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Observer Comments

11:42 Sat Jun 23, 2018

New Team, Same Dream!

As we enter the final days of June, our shift is looking forward to the big event next month! Seek the Peak 2018 will be happening on July 20th and 21rst, and is gearing up to be another amazing hike-a-thon! Our crew, comprised of our Shift Leader Adam Gill, Education Specialist Ian Bailey, Night Observer Chris Hohman, and our Interns Zach Butler, Emily Tunkel, and Ben Seleb, have come together to create a new team to conquer the climb this July. Team Virgalicious is raising money for the observatory through this annual hike-a-thon, as we all recognize how important the Obs is and how amazing and unique Mount Washington is. Allow me to introduce you to our team, and let them share a small dose of their experience in working with the Obs with you!

 

Adam has been with the Observatory going on 3 years this August. Winter is his favorite season, with frequent high winds and plenty of blizzards. The summers are tolerated with plenty of time spent outside enjoying the weather when it is nice, and being able to interact with all the different people that come up and visit each summer! The past few weeks have been hectic with training all the new people, but we are all fast learners! And he is excited to have a full, enthusiastic crew to work with!

 

Ian is on his second shift as a full time Weather Observer and Education Special for the observatory. Living out his dream of working as a meteorologist, he has found adjusting to mountain life to be truly fun and enjoyable. On top of recording the hourly observations and creating/overseeing forecasts, Ian has been learning and preparing to give Live from the Rockpile broadcasts and Distance Learning events for his shift. And on top of it all, he enjoys “being back at his mountain home. Every day is a new adventure, with new things to learn and exciting things to see! It’s wonderful!”

 

Christopher is on his second shift as an observer. He has enjoyed getting back into the swing of things on top of the Rockpile. The welcoming atmosphere has been incredibly kind and helpful to him as he learns the ropes of being the night observer. Living out his passion to be a meteorologist has been a dream come true. To do that on the greatest mountain on Earth has been the icing on the cake. He hopes to see record breaking winds and storms soon!

 

Zach is on his third shift at the top this summer after graduating this spring from SUNY Oswego with a meteorology major. He has wanted to be on top working here since he was a young boy, fascinated with the extreme weather atop the mountain. So far, he has enjoyed the experiences with forecasting for the challenging environment and educating the public. The highlight of his time up here was his first week when the summit experienced sustained 80 mph winds as well as flying saucer lenticular clouds!

 

Emily is also on her second shift for this summer. During the school-year, she attends Brown University studying Astronomy and Mathematics. On the summit, she is currently researching fog climatology while also learning more about meteorology and weather forecasting. Some of her favorite things on Mount Washington (so far) have been getting to see the Milky Way, all the stars in the sky, the Hays Chart, and of course Marty the cat.

 

Ben has now completed almost half of his summer internship here at the Mount Washington Observatory. A mechanical engineering student, Ben has been learning a plethora of weather facts and forecasting skills during his stay. His favorite part of working here, he says, “is the contrast between the Observatory and its surrounding environment. There’s no workplace quite like it; immediately accessible scientific knowledge and technology, combined with the adventure and extreme conditions available just outside our front door”.

 

Everyone on our crew has enjoyed working together, and we all have become fast friends! Our shared interests and passions have created a very solid work environment up here in the Obs. And all of the work that we do, from weather observation, to forecasting, to research, and even observatory maintenance can at times prove to be challenging. But at the end of the day, no matter how challenging it may be, all of it is incredibly rewarding and beneficial! And none of it would be possible without the very generous donations and funding the observatory has received from so many caring individuals over the years. We hope that you will consider donating to our cause, especially during our Seek the Peak event this July, so that we may continue our proud 86-year history of weather observation here at the Mount Washington Observatory. And hopefully you will consider supporting our team of summit observers and interns, Team Virgalicious, here!

We look forward to seeing you with us here on the summit July 21st! Safe travels and happy hiking!

Thank you all so much for your support!



Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  

15:35 Sun Jun 17, 2018

Getting "Cirrus" About Seek the Peak!

Seek the Peak 2018 is only about a month away and our summit crew is gearing up for what should be a great event! Our summit shift of Taylor Regan, Tom Padham, and Ryan Knapp are raising money for the observatory through our annual hike-a-thon coming up in July. This will be year 4 of our “Cirrus Contenders” team, and all of us know firsthand how very special this place is.

 

Ryan Knapp now has 12 years of experience here on the summit, and his wealth of knowledge is a wonderful asset to the Observatory. Ryan is our resident night observer and staff meteorologist, and has taken many amazing photos, especially of the night sky and northern lights!

 
 

Taylor Regan is going on her second full year as a weather observer, and is now specializing in research in addition to her weather observer duties. Taylor’s passion for all things weather and background with a masters in mechanical engineering make her a unique addition to our team up here, and she’s also got plenty of skill with a camera!

Tom Padham has 5 years of experience working on the summit; partially as the staff meteorologist and night observer, and also as the Education Specialist and shift leader over the past 2 years. Tom especially enjoys conducting education programs and being able to share his passion for Mount Washington and its famous weather with classrooms across the country.

 

It’s an honor to be a part of this hardworking staff and continue our legacy in studying and experiencing some of the worst weather on Earth. Performing our work in weather observation, research, and education is no easy task, but funding all of it can be even more difficult. None of our work would be possible without the thoughtfulness of many passionate people from across the country and beyond. Please consider making a donation towards our largest annual fundraiser for the nonprofit Mount Washington Observatory, and consider supporting our team of summit observers here . We look forward to seeing you on the summit July 21st!

 
Thanks so much for your support! 


Thomas Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  

17:16 Thu Jun 14, 2018

Slingin' In the Rain

This week I really got the ball rolling on my summer research project with fellow intern Griffin. The project consists of us going out 3 times a day taking temperature, humidity, and wind speed measurements at 8 different locations on the summit. One of the instruments we’ll be using is a sling psychrometer that you swing around in a circle to measure the humidity. This week’s goal was to go outside as often as possible and test the instruments in all weather conditions, including rain and high winds. So we did just that, we walked right outside into the rain, our rain gear flapping in the wind, and arms outstretched holding the slings out into the wind. While standing outside in the rain, I was reminded of a certain Gene Kelly song and thought it was very appropriate given my current situation. I guess that will be the theme of the summer, Slingin’ in the Rain.

 
 
Griffin Slinging in the Rain 

Saturday we finally came out of the clouds and I could enjoy the view again. As the clouds were clearing through the day the summit kept passing in and out of the undercast as thicker clouds briefly took over the summit. I went up to the tower watching the clouds pass by in the quiet morning, it was so peaceful. Stratocumulus were spilling over the northern Presidentials disappearing at the crest of the ridge. A stray cloud would occasionally pass across the lower summit just beneath my feet as if I was walking on the clouds. I was indisputably queen of the mountain!

 
 The Northern Presidentials Clearing out of the Clouds


Sarah Thunberg, Summit Intern
  

18:26 Tue Jun 12, 2018

Back to a Full Shift

After several months of being down a person after Mike Carmon left and then with Caleb’s departure, we are back to a full shift! It is quite a relief now that summer is in full swing and we need to have everyone on board to be able to keep up with all the task and tours. Ian and Chris were both former interns from the summers of 2015 and 2016. It is great to have them back on board full time! We also had our final summer Intern, Emily, start as well so we are up to 9 people staying overnight!

Things will be quite busy over the next few weeks on my shift as everyone gets trained up. So far everyone has done an excellent job of learning their duties as well as all the Interns making great progress on their summer research projects. Overall this last week was very quiet weather wise with a little bit of precipitation early on but clear conditions since. It looks like some more exciting weather arrives tomorrow just in time for shift change!



Adam Gill, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
  

18:09 Sun Jun 10, 2018

A Night in the Stars

Good evening MWO! My name is Emily Tunkel and I am currently on my fifth day as a summer intern at the observatory. I normally attend Brown University as an astronomy and mathematics concentrator, so learning this much about meteorology and working up on the summit has been an experience, even this early into the summer.

We’ve had some unusually clear days here on the summit, and I couldn’t be happier. When I first arrived on Wednesday, the fog was so prevalent that if I looked out the window of the Weather Room, I could only see around 200 feet past our office. And while the rocks on the ground were very interesting, I – like most people who come to visit – was interested in one thing. The sky.

As an astronomy student, the sky has always fascinated me. It’s common to find me walking the streets of Providence at night, head tilted back, trying to find something – anything – in the city sky. Despite moving around a lot as a kid, I had always lived somewhere with light pollution; whether the suburbs of Philadelphia, or the Jersey shore, or the densely populated towns of Rhode Island. Never had I experienced the prevailing darkness that Mount Washington could offer me.

After dinner, many of the staff members stay up to watch the sunset together, especially on a clear night. On Friday, the first in-the-clear day I had seen, I watched the sunset with everyone and decided to stay up a little longer to experience the Milky Way for the first time. Although you can easily see Orion from Providence, it’s hard to really see anything else.

 

On most nights, I go to sleep around 9PM in order to prepare for my starting morning shift at 6:30AM. On Friday, I went out first at 9:45PM (way past my bedtime) to try to locate some constellations.

Despite the fact that the sky hadn’t fully darkened from sunset, there were still more stars than I had ever seen in my life. I located Orion immediately (surprisingly faint compared to RI) and the Big Dipper. I found Cassiopeia in the northeastern sky, and Cancer in the southwest. In my room at home, I have glow-in-the-dark stars taped to my ceiling in the shape of the constellations. Locating them in the real night sky was indescribable.

Even though I was exhausted, the night observers convinced me to stay up later to get the real experience. After petting Marty for an hour, I went out onto the deck again at 11PM. The darkness was incredible by itself – I never knew that the world could become that empty. My life had been shaped by city streetlamps and the light of incoming cars.

Around thirty seconds after shutting the door to the observatory, we saw a shooting star.

I thought it was a plane at first, but after I realized the truth my mouth dropped. It dropped even lower as my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I saw – for the first time – the gray space dust of our galaxy making a streak through the northeastern sky. The amount of stars in the sky was unbelievable. I couldn’t even find any constellations because there were too many other stars. Did I let out a few tears? Possibly. I won’t lie.

I’m hoping for more nights like that, even when it’s foggy out – nights where I’m amazed by the conditions up here and I’m amazed by the sky and I’m amazed by what Mount Washington can give me. The good thing is I have the whole summer left to experience it all! 



Emily Tunkel, Summer Intern
  

09:24 Sat Jun 09, 2018

Return to the Rockpile

Greetings everyone! Boy, it sure has been some time. My name is Ian Bailey, and I was an intern for the Observatory in 2015. On my last day of the internship, I remember riding down from the summit, fighting back tears. I was sad that my short but incredible adventure on Mount Washington had come to an end. And I promised myself that, one day, I would return to my home-away-from-home amongst the clouds.


Well, that day finally came! After graduating with my Master’s degree in Atmospheric Science at Ohio University, I accepted the Weather Observer and Education Specialist position with the Observatory!

And it feels so good to be back!

It has been a bit of a whirlwind (pun intended) transitioning back to the Obs. I had learned plenty during my time as an intern. But the observer position carries a bit more weight with it, and I have been doing my best to digest everything I can. A bit has changed since my last time up here, and all of it has been exciting to learn about!

On shift change, things were pretty gray in the sky. We ascended the Auto Road underneath the clouds, stopping at one of the Mesonet sites to get some readings before continuing the rest of the climb. Soon enough, we found ourselves in the clouds with those chilly Mount Washington temperatures I had missed so much. We made it up without issue. And shift change proceeded very much how I remember it. It wasn’t long before the memories came flooding back into my mind. And I could feel that excitement that had been dormant for the past 3 years starting to well up inside me.

We started off the shift in the clouds with fairly light winds (by comparison). But this was actually welcome weather for me, as it made learning how to actually submit the observations a bit easier to start off. “Fog Obs” don’t have much to them, especially since at times you can’t see more than 100 ft. or so in any direction. So the code that needs to be recorded and submitted is pretty short. But this METAR code can have quite a lot to it depending on what’s happening around the obs. And even though I taught this code for 2 years at my previous job, I still have quite a bit to learn about the finer intricacies of the code required for the professional level. But I’m on it!

On Thursday evening, we finally got a bit of a break from the “Wall of White” just in time for sunset! It was a welcome sight to see the sun for a moment before going back inside the wall. And I realized how much I missed sunsets up here.

 
Friday afternoon we really got out of the fog, at and peak clearance we could see 110 miles out! Part of my training involves learning (well, re-learning) the distant mountains we can see and how far away each one is. So a new educational opportunity for me finally presented itself, and we got some pretty sweet views too!


And the skies remained clear! With high pressure moving in and some cold, dry air with elevated wind speeds, it looks like we will be clear (a little in and out of the fog) for the next day or so. Sunset last night was fantastic! We got to see the Mountain’s shadow! And the sunset gave a very nice color array.

 You can see the Mountain’s shadow above, in the center of the picture on the horizon!
 
 

The shift has progressed well thus far. I have my nose crammed in the METAR book studying and taking in as much as I can. I’ve also learned how to do the morning radio show, “Live from the Rockpile”, Facebook live broadcasts, and much more! It has been a lot to learn. But I’m so excited to be back that it doesn’t really get to me, and I know soon enough I will have it all down pat!

This morning was my first live radio show. It was a lot of fun to disseminate a forecast in a more casual tone! I got to flex my Journalism muscles a little bit. And generally I love talking about the forecast. So it was a great experience to do that this morning. And once again we’ve cleared out, and it looks like high pressure will be lingering over us headed into Monday! So hopefully I’ll be able to snap some more beautiful sky pics!

All in all, it has been a great shift so far. I love being back on the Mountain, working in a live weather room with other people who share my passion for Weather, Climate and Science in general. I expect things will continue to be wonderful through the rest of our shift, and I’m excited to face each new day and see what adventures the Mountain and the Observatory has to offer!

Until next time,

I’ll See Ya From The Summit!



Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  

15:38 Mon Jun 04, 2018

Winter Weather Returns to Mount Washington

One of the reasons I was so excited to start my internship up here on the Northeast’s highest summit was for the chance to see snow in the summer. There hasn’t been any snow today, although plenty of freezing rain has been falling. While I’m still waiting for my first June snowfall, I’m just as happy with the ice that’s been falling.

 

I was lucky enough to get a chance to deice some of the weather instruments; apparently I think it’s more fun to deice with subfreezing temperatures and 30mph winds than my coworkers do!

So, why is there freezing rain at the summit as opposed to snow? The mechanism at play is called a temperature inversion, where the temperature increases with altitude. We can see this occurring by taking a look at a model sounding of the atmosphere valid at 9am.

 

The x-axis is shows the temperature, and the y-axis shows pressure, which can be used to approximate altitude. The red line is the temperature, the solid blue line is the freezing point, and the solid black line is about where the summit surface is. The temperature just above the summit is well above freezing, allowing all the precipitation to melt to just rain. At the summit, however, the temperature is right around freezing. The actual temperature at the summit at 9am was 28 degrees Fahrenheit – around 5 degrees colder than what this model projected! Then, below about 5,000 feet temperatures climb back to above freezing, so just plain rain is falling at the low elevations. This put Mount Washington in a goldilocks zone for ice today. Temperatures above and below the summit are above freezing, but Mount Washington itself is struggling to get above 31 degrees. As of 2pm, around half an inch of ice accrued on exposed surfaces (making this one of the largest ice storms I’ve experienced in my life – in June no less).

While the summit has yet to experience any measurable snowfall since May 1st, there is a chance precipitation changes to snow both tonight and again tomorrow night. The summit averages around 1 inch of snow in June, and just last year Mount Washington got 5.4 inches, and in 2016, 6.9 inches fell. Needless to say, I have high hopes that I’ll still get to experience some snow here at the summit of Mount Washington. In the meantime, you can probably find me outside taking pictures of the ice.

 

State Park sign covered in ice.

S

Icicles hang beneath a sign outside the Sherman Adams building.



Simon Wachholz, Summit Intern
  

16:26 Sun Jun 03, 2018

0 to 6288 Feet

Good afternoon! My name is Griffin Mooers and I’m starting my internship atop the summit of Mt. Washington this week. I’m originally from Greenland, NH and I just graduated with a degree in Atmospheric Sciences last week. I’m thrilled to be up on the mountain. Growing up in New Hampshire, and being a huge weather nerd, the home of the World’s Worst Weather has always fascinated me. I’ve been on the mountain twice before briefly. Once many years ago when I hiked up to the summit, and again several years back when I participated in one of the Observatories Winter Overnight Edu-trips. This was a really wonderful experience that I would recommend to anybody who is interested in Mount Washington and wants to experience what life is like on the summit and learn a little more about the work of the observers up here. Ever since that trip, I’ve wanted to come back and be an intern on the summit.

 

Up among the clouds 

When I first got up to the summit just a few days ago, it was in the clouds. I couldn’t see anything out of the windows, and rain was falling much of the time. My Dad would have called the weather “pea soup”. However, yesterday, the mountain emerged out of the clouds and I got my first glimpse of the gorgeous views of the other White Mountains and the Mount Washington Valley Area. Surprisingly, the winds haven’t been super strong in my short time here. As long as you're bundled up for the chilly air, it's comfortable to go out and wander the summit.

 

View of Wildcat Mountain (my favorite NH ski mountain) from the summit

It’s been a really great couple of days. The staff and volunteers have been incredibly friendly and welcoming. I’ve really enjoyed seeing their passion for Mount Washington and the critical work they do. I’m also ecstatic for the chance of snow late tonight and tomorrow. I’ve never got to experience any sort of winter precipitation in June before, so this will be a first for me! Going forward, I’m looking forward to getting additional forecasting experience, completing a research project with my fellow intern, Sarah, and getting to explore the summit!

 

Some of the last higher summits snow before it melts



Griffin Mooers, Summit Intern
  

12:34 Fri Jun 01, 2018

May 2018 in Review

With May 2018 now in the record books I decided to take a look at how our weather for the month stacked up to our 85-year climate record for the summit. There certainly were some interesting stats!

 
Sunrise from the summit mid-May 2017 

Probably the most memorable event of the past month would be our 130 mph peak gust, the highest wind speed we’ve seen in May since 1994. This set some new personal records for my coworkers Taylor and Sarah, and the storm was also accompanied by a thunderstorm with hail, making for a very impressive 24 hours of weather!

 
Hays Wind Chart for May 5th, 2018 with a peak wind gust of 130 mph just after midnight. 

This past month tied 1944 as our 5th warmest May on record with an average temperature of 40.5°F. It was also a pretty dry month, with 4.67” of total (liquid equivalent) precipitation. This totaled only 57% of our normal amount for the month (8.18”) and is overall similar to much of New Hampshire, which has been trending towards a slight drought the past few weeks. Snowfall was exceptionally low for the month of May on the summit, with only 0.1” total for the entire month making it our 3rd least-snowy May on record.

 
After a very snowy April, May had almost no snowfall on the summit. Luckily we were able to take these impressive photos of the crew on the 5-mile section of the Auto Road in early May before things quickly melted! 

Contrasting with May 2018’s snowfall, just last year was impressive for the opposite reason. May 14th-15th, 2017 we actually had our largest single snowstorm total ever for the month with 32.1”. It’s pretty incredible that we can see so much variation from year to year, and I for one count myself lucky to have been able to witness such an event. We’ll see what the month of June has in store for our crew up here. Each month can be very different, but I’m still holding out some hope for a tiny bit more snow before summer really gets started!

 
Taylor and intern Nate had some fun with our record-setting snowstorm Mother's Day weekend last year. 
 


Thomas Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  
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