the database, we checked the peak wind I was out in - 158 mph! The highest wind gust I have experienced and it is what makes it the weather experience that I define as my most memorable on the summit...at least so far...
Hays wind chart October 29, 2006
Hays wind chart October 30, 2006
Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist
09:27 Fri Aug 19, 2016
Battling the Elements
With summer slowly coming to an end and winter just around the corner on the summit I find myself thinking of some of my most memorable weather events on the Rockpile. I’ve worked up here for roughly 3 and a half years now, and seen more than my fair share of weather, from severe summer thunderstorms to complete whiteout conditions and category 3 hurricane force winds.
I love all the weather I get to experience up here on the summit, but I do have a least favorite: ice storms. Any kind of mixed precipitation can make our observations very complicated and also very unpleasant to be outside. Imagine sleet and freezing rain combined with winds over 100 mph: the sleet can be downright painful even with several layers of clothing, and the freezing rain can rapidly accrete as glaze ice all over.
Back when I used to work nights I have several memories of very impressive ice storms on the summit. One that I think describes what it’s like to not only work up here but also live on the summit occurred two years ago on the eve of Thanksgiving. Temperatures on the summit had been steadily rising through the evening as a strong warm front advanced into the White Mountains, with snow initially changing over to sleet and finally freezing rain. Temperatures made it to near 30°F and then remained steady as heavy rounds of freezing rain fell along with thick fog and visibility less than 50 feet. All the while winds out of the southeast were frequently gusting to near 100 mph, causing the highest rates of glaze ice accrual I had ever seen at roughly 5 inches per hour.
Glaze ice is like the clear ice in your freezer: liquid water that freezes with little in the way of air droplets, and is much heavier and harder to remove than the rime ice we frequently see on the summit from cloud droplets. By late in the night there were several feet of this ice everywhere, and I was exhausted from just trying to keep up with it. Luckily we’re never alone up here, and I reluctantly woke up our intern Adam to give me a hand. Together we used the large rubber mallets we affectionately call “hammers of Thor” and began knocking off these huge chunks of ice that were definitely a safety concern. Some of the ice blocks were much larger than a man and likely weighed a few hundred pounds. With high winds ongoing we had to be extremely careful to be sure no one was downwind of these massive blocks of ice as they came crashing down.
After feeling like I had done battle with the elements for nearly the entire night, I realized it was Thanksgiving morning and I had to start the turkey! We normally don’t have volunteers cooking for us during the holidays, so all of the staff pitches in with the cooking. Later that evening we all enjoyed a great Thanksgiving meal (and the turkey turned out great!) and I had a chance to tell the story of one of my most memorable nights on the summit.
I'm looking forward to battling the elements again this winter!
Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Meteorologist
16:14 Tue Aug 16, 2016
Until Next Time
13 weeks ago I began my internship on Mount Washington. The summit was coated in a thick covering of rime ice. Now, as the lively mountainside glows a glistening green, my time here has unfortunately come to end. This summer has been everything I could have ever imagined and more. The countless displays of beauty this mountain provides will surely be missed as well as the people I have met. It's hard to put into words what I am feeling right now. Mount Washington, you will forever be etched into my heart, and like many before me, the call of this mountain will never fade away--it is always scratching at you like a bad itch. For those of you that have never made it to this mountain, put it on your to-do list, I promise you will not be disappointed. Even when we're socked in the clouds, there's beauty to be found all around you. And if you have the opportunity, come and volunteer and spend 8 days on top of this glorious rock pile, so that you, too, can understand the unwavering call of Mount Washington. As I embark on the next journey in my life, it is no surprise that I have already made plans to come back to this place I have called home for the past 3 months. Mount Washington, I’m coming for you this winter, and I’m sure your bountiful splendor will be just as awe inspiring as this summer has been. So once again, thank you Mount Washington, and everyone here. Cheers, until next time!
Andrea LaRocca, Summit Intern
17:02 Sat Aug 13, 2016
My Summer on the Summit
As the last week of my summer internship at the Mount Washington Observatory comes to a close, it's nice to take a look back and reflect on my memories of this world-famous place. This summer has been a season of personal growth for me as I am always looking for ways to challenge and improve myself overall as a person. Getting this internship was a push in the right direction, not only in my academic career but also in life experiences. Being from New Jersey, I have never pumped my own gas before. So that was my first challenge as I embarked on this adventure. Figuring that out was definitely an experience within itself . The first couple of times did not go too well, but after a while, I began to get the hang of it. My nine-hour trip to New Hampshire was nerve racking to do alone, but I often thought of it as taking a mini road trip alone and that made it a little less scary.
When I first came up to the summit, it was a little bit terrifying but in an exciting way. To me it is always scary starting a new chapter in your life, but it almost always is worth it. Luckily my first week we had two of the best volunteers who made the adjustment a lot easier for me. One of them was a yoga instructor and every morning we would go out to the rotunda and do yoga. It was quite the experience doing that every morning with the views of the White Mountains. It was a refreshing way to start the day. After a short few days the summit began to feel like home away from home due to the incredible staff up here and the close knit vibes I soon became a part of, such as having family style dinners every night and everyone being so welcoming and helpful. Marty, almost everyone's favorite summit resident, was refreshing to have around. Having a summit cat with us while we worked made being away from friends and family a little bit easier, even though he is a very grumpy cat. Even being here on a holiday, such as the 4th of July was amazing, because the staff had a big celebration that included grilling at 6,288 feet!
My goal coming into this internship was to leave with a better understanding of meteorology. Through the hands-on experience I received here I feel as if I met that goal. I got a lot of experience forecasting and feel I have learned more here then I have in a classroom. Mountain meteorology is one of the hardest environments to forecast for and now, through my experiences, I feel I became an overall better forecaster. I also got to observe weather at the "Home of the World's Worst Weather," which is something not many people can say they've done. We saw countless thunderstorms up here, which is absolutely incredible to be in the storm as it's happening. I learned more about weather observing, and felt incredibly happy, and grown-up, when I had the chance to take an observation all by myself. I learned how instruments work, from changing barograph charts to bringing down anemometers from the top of the weather tower. One of my favorite things was going out in 80+ mph winds. Me and the other interns would get so excited when the winds would exceed hurricane force and we would eagerly go jump around on the observation deck. It's incredible to feel how powerful that force is when you can feel the wind moving your body back as you jump in the air. I saw lenticular, cap, and pileus clouds form, which are pretty rare to see elsewhere because they typically only form in mountainous areas. Often me and the others working up here would take time lapses of clouds, which is a really great way to exemplify that clouds are in fact a fluid and move very similar to a wave. Probably the most incredible thing I have experienced was the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. I felt incredibly lucky to have been there considering they are only visible 6-12 nights of the year, and the conditions have to be perfect for them to be seen. It made it even more memorable when everyone, including Marty, stayed up late on the observation deck looking at the beautiful display of shooting stars and the Milky Way while waiting for the anticipated Northern Lights to be visible. It was one of the most amazing nights that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Throughout my 6 weeks spent on the summit, I have experienced some interesting things that weren’t directly related to weather. I got to experience "Ride to the Sky" where hundreds of motorcyclists climbed the Mount Washington Auto Road, and the Auto Road's Road Race, where the first place winner came in just under an hour. I tried hiking for the first time, which was very challenging due to the fact that I am from a relatively flat area, and have never been in a mountain range before, let alone climbed one. I learned that it is in fact a lot more difficult hiking down than hiking up, which is opposite of what you would think. One of the more interesting things that happened to me was that I was asked for my autograph twice—once by a group of AMC volunteers who listen to the morning radio forecast that the interns broadcast, and another from two hikers who saw me the previous day on the news when WMUR came up to the summit to do a live broadcast. I’m not sure if they were being serious or just kidding, but their enthusiasm made my day, just like the majority of the people who visited the summit. One girl sticks out in particular, who I met a couple of weeks ago while taking a walk one early morning on the observation deck. She had a dog with her who was wearing tiny little dog shoes. She told me she studied something very similar to meteorology in college and was fascinated by the work we were doing here. She ended up flying planes for the Army post-graduation and shortly after joining she broke her back, and was told she would not be able to do anything physical again. Being a marathon runner, she didn't accept that and decided to hike the entire Appalachian trail with her dog. Mount Washington was just one stop on her path and it was so inspiring and empowering to meet her and hear her story. It made me want to push myself more. Like many others I have met this summer, her story will forever stay with me.
This summer has held a lot of firsts for me. Like the majority of people, I have a gigantic fear of public speaking, and fully knowing that I would have to give tours, I still was eager to get this internship. When I told my boss I was nervous about giving them, he made me do the next couple of tours to help me get over the fear. Although I was not happy about this in that moment, it is something I am grateful for because it is true that you will never get over a fear unless you face it. And although I am still afraid of public speaking, this summer made me a little bit less scared. To anyone reading this who was on one of my tours, thank you for your patience through my nervous stuttering. Every person that I have given a tour to was so kind and made me feel very good and prideful about the place I have been working. Aside from that, I drove up the Auto Road twice, conquering my fear of heights. It has been an incredible summer and with all of the experiences I have had, I would have to say the best was having my boyfriend, who also studied meteorology, and my family, make the nine-hour drive from New Jersey to come see where I have been working. Being able to share these amazing experiences and my developments with the people I love most has made it all worth it.
As I get ready to leave, it has become evident that the state of New Hampshire and the summit of Mount Washington have formed a special place in my heart. I truly believe that I am not only leaving as a better meteorologist, but a better person as well. So thank you, Mount Washington Observatory, for giving me the summer of a lifetime.
Claudia Pukropski, Summit Intern
16:21 Thu Aug 11, 2016
Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away
When's the last time you've observed a long, multi-day, soaking rain? If you live in New Hampshire, it's probably difficult to remember!
It's been an exceptionally dry 2016 across the state of New Hampshire. This began with the well-below-average snowfall this winter across almost the entirety of the northeastern United States. Here on Mount Washington, our winter season came in nearly 6-and-a-half feet below normal for snowfall. This distinct lack of snowfall results in a below-average snow-melt, kicking the spring and summer season off on the wrong foot.
Since the turn of the seasons from the meager winter of 2016, prolonged and gradual rainfall events have been hard to come by across the state of New Hampshire. There have been several rounds of thunderstorms harboring torrential downpours, although those quick bursts of heavy rain quickly run off before being absorbed fully into the soil.
Turning the calendar page into August, and the southern third of the state of New Hampshire are now officially experiencing a severe drought. In the White Mountain region and northward into the north country, a drought is not in effect, although "abnormally dry" conditions are persisting across these regions.
However, some help is on the way! The stubborn upper-level ridge stationed over the eastern two-third of the United States in combination with a moist, southerly flow has allowed an abundance of moisture to come surging northward into the northeastern United States. This has resulted in exceptionally muggy conditions today (Thursday), but will also set the stage for a weekend of soaking rains.
Commencing tomorrow, several inches of rain is expected, particularly across northern New Hampshire. In addition, the potential for thunderstorms is in the forecast commencing tomorrow and lasting through the duration of the weekend.
Expected rainfall totals from Thursday evening through Sunday evening.
Although we've enjoyed a great stretch of primarily sunny and dry conditions, the coming rains are much-needed and welcome across the state!
Mike Carmon, Senior Weather Observer & Education Specialist
07:12 Tue Aug 09, 2016
On the eve of my final day on the summit, I reflect back on the numerous aspects of this internship I am able to take away as I move forward with my career. Let me start by saying I am indebted to the Mount Washington Observatory for the opportunity they extended in selecting me to intern at the legendary Home of the World’s Worst Weather. I got to experience a little bit of everything Mount Washington has to offer this summer; including spectacular sunsets and sunrises, giant lenticular clouds, 100+ mph winds, even snow and rime ice. Before I even received word I would be an intern this summer, my meteorology professor at Virginia Tech and mentor, Dave Carroll, told me “you being able to intern at Mount Washington would be like an aerospace engineering major getting to intern at the International Space Station.” Frankly I couldn’t have put it any better myself; where else could someone experience snow, ice, and Category 2 hurricane-force winds in the middle of June? This is truly an environment unlike any other.
Not that anyone would know without my telling them, but that
is me on the Weather Channel swapping out the precip can
My first time de-icing the instruments on the parapet...on June 9!
AJ and I exploring the snowy and rime-coated summit after the worst of the weather had subsided, again on June 9
Upon my arrival to the summit, I was immediately given the chance to learn the process of taking hourly observations from observer and shift leader, Tom Padham. I stress to non-meteorologists that this is a lot harder than it sounds; all of our observations are written in METAR code, which can turn “partly cloudy” into something like “FEW005 FEW030 SCT160 SCT180 PTCHY VLY FG NW-NE.” My proficiency came in especially helpful when for two shifts in a row we had an observer away on vacation and I could shoulder some of the extra workload. Thanks in large part to Tom’s willingness to teach and also my background in meteorology, I was able to catch on relatively quickly and contribute.
I probably spent the majority of my time working with our shift’s other day observer and IT specialist, Mike Dorfman. Over the course of the summer, I was able to help progress some long-standing projects and make headway on several new topics of research. I admit I didn’t bring much to the table in regards to IT, but with Mike’s guidance I was able to get a lot done and learn more computer skills in the process. Mike deserves a huge amount of credit for having the patience to help me understand the intricacies of the Observatory’s instrumentation and data collection systems. I am confident this knowledge will pay dividends as I transition back into an ongoing Virginia Tech project involving high elevation mesonet sites while working towards my M.S.
Under the tutelage of Ryan Knapp, longtime night observer and photographer extraordinaire, my photography skills took a giant leap forward. With his help I have been able to really capitalize on the awe-inspiring scenery that presents itself regularly up here. I have seen and photographed the Milky Way, the Aurora Borealis, lenticular clouds, and seas of undercast that stretch from one horizon to the other. I thank Ryan for his many teachings and advice.
July 13 sunrise
The faint "Northern Lights" as seen during the wee hours of July 12
The Milky Way plainly visible over the rockpile on a calm June night
While it may be tempting to go hiking some afternoons when we are in the clear (especially since it is encouraged), I refrained from doing so in lieu of absorbing as much information as I could during my short time here. Though not required to do so, I would generally work in excess of 90 hours per shift (which lasts eight days, stretching from Wednesday to Wednesday). I would recommend those who follow in my footsteps to consider doing the same; it is entirely up to you how much you get out of this internship.
I would also like to express my appreciation and extend my sincerest thanks to museum attendant AJ Grimes, along with observers Adam Gill, Caleb Meute, and Mike Carmon for their different roles in helping me to succeed and making my time as an intern both enjoyable and unforgettable. I look forward to continued involvement with the Observatory in the coming years and say thank you one last time.
Our motley crew, sans Tom who was enjoying our Hawaiian night in Hawaii on vacation (from left to right: Meredith Campbell - Intern, Chris Hohman - Intern, myself, our two volunteers that week Marianne and "Curly," Ryan Knapp, Mike Dorfman, and AJ Grimes)
Tim Greene, Intern
17:59 Mon Aug 08, 2016
Today is International Cat Day, so I thought I’d give a little love to my favorite fur ball, Marty. A lot of people love Marty, and rightfully so. He is an awesome cat that I personally adore. He’s super soft, purrs really low, and is very (sometimes painfully) independent. In honor of this adorable holiday I thought I’d answer some common questions about Sweet Martin (not his really name, just what I call him).
Does the cat live here?
Yes. The observatory is staffed 24/7/365. We live here, and Marty lives here with us.
Was he named after Marty Engstrom?
Yes. Marty Engstrom also known as “Marty on the Mountain”, was a WMTV engineer famous for reporting the weather from the summit of Mount Washington for nearly four decades. Marty the cat was named in his honor.
Does he ever go outside?
Yes. Marty is allowed free range of the summit inside and outside, so on really nice days he likes to roam around the summit.
Can we bring Marty toys?
Marty has an abundance of toys on the summit, so he doesn’t really need more. He does love cat treats though.
How old is Marty?
Marty’s been at the Obs since 2008, and we think he was one or two years old at the time. So he’s somewhere in the 9-10 years range.
What breed is Marty?
He has been identified by the vet as a Maine Coon mix.
Marty is actually kind of shy, so on days when there are a lot of people on the summit, he tends to hide in the peace and quiet of our living quarters. He does have free range of the summit (inside and outside), so sometimes he’ll stroll right through the crowded rotunda. If you’re on the summit keep your eyes peeled!
Meredith Campbell, Summit Intern
19:21 Sun Aug 07, 2016
When will Winter Arrive?
It may feel like the dog days of summer to everyone in the valley, but the observers on Mount Washington are already planning for the winter months! When does winter-like weather come to the summit? The short answer is (statistically speaking) as early as next month. Let’s take a look at some figures to get an idea.
Two of the main indicators that winter is on its way are (rime/glaze) ice growth and snowfall. For those unfamiliar, rime and/or glaze ice accrues whenever the summit is in the fog and below freezing. Fog, even when below freezing, consists of tiny water droplets suspended in the air. These water droplets are in a supercooled state, meaning they are below freezing but can’t turn into ice because of several factors (mainly the geometry and small size of the droplet). However as soon as this droplet hits any larger object that can allow freezing to initiate in the liquid, the droplet freezes on contact. While one cloud droplet frozen onto an object may be imperceptible, thousands and thousands are not and can form feathers of ice 6 inches per hour in length.
Mount Washington is obscured in the fog approximately 60 percent of the time and is below freezing for long period of time in the winter. Let’s take a look at when we start to see our first riming events:
Daily percentage chance of riming through the month of September and October.
The graph above is an average (grouped into months) percentage that you will see rime on any given day of that month. As is evident in the above graph, riming is essentially nonexistent
in July and August and very quickly begins to pick up in September and
October. Let’s take a closer look at
those shoulder months to see more specifically when in September and October we
start to see riming.
Michael Dorfman, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
The daily risk of riming increases through September and October
We see riming start to pick up mid-month in September and increase even more to an average of just over 30% of the observations seeing riming in the month of October! That number grows through the winter, mainly thanks to our consistently-below-freezing temperatures and increasing amount of fog.
Another indicator that winter is on its way here on the summit is the first snowfall of the year. When does snow first start to fall? Let’s take a look:
Average daily snowfall, grouped by month
Average daily chance, grouped by month, that a trace or more of snow will fall on any given day within that month
Daily percentage chance of a trace or more of snowfall through the month of September and October
And finally, what skiers and snow enthusiasts are often the most interested in, snow depth:
Average daily depth of snow, grouped by month
Average daily chance of snow depth greater than 0 inches, grouped by month
Average daily chance of a snow depth greater than zero in the months of September and October
While I’m thoroughly enjoying the rest of the summer-like weather, winter will inevitably march closer and closer! If you do plan on venturing above treeline, be sure to check out our Higher Summits Forecast to understand the conditions you may be hiking into and prepare accordingly!
16:52 Sat Aug 06, 2016
How's the view up there?
One of the most common reasons people hike, or head up to the top of this mountain in the first place, really is to see if they can catch a good view. Sounds simple enough, but sadly we are at the whim of the weather to actually get these spectacular views. There is however some forecasting tools anyone can use to actually increase their chances of getting good visibility, and perhaps plan their trip around these forecasted days. Of course the first thing to look at is simply whether or not it’s going to rain, but there are other factors that can be incorporated into your "Viewing forecast."
To start it’s always good to check the forecast to see if it’s going to rain. The summit is in the clouds 60% of the time out of the year. This is due to a number of different reasons, but typically when rain is forecast for the summit, the chance of being in the clouds is very high. Pushing of moisture at the base of the summit can makes its way up to the top and actually form clouds just due to the geography of the mountain and wind flow towards the base. We’re also tall enough in the atmosphere for clouds to not only form above the mountain, but also move right through the summit. For example our current forecast for the region calls for rain and while it may just be cloudy below, those clouds are actually gliding over us right now.
Another really important part of a wonderful view is actually how far you can see. Our maximum visibility is 130 miles (pretty impressive in my eyes) but that is very rare to reach during the summer months. Typically the farthest you can see in the summer is around 110 miles, which in my brief time here I’ve only seen a handful of times. This is because certain systems normally have to move over the region just right to push dry and haze reduced air masses from the north to extend your field of vision. This typically happens right after a rain storm comes through and higher pressure begins to build over the summit region. The clockwise motion of the system depicted here illustrates this better:
Image from: Tropical Tidbits
A day where you'l get typically a good view but not quite as far as 110 is right after this system moves across the summit region. The clockwise motion creates a “return flow” of air from the south west. These air masses typically carry more smoke, haze, and moisture from the south. With this additional composition to the atmosphere, it can drop visibility easily to 60-70 miles. This helps illustrates what to look for:
Image from: Tropical Tidbits
So what should you do exactly next time you decide to head up to the summit? Well the first step should always be to check the forecast. Is rain forecasted? Then probably not the best day to head up. Is rain not forecasted? Check the current 850 pressure chart and see if there’s high pressure over us, and which way it’s positioned around us. If it’s to the west, then there’s a good chance you’ll get a very far view. If it’s to the east, you’ll probably still see farther than you would in the valley, but not quite as far as a really good summer visibility day. By the way, these images of high pressure are actually forecasted for Monday and Wednesday, respectively. So head on up and enjoy the view. Have fun, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us! Thanks for reading!
Christopher Hohman, Summer Intern
18:27 Fri Aug 05, 2016
Science in the Mountains
Our ninth annual Science in the Mountains
series continues with two more discussions left this summer. The first will take place this coming Wednesday (August 10th) where Georgia Murray of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC
) will give the audience an update on the status of the AMC alpine monitoring project around the White Mountains. The last discussion of the season will be Wednesday, August 17th where we will be exploring the climate and forest history of New England. Both discussions will start at 7 pm at our Weather Discovery Center
in North Conway
. And best of all, both discussions are FREE
for all ages. So we hope to see you there!
Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist
17:42 Thu Aug 04, 2016
The Science Behind Sunsets
Here at the Observatory, we are privy to some spectacular sunsets and sunrises whenever we are in the clear and the sun is not otherwise obscured. Even the most stunning pictures we take fail to fully capture the vibrant hues that paint the sky like a watercolor. Regardless of the camera you are shooting with (of course some do a better job than others, personally I shoot with a Nikon D7100), it is impossible to get a picture that accurately portrays the precise color and luminescence of the sun on the human eye; even with Photoshop it is still a, perhaps surprisingly, tall order. The best way I can describe it is like the deep, glowing red of a neon sign in the darkness but instead placed over the Green Mountains of Vermont, bathing the western landscape in rouge tones. If you ever get the opportunity to do an overnight trip during a clear stretch of weather, take it! And don’t forget that includes both a sunset and a sunrise if you play your cards right.
Why are sunsets so colorful, anyway?
To understand the science behind colorful sunsets, it is important to first understand color. Contrary to how most are accustomed to seeing the world, an object’s color is based off the ratio of how much light it absorbs and how much it reflects. For instance, a golf ball appears white only because the paint on its surface reflects all the colors in the visible spectrum (a small fraction of the entire electromagnetic spectrum) which collectively make up what we see as the color white. Similarly, a hockey puck appears black because it absorbs all the colors in the visible spectrum. This same concept is what makes the sky blue; the atmosphere, which is comprised mostly of nitrogen and oxygen, preferentially scatters (the technical term for reflect/deflect) violet and blue. The reason the afternoon sky looks blue and not violet is actually because the human eye is more sensitive to blue and green hues. That said, some animals look up to see a purple sky.
When the sun reaches its highest point in the sky (which is not necessarily directly overhead) in reference to a fixed ground point, it is passing through the minimum amount of atmosphere in its daily cycle. This relatively short distance of atmosphere light passes through yields a blue sky (especially on days when there is low humidity, otherwise the sky can have a milky, hazy appearance). As the sun sinks lower, its light must pass through a greater depth of the atmosphere (approaching its maximum, at sunset) in order to reach the surface. With a greater depth of the atmosphere blues and violets are better scattered, which serves to redden the atmosphere. In other words, the National Weather Service says, “sunsets are red because the daytime sky is blue.” The abridged version of this explanation is essentially: the greater the distance light must pass through, the more “colorful” it can appear.
Clouds add an interesting dynamic to sunsets because they each capture rays of varying length on a white canvas-like backdrop. Without them, sunsets would be far less impressive (especially just after the sun disappears below the horizon) as there would be no way to see some of the most impressive colors the visible spectrum has to offer!
Why is the sunset always so colorful from the summit of Mount Washington?
On the somewhat rare occasion we at the Observatory are able to see the sunset, it is always rich with deep red, fluorescent-looking hues. The reason for this stems from our unique vantage point; at 6,288 feet above sea level, our horizon is more distant than at lower elevations. This equates to more atmosphere the sun’s rays must pass through before they reach our eyes at the summit and a stunning red most are not in a position to be able to see.
Tim Greene, Intern
20:38 Tue Aug 02, 2016
Where You at Winter?!
This week has sure been the opposite of our last shift up here on the summit. Our previous shift was July 13th – July 20th and that week I had no more than 5 observations where the summit was in the clear. When we got to the base of the mountain on our down going shift change, we could see further than 1/16 of a mile and it was actually a bit uncomfortable. It did make driving to Burlington a bit easier though. This week was the polar opposite and as of this writing, I have had under five observations where we have been in the fog. Adam touched on the reason for this in his comment on Monday, and explained how we have had very dry air at summit level from high pressure to our northwest despite clouds above due to a stationary front to the south. In my time here as an intern and observer, I cannot remember a week with as many beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
Caption: Observations from last week
Now, you (probably don’t) remember my comment where I may have been complaining about my shift compared to the other shift and the unfair distribution of windy days by Mother Nature. This week our peak wind gust was 38 mph. The average wind speed for the week was 14 mph! At times, we had to crawl around in order to avoid being blown over by gusts in the 15-30 mph range. They really come out of nowhere. That is obviously a joke, but these summer shifts can be truly gorgeous and unique in their own way. Honestly, my main qualm with the week is simply that bugs were able to get to the summit. There are not too many days where bugs have the opportunity to bring their families to the summit to wreak havoc on the summit visitors and staff.
Caption: Observations from this week
What I am getting at with this comment, is that I am still anxiously awaiting the winter months! Actually, at one point this week I was annoyed that it was not winter, so I put on full winter gear and walked around the deck for one of my day observations. I got a lot of concerned looks from people, which makes perfect sense. I think I struck panic into some of the folks on the observation deck making them think a rogue cold front was about to pass through or something. The end result of that escapade was that when I got inside I was overheated. One little boy was attempting to spit at me (must be a warm weather fan).
The weather was a bit dull this week but it revealed the true beauty that this mountain holds when not shrouded in summit fog, as it is 60% of the year.
Caleb Meute, Weather Observer/Meteorologist
20:54 Mon Aug 01, 2016
The Week of Nice Sunsets and Sunrises
This week on the summit has had quite the number of phenomenal sunrises and sunsets. This week we have been dominated by high pressure with weak fronts traversing through the region. The biggest reason that we had such perfect conditions for colorful sunrises and sunsets was due to the placement of a stubborn stationary front just to our south. The center of the high was anchored just off to the northwest and it was moving very dry air into the region in the mid atmosphere. High clouds were strewn overhead due to the stationary front to the south but the summits stayed in the clear as dry air was kept in place by the high. There was even some virga falling out of the high clouds that really helped show the color of the sunsets and rises.
Since it is summer time, the sun will rise in the northeast and set in the west –northwest direction. This is important because all the clouds were to the south so the sun was able to rise and set without being obscured. This morning was really an exception because there was one small break in the cloud deck off to the northeast with showers in the region that really illuminated all the colors of a sunset.
So why are there so many different colors during a sunset when during the day the sky is just blue? Well that reason is due to scattering of light in the atmosphere. During the day, visible light does not have to pass through much thickness of the atmosphere. Light will scatter out starting with smaller wavelengths and longer wavelengths will penetrate further through the atmosphere. So the colors of the rainbow go from violet to red, with violet being the shortest wavelength. Violet will get mostly scattered out even at mid-day with blue being the next most heavily scattered light. It is the reason that the sky looks blue. At sunset and sunrise, visible light from the sun has to penetrate through a much greater thickness of the atmosphere because it is entering the atmosphere at such a low angle. This causes most of the blue light to be scattered out leaving only the longer wavelengths of yellow, orange, and red left. This visible light will then be reflected off of clouds and other obscurations in the atmosphere to give us all the colors!
Adam Gill, Weather Observer/IT Specialist