Observer Comments

10:01 Sun Jun 16, 2019

The life of a Mount Washington Observatory Summer Summit Intern

Insert a modified quote from “Good Morning Vietnam” here: “Gooooood morning Mount Washington!”  As exciting the weather is up on the highest peak in the northeast, the life of an intern can be just as exciting. Interns are delegated several responsibilities that make their lives an exciting and amazing experience. From de-icing in the summer to writing the evening 48-hour higher summit forecast, and a summer long research project, the life of an intern is like none other and you as a reader are going to experience what it is like to be one of us during the summer at the “home of the world’s worst weather”.

The phrase “early to bed, early to rise” is the lifestyle here at the observatory with a 9pm bedtime and the starting gates for an intern may kick open with a 6:15am alarm (though some wake up even earlier). For some, an alarm that early may be miserable but when you are living life at 6,288ft above sea level, every moment is eye opening, rain, snow, fog, or in the clouds when we can’t see a thing. After arising from your bunk and grabbing your morning cup of delight prepared by our amazing volunteers, you head up to the weather room by 6:45am to receive a quick weather briefing and say goodnight to the night observer as the day crew falls in.

Throughout the day you will be completing several daily tasks. Many of these tasks are rather important as they communicate the weather conditions to the public so recreation enthusiasts know what they could be encountering on Mount Washington or on the higher summits. These conditions are expressed in the 48 hour forecast that gets recorded at 4am by the night observer and at 4pm by you the intern.

A big part of an intern’s daily life is their research project that spans the duration of their internship or, in some cases, past that. This project is incisive and relevant as it not only benefits the Observatory, but benefits you. These projects are rather in depth and can help advance our understanding of how things in the world work as far as the weather goes, and improve the way we are gathering information. Everything we do is hope of progression and better precision.

At the end of the day after your work is done it becomes clear that being a part of the observatory is being a part of a family. Every night at 7pm the day observers, interns, night observer, and museum attendant all sit down at a family-style dinner that is prepared by the devoted volunteers, share delicious food, and enjoy conversation with each other. Through stories, laughs we all become a family for the 8 days we spend with each other at a time. We work together, and we live together, life in extreme weather doesn’t mean life in an extreme environment. This is truly a phenomenal experience as you wake up, throw on your “Obs” logoed gear and represent 87 years of weather research and data collection.



John King, Summit Intern
  

13:08 Sat Jun 15, 2019

Seek Your Peak: Alternative Hikes to Mount Washington

 

Looking across the southern Presidential Range from Mount Washington. The southern "Presis" feature much more moderate hikes than Mount Washington that still offer great views!
 
Although many people choose Mount Washington as their goal to hike for Seek the Peak (just one month away!) alternative hikes are a great option for those perhaps not ready to tackle New England’s highest peak. Hiking Mount Washington is not a requirement for the event, as mentioned on our website www.seekthepeak.org:

“Ultimately the weekend is an incredible gathering of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts who have come together to Seek their Peaks in support of Mount Washington Observatory.”

Part of the goal of the event is to seek your peak, whatever that might be! There are many fantastic hiking trails here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, including many with great views of their own for far less effort required than Mount Washington. Below are three “beginner to moderate” hiking options here in the Presidential Range, all with views of Mount Washington that could serve to cap off a great Seek the Peak hike! Still, the first two especially are a pretty solid workout, and can serve as a good point to work or train up to!

 The view over Crawford Notch and into the valley below from Mount Webster

Mount Webster: Mount Webster (3,911 ft) is located at the far southern end of the Presidential Range, and has spectacular views overlooking Crawford Notch and also views stretching to the north to Mount Washington. The hike also features a waterfall as a bonus, and can be combined with nearby Mount Jackson as a longer loop (5.2 miles for the loop, 4 miles for Mt Webster alone). I personally prefer the views from Mount Webster over Mount Jackson, since there is a great view of the steep drop off into Crawford Notch. I recently did this as a training hike myself for Seek the Peak!

 
Mount Eisenhower: Although Mount Eisenhower (4,780 ft) is a much taller mountain than Mount Webster, it’s actually about the same difficulty in terms of how strenuous the hike is. The hike is longer at 6.5 miles round trip, but overall it’s a little bit less steep throughout the hike. As a reward for the added effort, the summit has 360-degree views of the surrounding terrain, including a unique perspective across the Dry River Wilderness and up to Mount Washington. 

Mount Washington's massive summit cone looms off to the north from the summit of Mount Eisenhower. 

Black Cap Mountain: By far the easiest of these three, but still with great views! This is a great hike to do with kids due to being shorter in length (2.2 miles round trip) and not very steep. This hike starts on Hurricane Mountain Rd in North Conway, NH. The road (and your car) does most of the climbing up the shoulder of the mountain, and is very windy. On top a series of smooth ledges offer great views of the Mount Washington valley with Mount Washington off in the distance. Since this is a shorter hike it can also serve as a great training mountain for the two above!

However you choose to seek your peak, from everyone here at the Mount Washington Observatory thank you for being a part of our community and supporting our important work! Happy hiking!



Thomas Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  

18:40 Tue Jun 11, 2019

Ethan's First Full Week on the Summit!

Hello everyone, my name is Ethan Rogers, and I am one of the summer interns for 2019! I am on the same shift as Ben Charles and Austin Patrick, two of the other interns, and it has been a great first full week on the summit! I am currently a rising Junior at Penn State University, and I am studying meteorology. I am in the ‘general’ option, which is almost like a jack-of-all-trades meteorologist, one who loves all types of weather and everything that has to do with weather. I am also minoring in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and I absolutely love all things maps, travel, and exploring new places! I am originally from the DC metro area in Maryland, but have since moved to Connecticut. Some other hobbies of mine include hiking, listening to music, watching and playing baseball and storm chasing!

Currently, my main focus in meteorology is studying extreme weather, and learning how to make forecasts for such events. However, I do love all aspects of meteorology, including researching and learning new things, making maps for severe weather events, and storm chasing! Previously, the highest wind I have ever experienced (or at least remember) was a 60 mile per hour gust in Amarillo, Texas earlier this year in May during a heat burst. Since I have been on the mountain though, I have experienced winds that gusted up to 90 miles per hour at the time that I am writing this, however in a couple of hours winds could even top 100 miles per hour! That is incredible to me! I have also experienced my first May snow on the summit, and experiencing the insane weather up here will always be an experience that I will cherish. I am also working on an interesting and exciting research project during my time on the summit!

My research project that I will be working on for the summer is called the “Winter Meltout Project”, or jokingly called the “Swiss Cheese Project”. The goal is to analyze the frequency, magnitude, and duration of winter (Dec-Feb) thaws from 1935 to 2019. I will be analyzing how often the temperatures (and eventually, dewpoints) rise above freezing over a winter season every year, and then I will analyze how many meltout events there are, as well as their magnitude. We jokingly call this the swiss cheese project because meltouts are almost like holes in the “cheese” that is winter, so we are trying to see if there are more holes per winter! It’s a great way to visualize the project and is pretty funny too!

I am absolutely loving my time up here on the summit of Mt. Washington, and for my first time in the White Mountains, this really isn’t too bad!



Ethan Rogers, Summit Intern
  

09:12 Mon Jun 10, 2019

Summer Internship!

Wind, fog and snow oh my! Being up here is kind of like being transported to a Wizard of Oz sort of world. I am constantly on the edge of my forecasting seat waiting to see what new type of unexpected weather will pop up next. We even got snow today. Snow. In June!

Hello, my name is Emma Penafiel and I am the newest summit intern from Boxford, Massachusetts. I just finished my second year as an Earth and Planetary Science major at Johns Hopkins University and, let me say, coming from the 80 degree heat of Baltimore, the freezing temperatures on Mount Washington are a positive change.

So far I’ve only been here a few days, but I already feel at home. From the start I was going to be the only intern coming up in the middle of a shift and had no idea what to expect my first day. I was so nervous I had trouble eating that morning. Luckily, blustering winds, pearly white fog and new friends all welcomed me warmly at the summit. And, while my first day was filled with hours of reading, I knew that I was going to love my time on top of Mount Washington.

Being from Massachusetts I am familiar with New Hampshire and have hiked some of the other mountains dotting the region. Unfortunately, I had never before been to the top of Mount Washington, and nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of it all. Even on my second day, with the observatory encased in fog, I was mystified by my surrounding. That day also marked my first time climbing through those famous high winds to the top of the tower. When I came down, I was a soggy, windswept, smiling mess. I loved every second. And now, with three days of early mornings, shadowing both observers and fellow interns, and fun family dinners, I am positive that I am going to continue loving every moment.

While on top of Mount Washington I will be working on a project involving the North Atlantic Oscillation’s effect on the Mountain’s weather. While doing this, I am excited to learn more about the home of the “world’s worst weather.”



Emma Penafiel, Summit Intern
  

15:38 Fri Jun 07, 2019

Instrumentation by the Decade
The 1940’s ushered in a new era of research for Mount Washington. It was the beginning of research around rime icing at the summit. The project was first brought to the summit by David L. Arenberg of the Blue Hill Observatory. He picked the Observatory because of its perfect conditions during the winter to study rime icing. The typical high winds and dense fogs of winter set up the perfect conditions to study. Soon after, the basic factors to study were set and the research began. It quickly grew apparent to observers at the summit that this was a project they were highly interested in and is what began frenzied research that spanned most of the 1940s. Pictured below is an article in the Mount Washington Observatory News Bulletin from March 1940.
 

Research on rime icing kicked into high gear with the onset of WWII. Their research became even more important because it now was being used to better prepare planes for icing conditions during the war. Fred Milan and Staff Sargent George Hanson were added to the Observatory staff in order to better fill the need for more intensive work. Staff Sargent Hanson was sent to the observatory to represent the Army’s interest in the reports specifically concerning rime icing. Additional staff wasn’t the only addition to the observatory spurred on by the riming research. Renovations to the observatory took place to build a tower for the weather instrumentation to sit on, so it could better record the conditions on the summit.

 

After several years of research on riming, it grew apparent that the meteorological instruments needed to change too. Specifically, the originally heated anemometer and its predecessor the cup anemometer. Both of these instruments proved to be useless in icing conditions, so a new instrument was needed. In 1945, Adam J. Eckert began working on reconfiguring a pitot-static tube meant for airplanes into a weather instrument meant to face some of the worst weather in the world. With the much needed assistance and encouragement of Vincent Schaefer (who worked for General Electric at the time), the first pitot anemometer was built and in operation on April 1st, 1946. It looked a lot like instruments today, but with a lot less power. It used a total of 350 watts to run where today's prototype General Electric pitot tube uses about 3,800 watts of electricity to remain ice free during the harshest Mount Washington weather . Pictured below is the first weather report using pitot tube data for its observations and the front page of the Mount Washington News Bulletin from November 1944.

 
 
 

Information from this post has been sourced from Mount Washington Observatory: The first 45 years, 1932-1977

I am excited to show more Mount Washington history over these next few weeks of my internship with the IT department. I spent hours digging through the Mount Washington archives to find some of the original documentation and instrumentation of the 1940’s! All the photos in this post were taken and edited by myself.



Charlie Peachey, IT Intern
  

20:41 Tue Jun 04, 2019

Citizen Scientists Mobilize!
Every time I stepped out last night to a scene of snow and rime, I found myself double-checking my smartphone's calendar to make sure that it was indeed June. Especially since just a night or two earlier I had done my shift in shorts and a t-shirt and now I am bundling up hourly to step outside to take on the “June-uary” weather. However, I know from working here as long as I have, snow in early June is not unusual and in a day or two, our observations will merely be a memory for all of us up here experiencing it. And those that don’t follow our feed will come up to the summit without a clue that any of this ever happened as it all quickly melts off. Such is the nature of the mountain.
 
Short description of imageSunrise view of Mt Washington, 4 June 2019
 
The good news though, as we head deeper into summer, milder weather will prevail allowing more and more people to get out and explore the various natural environments of New Hampshire and other points in northern New England. If the White Mountains are on your list of places to explore, many of you will likely be snapping pictures of your journey with your smartphone; I know I do when I go hiking. But did you know that your smartphone can also aid in expanding scientific research and knowledge by utilizing a few select apps? And inputting data is typically quick and easy typically only taking a few seconds here and there. If this sounds like something interesting to you, here are three apps I have on my smartphone to get you started:
 
1. iNaturalist (Android or iOS): This nature app helps you identify the plants and animals around you as you are on the trail. However, this summer, you can use this app to in on providing data to the Northeast Alpine Flower Watch which will aid in documenting flowering times of plants in northeast alpine areas. By being a volunteer in this study, you will join the combined efforts of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), Baxter State Park (BSP), and Green Mountain Club (GMC) in documenting flowering plants in the mountains of Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. For additional information, you can check out the project page HERE, the AMC resource page HERE or an instructional video HERE.
 
2. mPing (Android or iOS): This app is your portal to providing observations to the research meteorologists at National Severe Storms Laboratory that will aid them in developing and refining algorithms that use the newly upgraded dual-polarization NEXRAD radars to detect and report on the type of precipitation that you see falling.
mPING volunteer observers can spend as much time as they want, from a little to a lot, making observations. The two focus areas are winter precipitation and thunderstorms (hail). If it is precipitating in your, just open the app and report what is falling at your location. Or if radar is showing precipitation but it isn’t, you can open it and report that no precipitation was falling. Easy to use and beneficial to meteorologists.
 
3. eBird(Android or iOS): If you are a birder or maybe someone that likes to view/photograph birds, this app makes it easy to record the birds you see in the field. The app then provides your observations to eBird--a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world. This free resource makes it easy to keep track of what you see, while making your data openly available for scientific research, education, and conservation.


Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist
  

19:36 Mon Jun 03, 2019

Anna's First Shift on Mount Washington
When they say ain’t no mountain high enough, I’m not sure if they’ve been here and seen what weather the prominence of Mount Washington can help produce. Though to be fair, I haven’t experienced the extremes yet either and am not entirely sure what this mountain is capable of. And if I’m being honest, that’s probably why I love it.
 
Hey, my name is Anna Smith and I’m one of the new summer interns here at the Mount Washington Observatory. Born in Jersey, raised partially in Maine, and taking Atmospheric and Oceanic Science courses at Stony Brook University on Long Island, I’m mostly familiar with the weather in the Northeast. I say mostly because I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. I’ve also had limited Great Lakes experience but that’s beside the point. So far, I’ve only experienced “mild” gusts (50 mph?) but was still amazed by the sheer force hitting my side. Though always interested in weather, knowing Mount Washington was out there accelerated that interest immensely and actually drove me to pursue a career related to atmospheric science - one picture of rime ice and a few fast facts was all it took. To say the least, I’m wicked (yes, wicked) excited to finally get a taste for the weather and climate here myself.
 
These mountains have a lot to offer outside the weather, and I plan to take advantage of all the hiking, exploring, and photographing opportunities I can. Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes as I feel at home in the mountains, and I hope to complete all of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers before I turn 30. I also love a good book, and maybe I’ll finally finish Lord of the Rings this summer when I’m not working on bettering my forecasts, grabbing the precipitation can, or working on my research project.
 
Speaking of my project, my partner John and I are currently checking out the new pitot tube and determining whether it is ready to start taking the observatory’s wind and pressure measurements. It’s amazing to see and work with the instruments that gave me my datasets for a research project I worked on last summer. Many of them are unique and designed specifically for the Observatory, and to see them hold up against these conditions… almost like they’re telling you that if they can, you better be able to as well!
 
It’s good to be back in the mountains, great to be with amazing people while I’m here, and man, there’s no place like home.


Anna Smith, Summit Intern
  
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