23:18 Mon Oct 24, 2016
OLLI comes to MWO
On Wednesday the Education Department of the Mount Washington Observatory completed a three week adult education course on the basics of meteorology and forecasting with local Mount Washington Valley residents. The course was titled; “Life, Work and Environment at the Mount Washington Observatory” and was presented to members of the Conway branch of OLLI at Granite State College. OLLI, an acronym for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is a volunteer-run membership organization founded by the Bernard Osher Foundation in 2000 with “an open invitation for individuals 50+ years of age to enjoy learning for the love of it.” The Conway branch is one of 119 such programs located at college and universities nationwide.
The course covered a number of topics related to Mt. Washington and the Observatory, including a brief history of summit occupation presented by Director of Education Brian Fitzgerald, the basics of forecasting from Outreach Coordinator Will Broussard, along with a brief climatology of Mt. Washington presented by Observer and Education Specialist Tom Padham. Each hour-long session began with a lecture on one of the topics above and concluded with a live videoconference connection to the summit with Weather Observer and Education Specialist, Mike Carmon. Live connections allowed participants to observe current summit conditions and hear a breakdown of the expected forecast for the alpine zone.
Local residents were enthralled to learn about the unique and often severe meteorological conditions in their own backyard. Mount Washington Observatory is happy to offer free and low cost programming for local residents and we hope to continue this program into the future. For more information on our Educational programs please visit the Education section of our website.
Will Broussard, Education Coordinator
17:17 Sat Oct 22, 2016
Getting Ready for High Winds, Snow and Ice
Well we have finally crossed the last few items off of our winter checklist this shift and are ready for the storm! Some final tasks include sealing up a few windows and making sure our instruments that can't handle icing are taken down for the storm. As I'm sure you all know our pitot tube is our primary instrument for high winds and icing events. We are expecting to be pretty busy throughout the weekend chipping off all the ice and measuring the snow depth! Time will tell what the storm will bring but its looks to be significant with some serious snow fall on the White mountains, Adirondacks and Green mountains. We have been writing down our own estimates for peak wind gusts and snowfall totals. Let us know what you think we will experience up here on the summit for wind gusts and snow!
Ben Brownell, Summit Intern
14:27 Thu Oct 20, 2016
The Premiere Major Winter Event
A significant storm system has its sights set on New England this weekend, which could result in the first big major winter snap for Mount Washington this young season.
It's an intriguing setup to say the least--a low pressure system forecasted to develop over the mid-Atlantic states on Friday will join forces with a tropical disturbance currently churning just east of the Bahamas. As these systems phase together and move northward, the resulting low pressure system will rapidly deepen over northern New England early on Saturday. This, in combination with high pressure strengthening over the deep South, will result in rapidly increasing wind speeds as the pressure gradient over New England tightens swiftly and significantly. The tropical moisture feed associated with this system will produce locally heavy rainfall at the onset (and even some thunderstorms!), but as the intense low continues its slow northward progression, it will pull down some of the coldest air of the season yet. While not technically a classic Nor'easter, the effects will be very much the same across much of northern New England (lots of wind and rain).
The 7AM EST projected setup (GFS model) depicts the strong low pressure system centered just north of New Hampshire.
On Mount Washington, however, as the cold air pours in behind this system on Saturday afternoon/evening, the rainfall will transition to purely snow, possibly dropping several inches across the higher summits of the White Mountains. Wind speeds will continue to accelerate on Sunday, likely gusting well in excess of 100 mph on the summit of Washington and surrounding mountain peaks, whipping up the newly-fallen snow into potentially near-white-out conditions. A cold, windy, and icy/snowy pattern will remain firmly in place through early next week, with even some valley locations possibly experiencing their first snowfall of the season!
Model Output Statistics (MOS) for the GFS model predict temperatures (TMP) dropping into the teens (degrees F) by Sunday, with wind speeds (WND) increasing to as high as 81 knots sustained (93 mph).
Mike Carmon, Senior Weather Observer & Education Specialist
Be sure to stay up-to-date on the official weather forecast for the weekend with our 48-hour higher summits forecast
18:21 Tue Oct 18, 2016
Job Posting and 2017 Calendars
Having worked here for over a decade, one thing I have learned is that the only constant is change. Every year, winter changes to spring, spring changes to summer, summer changes to fall, and once again fall changes to winter. Views change from 20 feet to 130 miles then back again. Technology changes becoming more efficient and smaller. Our museum has changed. Our gift shop has changed. And apart from me, our summit personnel has changed a few times. Most recently is a change that occurred earlier this month as Mike Dorfman departed us to pursue higher education. With his departure, that means in due time, another change will come with whoever we decide to higher as his replacement. Today, we posted the vacant position and are starting to receive the resumes of possible replacements. If you have ever wanted to work on the summit, you can click on the highlighted words above and throw your hat into the ring as they say.
Another change that comes annually is our calendars. This year we have produced two 2017 calendars - a Vistas calendar and a Marty calendar (both available HERE). If you are looking something to track the changes in your life, a calendar might be worth picking up. And if you decide to purchase one, our publisher is having a 30% off sale from now until October 24th at 2359 EDT. At checkout, enter code OCTHIRTY. If we learn of any changes or additional sales codes from our publisher from now until the end of the year, we will post them to our various social media sites.
Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist
14:32 Mon Oct 17, 2016
October! With leaves changing color, and temperatures typically fast in their descent, October is perhaps the epitome of fall in New England. So how has this October stacked up to those of years past? Overall, there are several things worth remarking on. Firstly, for those who made the trip up this past weekend to participate in our 84th Founding Day celebration, consider this a lucky year! Quite often, by this time in October, the building is either intermittently or seasonally closed to the public, and the summit securely in the grip of late fall’s cold weather and wintery conditions, and yet, we were fortunate to see temperatures approaching 50 degrees and visibility of 110 miles through most of the day! Though the month isn’t over just yet, it looks as though we’re on track to see one of the warmest October’s in our 84 year history. So, let’s see how things could pan out.
The average temperature through the first half of October 2016 is 40.1 °F. If this value were to stand over the remainder of the month, it would be the warmest October on record for the summit; beating out the year 1971 which saw an average of 39.7 °F. When the average daily temps for the current forecast period are included, the projected monthly average temperature drops to 39.3 °F, still leaving 7 days at the end of the month unaccounted for. However, by looking at the warmest Octobers on record, it can be seen that this year stands a good chance of ranking somewhere among the top ten.
Not only have the summits seen seasonally above average temperatures through the month thus far, but we at the summit have also been treated to a brilliant foliage display lasting though much of the month to date. The picture below, taken today, on October 17th, shows not only an ice-less observation deck, but also the picturesque oranges and reds of fall foliage in the valleys below.
In addition to the a relatively warm average temperature for the month to date, on October 7th, the summit saw a daily record high of 57 °F, breaking the previous record set in 1963 and tied in 1990 of 56 °F. While October has been a warm month, it has also been a relatively dry month thus far, with a total of 1.07 inches of rain, ice, and snow falling on the summit to-date. The month of October typically sees 17.6 inches of snowfall alone!
Given the nice weather we’ve been fortunate to see this month, it’s easy to forget that winter is rapidly approaching. Regardless of whether October 2016 ranks among the warmest months, it won’t be long before the higher summits are encased in rime ice and extreme conditions prevail. If you plan on heading up to the summit by any means, check out our higher summits forecast to see what conditions are expected over the next 48 hours, keeping in mind that the weather can and does change rapidly.
Taylor Regan, Summit Intern
15:25 Sun Oct 16, 2016
84 Years Young!
Yesterday, 10/15/2016 was the 84th Anniversary of the founding of the Mount Washington Observatory. In celebration of 84 great years, we offered free tours of our legendary weather station, with a few hundred people able to enjoy the exceptional weather and learn about the important work we do atop Mount Washington. It was a great experience, and hopefully we shared our enthusiasm with the many visitors to the summit.
It’s amazing to be able to continue the work of the original founders of the observatory back in 1932: Alex McKenzie, Bob Monahan, Joe Dodge and Sal Pagliuca (pictured below, left to right). Without their hard work and dedication we wouldn’t have captured not only a world-record wind speed; but also the attention of millions of people who would come to recognize Mount Washington as a truly unique place.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years, no matter how small the contribution we would not be able to continue our work in weather observation, education, outreach and research without your support. Here’s to many successful years to come!
Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Meteorologist
23:18 Thu Oct 13, 2016
Dish-Antenna Ice-Break Installation
Internet and phone service for the Observatory is accomplished with the use of a pair of microwave dishes – one on the summit tower and the other mounted at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. Last winter, during a significant icing event, a large chunk of ice broke free from a neighboring post and smashed into the top of our dish. Luckily, it didn’t completely knock us off-line, but it did momentarily hinder service and caused us to rethink how to better protect the dish from future damages.
Earlier this summer, I went up to complete repairs to the dish, pounding and pulling the dent out in preparation of the mounting of an ice-break over the top of the dish.
Over the course of the last week, several additional steps were accomplished to get the new summit dish-antenna ice-break installed on the tower. The many steps and hands that assisted in making this final process come together are as follows:
1. Greg Fitch (KB1EZJ), mechanic at Frechette Tire and President of both the White Mountain Amateur Radio Club (W1MWV) and Mt Washington Observatory Amateur Radio Club (KB1KSJ), and his son Dane (KB1RSU) performed all the labor in building the steel welded assembly.
2. John Mitchell (MWO Facilities Coordinator) gathered all of the materials and did all the painting.
3. Last Tuesday Keith (IT Manager) & myself moved an antenna over 2 posts and removed the pipe-extension that was accumulating the ice that was the cause of the dish damage last winter. They also installed a mounting pipe for the ice-break.
4. Last Thursday, John and myself installed the ice-break mounting bracket.
5. On Saturday, John, Greg, Mark Badger (W1QB), and myself installed the ice-break. Additional assistance was provided by intern Ben Brownell and volunteer Steve Leighton (self-employed carpenter by trade who was more than willing to take the bull by the horns and “git er done”!)…
6. However, on Saturday, the winds increased to upwards of 50-60 mph so the final piece of the puzzle, the actual steel grate, was not installed…
7. So on Tuesday this week, with the weather allowing t-shirt and shorts on summit, I returned and installed the grate with the able help of Ben Brownell once again. Ben, a climber, knows his knots!
Many thanks to Greg, Mark, Dane, and Frechette Tire for allowing Greg to do the welding and fabrication in their garage, as well as John, Ben, Steve, and Keith.
Pete Gagne, IT Specialist
17:19 Wed Oct 12, 2016
What Was the Deal With Hurricane Matthew?
Well if you have a TV, computer, smart phone, newspaper or friends you have likely heard about Hurricane Matthew and the devastation and havoc that it created over the past couple of weeks. This hurricane was breaking a variety of records and unfortunately causing many fatalities as it slowly tracked through the Atlantic. Some of Matthew’s notable achievements and records that were broken or nearly broken are listed below:
Rapid intensification – Matthew’s maximum wind speeds increased by 80 mph in 24 hours. This was the 3rd strongest rapid intensification in the Atlantic on record.
31st Atlantic category 5 hurricane on record and the 1st since Hurricane Felix in 2007.
Lowest latitude Atlantic category 5 hurricane on record.
Recorded the 6th lowest mean sea level pressure for any Atlantic October hurricane on record at 934mb.
Longest lived category 4-5 hurricane in the eastern Caribbean on record.
Generated the most Accumulated Cyclone Energy on record for any hurricane in the eastern Caribbean.
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) is a measure of tropical cyclone activity and also a measure of the damage potential of an individual cyclone or for a season. To measure ACE in a season, the ACE is added from each individual cyclone. ACE is determined from the strength of the cyclone(s) and the duration that it maintains that strength.
Matthew maintained category 4-5 strength for 102 hours in October, which is the longest that a hurricane has maintained category 4-5 strength on record in the Atlantic during the month of October. Major hurricane strength was maintained for 7.25 days which marks the longest-lived hurricane forming after September 25th on record.
Matthew was the first hurricane to make landfall in South Carolina since Gaston in 2004.
For the month of October, Matthew was the 1st hurricane to make landfall north of Georgia since Hazel in 1954.
For the above list, it is important to note that Atlantic hurricane records go back to 1851 and as a result, there are likely underestimates in storm intensity before the satellite era (1966), and prior to aircraft reconnaissance (1944).
Matthew has also led to record setting flooding in the Carolina’s where over a foot of rain fell in spots. Some river gauges are forecasting above record flood stage to persist for greater than a week. When a Hurricane this powerful makes landfall in several different locations, an unfortunate result is a high number of fatalities. A tragic death toll in Haiti is currently estimated to be around 1,000 people as Matthew moved through as a strong category 3. In the United States, the storm’s death toll has risen to over 24 people.
What happened with the track of Hurricane Matthew? Prior to my shift coming up to the summit this week, each of us were relentlessly looking at each new run of the forecast models to see if the hurricane was looking like it could still make it into New England. Initially the track was forecasted to ride the eastern seaboard all the way into New England. If that occurred, winds atop the Rockpile may have been well over 100mph. The models are not to be trusted that far out, but we all were excited to see wind numbers as high as 120 mph (sustained) if it came our way. In a previous blog post, Weather Observer and Education Specialist Tom Padham discussed the potential for the storm to track our way and he attached a map showing where a variety of the forecast models had it going. At the time of Tom’s post, there was significant agreement on Matthew tracking into New England. Within the first two days of our shift, things changed…
(Caption) This was the National Hurricane Center’s cone showing the probable path from Wednesday October 5th (shift change). At this point, the models began to show the storm moving northeast after moving through Florida.
(Caption-Above Image) This track guidance map is from October 8th and it shows the different models and where they were projecting the storm to go. Prior to this, the map had every model showing that Matthew would turn around and head back towards Florida and the Eastern Caribbean. By October 8th some models began to shift back towards the original track as shown by this somewhat comical map of possibilities. At this point, the storm was going somewhere in the Atlantic!
(Caption-Above Image) Here is another update from the National Hurricane Center on October 7th, Friday. Because it was looking like the storm would loop back towards Florida, this was the new probable path map issued by the National Hurricane Center.
What we believe happened can be described by the “Fujiwhara effect”. In 1921, Japanese meteorologist Dr. Sakuhei Fujiwhara determined that two storms will sometimes move around a common center pivot point. The National Weather Service has further described it as, “the tendency of two nearby tropical cyclones to rotate cyclonically about each other”. In 1995, you may remember four separate tropical systems forming in the Atlantic: Humberto, Iris, Karen, and Luis. Tropical Storm Iris was influenced by the formation of Humberto before it, and then Karen after it. Iris eventually absorbed Karen on September 3, 1995. Prior to that, the path of each storm was heavily altered by their close proximity to one another.
Here is how this relates to Hurricane Matthew and what is likely the reason for the sudden extreme shift in projected path per model ensembles. Hurricane Nicole formed in the wake of Matthew as a much weaker storm. When models began to interpolate the atmosphere late Tuesday October 6th, Hurricane Nicole was close enough to Matthew for model algorithms to determine there would be some sort of interaction. At first it looked like Matthew would just be moving slower as it tracked towards the US. For an area of low pressure to approach an area of high pressure, it is a difficult task. It is like running uphill. Whereas low pressure approaching another area of low pressure would be like running downhill. When the models initially hinted at this solution, it made sense and everyone jumped on board as this being the most likely outcome. It seemed as if Matthew and Nicole would interact and approach one another. During the 7th and 8th, slowly the models began to spread showing extreme inconsistency. Some models had Matthew going towards the Canadian Maritimes, while others were continuing to show a loop around track back towards Florida and an interaction with Nicole. Those models were really pushing for the budding romance between Matthew and Nicole.
Despite all of the track uncertainty while Matthew was moving along the Florida coastline, what ended up happening resembled the initial forecasted path closely. In the end, Matthew made landfall in South Carolina and then slowly exited eastward off the Carolina coast. An extratropical low then moved offshore of New England and brought rainfall to the region and some snow showers to us here on the summit! The reason that Hurricane Matthew did not end up tracking back towards Nicole is likely attributed to the fact that the models were poorly simulating Nicole’s movement during that time of uncertainty. Rather than moving towards Matthew, Nicole ended up weakening considerably and then drifting to the south. As a result, they were never able to interact with one another affecting their overall movement. Matthew has since dissipated and Nicole is now strengthening looking like she may cross over Bermuda as a major hurricane on Thursday.
Caleb Meute, Weather Observer/Meteorologist
21:35 Mon Oct 10, 2016
A Busy Week on the Summit
What a busy week it has been on the summit for us here at the observatory! With the fall colors peaking this week and seasonably warm temperatures many people took advantage and came up to come check out the observatory. I have honestly lost track of the number of tours I have given this week, if I had to guess around 20 tours or so. I met a lot of great people who made the trip up the mountain just to come see what we do up here in the observatory.
In addition to the tours we were greeted with several clear days and calm weather. This weekend we started to get back to normal temperatures and finally got down below freezing. The conditions were just right for rime ice coating the summit cone and some surrounding peaks as well. All of you who made it up to the summit on Monday got to experience some interesting weather conditions with the all the rime ice, wind and even some undercast.
As I get more time under my belt here at the Obs, as we call it, I am given more responsibility and learn more aspects of being a weather observer. A portion of this job involves submitting hourly observations to the national weather service. This gets at the core of why the observatory is here on the mountain. Our observations are included into the weather forecast models along with data from other observers across the world. In order to get an accurate prediction we need to know what the weather conditions were initially. I have spent a lot of time this shift learning how to become competent in all of the weather forms and data submissions we need to keep up with. Come October 15th we will have been here on the summit making hourly observations for the past 84 years in all types of weather. That's quite the legacy to uphold!
Up here at the summit we hope everyone who came for a tour had a great time and learned more about us! If you’ve never been to the summit you should make the trip and come experience Mt. Washington. If you’re interested in learning more about the observatory look into booking a tour or even check out one of our winter trips. Unique experiences like these are not something you will soon forget!
Ben Brownell, Summit Intern
20:27 Fri Oct 07, 2016
Record High Temperatures and Fall Colors
Today we have broken our daily record high reaching 57 degrees! The old record high was 56 set back in 1990. Luckily it was a really nice day up on the summit so people could enjoy the fall colors below!
Fall foliage at the base of the Auto Road heading up for shift change
So why have we been so warm over the past couple of weeks? Our average temperature for this time of year is only 33 degrees so we should be seeing freezing temperatures much more frequently than we are. The reason for that is because this summer has been plagued by high pressure ridge after high pressure ridge. The persistent ridging is largely due to a lot of blocking patterns that have set up. When a blocking system sets up, it stagnates all the long waves along the jet streams so all the upper level troughs and ridges will not move for a week or more. Consistently getting stuck under the ridges has lead to sunny skies and warm temperatures for extended periods of time where the opposite is true for being under troughs.
This summer New England has been stuck under a ridge almost every time a blocking pattern forms so drought conditions have persisted. Looking ahead at the next week, it looks like there is a blocking pattern that is occurring again and we are stuck under a ridge. This does not mean we will not get precipitation, but the storms that we do get are weak and will not amount to much over the next week.
In the photo above, over central Europe there is a Rex block which is where an upper level high gets stuck over a upper level low. Due to the rotation of the two systems, it takes some time for one of the systems to begin to move.
In this photo, there is an omega block (named this way because it looks like the greek symbol omega!) over the northern Pacific that is also helping hold upper level troughs and ridges in place. Luckily up wind of this block there is a strong jet streak that will punch through the block over the next few days so that will be a good start to freeing up the jet stream.
Unfortunately, this next week it looks like a ridge will hold strong over New England with only weak storms moving through. Some of the longer range models are starting to look like there could finally be a big pattern shift with more frequent storms moving into the Northeast next week. This is still a long ways out so here is to hoping more winter like conditions will finally come to the summit!
Adam Gill, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
04:47 Wed Oct 05, 2016
Thank You and Goodbye!
After 4 years as an Intern and Weather Observer with the Mount Washington Observatory, I have decided that it is time to move on. The last few weeks have been very bittersweet, knowing that this wonderful chapter of my life is coming to a close and waiting in anticipation for the next one to open. I have been trying my hardest to take mental pictures of every beautiful moment, storing them in the dusty shoe box that never gets thrown away in the back of my head.
Working on the summit isn’t just a job – it’s a lifestyle. The summit crew forms one cohesive, living, breathing body. We all play our part in making the cogs of the Observatory engine turn. We all rely on each other, knowing that any work that was left undone would directly lead to additional work required by other members of our summit family.
The perpetual rhythm of this lifestyle made weeks feel like days and months feel like weeks. Measuring time in 2-week long spans (the length of an on and off week) makes time go by so, so fast. I became so accustomed to my daily routine of morning radios, daily check, raisin bran breakfast, morning (or afternoon) observations, and chipping away at the IT tasks on my plate.
The months had a rhythm as well. The brief summers would be busy with tours and outdoor work. We would see our first snow and glaze in September and weather would quickly deteriorate from there. By late October, we were taking a truck with chains up the Auto Road, quickly transitioning to the Observatory’s snow tractor by mid to late December. Days with little sunlight and summit visitors would be the norm for this time of year; it was our quiet time. Late December and early January signaled the start of our trip season. Many overnight visitors to the summit in awe of the incredible weather reminded me of a big reason why I love the winter. Playing in the winds was a bi-weekly ritual. The hourly hammer of metal-on-metal reverberated through the building indicated one of the main reasons we are up here; to make sure rime ice doesn’t overtake our instrumentation.
We then started to see longer days in March and April, giving me the occasional chance to get outside and take advantage of the settling snow pack to go for a quick afternoon ski on the summit cone. Eventually, sun-baked, mashed potato snow would turn to corn slush. The typical rhythmic carving of fresh snow under the snow tractor blade would turn to a slushy mess as the temperatures warmed and started melting our snow pack. This often formed a tsunami of snowmelt and slush down the road as the snow cat made its way down each Wednesday.
Our office view never gets old, but there were always those times I looked out the window and viewed the Northern Presidential Range like I recognize my own face in a mirror; exactly what I expect and nothing out of the ordinary. This jaded attitude never lasted too long-in the summertime, summit newcomers could constantly be seen and overheard in awe of the view and terrain on the summit, reminding me how lucky I really am to have this view every day.
I am going to miss my summit family and all the observers I worked with through the years. Thank you to my current shift, Tom, Ryan and Taylor, for being unbelievably supportive and always having my back. Carmon, Adam, Caleb and Ben; thank you for all you've helped me with - I’m going to miss you guys. Thank you to the valley folks who keep this organization running and promoting education, outreach and research. And for the interns, observers and staff members who aren’t with the Observatory any more, thank you; you will always be part of the family.
In my time here, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with time lapse photography. I’ve just finished putting together my final time lapse compilation from the summit. I hope you enjoy it!
“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go” -Jalaluddin Rumi
Michael Dorfman, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
17:12 Mon Oct 03, 2016
Tracking Hurricane Matthew
Although it is still nearly 2,000 miles to our south, Hurricane Matthew is looking more and more likely to impact New England and much of the eastern seaboard next weekend. The hurricane is currently located over the Caribbean Sea and moving northward towards Haiti, Jamaica, and eastern Cuba with sustained winds as high as 140 mph. Potentially life threatening conditions will occur over these areas from high winds, storm surge, and flash flooding through Wednesday.
Models will continue to come into better agreement over the next few days and especially after the storm crosses Cuba and moves into the Bahamas. At this time, at the very least, Matthew will likely produce very heavy rainfall (potentially in excess of a foot) and gusty winds across the White Mountains even if the center of the storm tracks well offshore due to interactions with low pressure over southeastern Canada as the storm approaches the Northeast.
Visible satellite imagery of Matthew approaching Haiti and Jamaica
On the summit, at this time rain looks to fall heavily over the weekend, with the potential for winds in excess of 100 mph. Please be sure to monitor the status of both the Mount Washington Cog Railway and Mount Washington Auto Road for any changes to their operating schedules heading into this holiday weekend. For now we’ll continue to monitor the evolution of this powerful hurricane; luckily we have several days to track its progress and also prepare before the Saturday-Sunday predicted time frame of the onset of the storm in New England. Be sure to check our higher summits forecast over the coming days!
Model guidance for the track of Matthew this afternoon
Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Meteorologist