04:27 Wed Aug 26, 2015
A Great Week at the top of New England!
During the weeks leading up to my first summit volunteer week for the MWOBS, I daydreamed of hurricane force winds, temperatures below freezing, and ferocious storms. I have come to know Mt. Washington as a pretty extreme place; not until I arrived at the summit did I consider that one of the possible extremes that the Mountain had to offer was completely calm winds and mild temperatures. That being said, the second thing that I learned was that calm weather by no means represents a lack of incredible experiences and the chance to witness beautiful weather phenomenon.
While volunteering with my father (Mitch Hanson) we had the unusual experience of being able to witness winds as calm as 0.7 miles per hour. Seeing the anemometer on the Observation tower come almost to a complete standstill is an experience of its own and is actually rare compared to the dozens of times I have visited the summit in my lifetime where I had to completely bundle up and find shelter from the wind. This week was consistently in the mid 50’s and allowed for a lot of hiking and adventuring.
At night after cooking turkey dinner, BBQ and Sriracha Sauce meatloaf, and quesadillas, for the MWOBS crew it was a treat to be able to stand out in shorts and a t-shirt and watch an incredible under-cast sunset from the observatory.
One morning before our other volunteer activities began Dad and I were able to hike over and summit Mt. Monroe via the Crawford Path. During this hike I witnessed my first “fog-bow” which I was later informed by Summit Observer Mike Carmon is similar to a rainbow but refracts sunlight slightly differently because fog droplets are so much smaller than rain droplets.
Another advantage to calm winds and extremely limited visibility is that conditions like that force you to concentrate on your immediate surroundings rather than gazing off into the distant into limitless views. I really began to appreciate the lichens on the rocks on a hike to Nelson Crag.
I was able to focus closely on condensation from the intermittent fog moving slowly over the summit coating every surface that it came in contact with.
The opportunity to become a member of the Mount Washington Observatory and to have the chance to be summit volunteer partners with my father has been an amazing experience for me. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the research that is being done here on the summit or for those of you with a love for the White Mountains. And don’t forget, you get to bake a lot of cookies!!!
Craig Hanson, Summit Volunteer
16:44 Mon Aug 24, 2015
It’s Good to be Back!
After taking a brief vacation, I am back to work on the summit of Mount Washington. While my vacation was very enjoyable, part of me did miss being up on the summit. The things that I miss the most during my time away were the sunrises and sunsets. While most people would agree that a sunrise or set anywhere is usually a beautiful site, ones from the top of a mountain (particularly on Mount Washington) are just on a whole other scale of beauty.
Michael Kyle, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
I’m lucky enough to see so many amazing sunrises/sets since when I’m working I live here on the summit. Otherwise access to the summit vistas during sunrises and sunsets are limited to just hikers and special events. One of these special events is our “Sunset Soiree
”, which is coming up on September 12th. While tickets are selling fast for the Sunset Soiree, there is still some left. So be sure to get yours before you miss your chance to see a truly one of a kind sunset from the summit of Mount Washington. There will be a sunset champagne toast, followed by some delicious food to close out what should be a great evening.
08:29 Sat Aug 22, 2015
This week is my first week up on the summit of Mount Washington. So far it has been quite an experience. The only other time I have been up on the mountain or anywhere in the North East was when I came up for the interview three weeks ago. The first day up was a nice day where the winds were under 15 mph for much of the day and there were not many clouds in the area. There was quite a bit of haze due to air pollution and high humidity so visibilities were around 20 miles for the day. We did have a few thunderstorms in the area during the afternoon.
Thursday morning had a really awesome sunrise, the fog was in the valleys with clear skies and the aerosols and particulates in the atmosphere allowed for there to be some brilliant colors. Within an hour, the fog socked in the summit for the rest of the day and into Friday. Winds also picked up with gusts getting up to 57 mph! Though this is nothing compared to the winds frequently seen up here, it is some of the strongest non-storm related winds that I have seen.
After being in the clouds for 36 hours, we had a surprising break in the clouds right at sunset on Friday evening. There were thunderstorms visible off to the east with a cloud layer several hundred feet below the summit allowing us to be an island in a sea of clouds. By Saturday morning the winds had become almost completely calm with some filtered sunshine through thin fog on the summit.
I have already got to experience some of the work that occurs at the summit on a day to day basis. I have never done any sort of radio broadcasting before and I got to record a broadcast for some local radio shows for their evening listeners on Thursday night.
Adam Gill, Summit Intern
07:21 Fri Aug 21, 2015
Arline's Volunteer Comments
Finding my way to the Mt. Washington Auto Road on August 12, 2015, I met Slim and his crew at the Maintenance Garage. Right from the start I felt welcomed. I could tell right away Slim was going to be fun to see around the Observatory.
Slim gave me directions to the parking lot where I met Ryan and all the rest of the shift crew. The drive up the Auto Road was the first time I had been back to the summit in 45 years and it was so wonderful. My husband and I drove up on our honeymoon.
I must admit that arriving at the Observatory, bringing in everyone's gear, food, and being introduced to the facility layout was a little overwhelming but to go forward in life you have to keep pushing yourself to see what your limits are.
My first whole day here made me see that this was to be an adventure to remember. That first full day began with viewing a floor of clouds with the mountain tops peeking through – I was almost giddy. That was the start of what has been a most exciting time for me.
Saturday the Auto Road was closed for the Mt Washington Auto Road Bicycle Race. It was so exciting to see the participants who had trained so long and hard to be able to make it to the summit and their friends and families there to cheer them on.
Beautiful sunrises, sunsets, heavenly clouds, meteors and the Aurora Borealis, what a week I have had.
Of course I need to mention the wonderful people at the Observatory. Thank you to Kaitlyn O'Brien, Co-Director of Summit Operations, and a most energetic and sweet personality. Ryan Knapp, staff meteorologist, night observer and summit photographer who was so kind to several times alert me to some awesome happenings going on outside. Intern Ian Bailey who just finished his last shift. Ian is sweet and so appreciative and I can't wait to see what he does next – I will know because he was thoughtful and Facebook-friended me. Thank you Ian for that. Museum Attendant AJ Grimes – quiet and so polite, and off to graduate school and a wonderful career.
Marty, my little friend who would meow at me every morning and keep me company when everyone else was working. I was also glad to meet the NH State Park crew and get to know them: Jim, Chris, Nate, Melanie, and Emily.
Thank you to all of you for making me feel at home and a part of your wonderful, unique group. I hope I will be welcomed back to cook up my homemade meals for you and our guests.
Arline Cochrane, Summit Volunteer
23:14 Tue Aug 18, 2015
Farewell For Now
“It is in
the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action,
that man finds his supreme joys.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
That is how
I felt at the beginning of this summer. After finding out that I got an
internship position with the Mount Washington Observatory, I could barely
contain my excitement! I knew that I would go into every day, waking up with
the drive to explore, adventure, do my best, and conquer the
what an experience it has been!
three months isn’t a terribly long time. The standard person can fit
several great experiences into that timeframe and enjoy it. All of it is truly
dependent on where you go and what you can do in that span of time. I can
easily say, in the past three months of working here, I have lived as if I have
had three years of experiences. And as a result, I am forever changed for the
It truly is
insane to think about how fast the time flew by, and how much we have done
here. I was commenting with A.J., our Museum Attendant, about how we
weren’t completely sure what happened to the rest of July after the
4th. We know a lot happened in that span of time, but it seemed like just
yesterday that we were watching those little dandelion explosions (fireworks)
all around us in the valleys.
It makes me
glad I made it my goal to take at least one beautiful picture per day. And to
date, I have taken over 1,000 photos. And how could I not? Yes, this is the
place with the “World’s Worst Weather.” And that
is a huge attraction and factor. But it is also one of the most beautiful
places I have ever been. I have witnessed and experienced many things this
summer I may never get the chance to see again! Of all of these pictures, let
me share my best with you. I hope they inspire you to get out here and see it
for yourself. Because really, it is the most incredible of the treasures you
find when you take this adventure by the horns.
the bat, first week up here: May 21, 2015. And there was still ice and snow
here! This Rime ice grew up off the deck and looked like dangerous road spikes!
It’s the only Rime I got to see this summer. I am so lucky I got a
chance to snap a photo of it!
Ian Bailey, Summit Intern
2015. Just a couple of days later, we were visited by aliens!!! (Just kidding,
these are lenticular clouds lol). I have waited all of my life to see these,
being a flat land Ohio native. And on this day, these Lenticulars were all
around the summit!
2015. This is a perfect 360 degree halo (cut off so I could get it to focus).
Basically this a rainbow formed by light shining through and refracting from
the ice crystals that form Cirrus clouds. I took this shot while giving a tour
to a newly ordained preacher! Coincidence? Maybe? However, to get a full
360…I mean wow….
June 21st, 2015. Who can you say
they’ve ever been inside of a rainbow? Well, not really a rainbow.
It’s called a Fogbow! I was inside of a cloud with the Sun shining
through and got to see one! But because it can’t refract the light
fully, you get grey, white and yellow for colors instead! How crazy is
June 22nd, 2015. In my opinion, one of
the best sunsets I’ve ever seen - A perfect and bright Corona around
the Sun, a developing rainbow of colors on the horizon, and fog dusting the
summit like a battlefield. It truly was a sight to behold!
2015. This night will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life.
It was my first Aurora Borealis ever. And for a grade 6 storm, I
couldn’t have asked for a better one. Look at how massive it is, and
how vibrant the colors are! That night was such a powerful bonding experience
for our crew. And I will never, ever forget it.
2015. As you look back on our history as a nation, be it for school or individual
purposes, you may often find yourself wondering what it would be like to meet
one of the people you are reading about who have had such a huge impact as to
leave their mark on our past. Well, I got to have that experience. The
gentleman in the red hat is Lt. General Richard Trefry. He was 1 of 2
meteorologists to make the call to postpone D-Day by a day due to bad weather.
His call may have saved thousands of lives, and played a major factor in the
success of the Normandy Invasion. And he came to not only visit us, but
COMPLIMENT us on our efforts! It truly was an honor to meet and talk with
2015. This was the day before our Seek the Peak event, the biggest hike-a-thon
of the year for Mt. Washington! We had a morning interview Matt Zidle from
Channel 8 out of Portland, which was a lot of fun. Their crew is super friendly
and awesome. And on top of that, Seek the Peak was a HUGE success and a ton of
2015. It sometimes escapes you exactly how far up in the sky we are. But it all
gets put back in perspective when gliders are buzzing your observatory as they
fly by! How crazy is that!? Whizzing past at no more than 50-100 ft. above us!
It was a ton of fun to watch and wave as they flew past.
2015. One of the most intense storms to cross the summit this summer. Look at
the rain curtain, crepuscular rays, and sunset afterglow! While it was a
beautiful storm, it was also destructive and deadly, claiming two lives in the
valley. It’s a stark reminder of how powerful nature can be, and how
we need to keep ourselves and others safe as we can with our forecasts. During
this storm, the summit received several direct strikes!
2015. The third in a long line of storms produced some impressive cloud to
ground lightning! Granted, it looks tiny up here. But don’t let that
fool you. Even at that distance, lightning can prove to be deadly. We watched
from the safety of indoors as this powerful storm passed.
same day, the storm blew past quite quickly, and in its wake left some pretty
crazy views! I call this the “Ying Yang Sky”, as you can
almost split it down the middle and see the opposites between sides that bring
balance to each other.
13th, 2015. What a CLEAR night! Just before the meteor shower was supposed to
hit, our night observer Ryan Knapp took this awesome long-exposure shot. I
haven’t seen the Milky Way this clear since I was a little kid! We
stayed out and watched the sky for hours, trying to take it all in.
finally, August 16th, 2015. I couldn’t have asked for a better
goodbye present from Mt. Washington than a SECOND Aurora Borealis night! While
this storm wasn’t as big as the one in June, the colors were just as
vibrant if not more, and spanned a wider range of the spectrum! My favorite
color is orange, and that was the dominant horizon color for the entire event…like
it knew that’s what I wanted lol. And on top of that, incredible
blues, purples, greens and yellows! It was breathtaking!
impressive stuff right?! I really have had an incredible summer here. I have
lived a thousand experiences and made thousands more memories, all of which I
will hold near and dear. I thank Mt. Washington every day for sharing so much
all else, I can never forget who it was to bring me here and give me my shot to
live and work in such an amazing place! I want to thank all the people who work
hard to make Mt. Washington what it is.
Valley Staff who work tirelessly to keep the Observatory going strong, I thank
you all so very, very much. Since the moment I arrived in New Hampshire, all of
you have been so welcoming, kind and helpful. I admit I was a bit intimidated
coming and living here. But you all made me feel SO comfortable; like I have
been working with you all for years. It was such a huge help in my transition,
and I am forever grateful to you all. I’m glad we got to share such
fun memories this summer, and I hope to see you all again in the
State Parks crew, you guys are some of the coolest, craziest and hardest
working people I know. During the day, you guys go above and beyond to keep
this place running, on top of making sure those who visit stay safe getting up
and down. It’s quite the burden to bear. But then at night to be able
to relax and have fun, and include our staff and myself in the process was
really awesome. I will truly miss Senior Sundays with those delicious nachos
and good music, and Theme Night Tuesday with all of our crazy costumes and
stories. I truly respect and appreciate all that you guys do. And I’m
so happy you included me into the group. Some of the greatest friends I’ve
Volunteers who came up with us this summer, it truly was a pleasure to meet you
all! Bruce and Ayla, Marcia and Lindsey, Josie and Kiel, Dennis and Johanna,
Mike and Sue, and Arline, thank you all so much! Volunteers are such a vital
and wonderful part of the crew here at the summit. And each and every one of
you brought awesomeness to the table. Incredible meals, great stories, and even
better company. I hope you all enjoyed your time here as much as we enjoyed
having you here. Really, thank you all so very much!
opposite Observatory Crew, I’m glad we found time to hang out
together this summer! Granted, I wish we had more time. But that’s
hard when we work opposite shifts from each other. Mike Carmon works so hard to
keep the operations happening around here, and puts so much effort into the
events that take place here. So much knowledge and experience, on top of being so
nice and welcoming. And, in being part of the deciding factor, I will never be
able to thank you enough for bringing me here. I hope the rest of the crew had
as awesome of a time this summer as I have, and I hope to see you again
finally, my crew. They are a compilation of some of the nicest, most
intelligent and fun people I know. Every day was a treasure thanks to them.
We’ve shared so many good memories, told many hilarious stories, and
shared in the incredible experiences I talked about above. Even though it was
only three months, I feel like I have known these guys my entire life. Kaitlyn
O’Brien, just like Mike Carmon, puts all of her heart into this
Observatory. Constantly working and staying on top of summit operations, both
good and not so good, is a huge effort. And no matter how long she works or
tired she gets, she always has a smile on her face and an infectious laugh you
can’t escape lol. I also owe you my eternal thanks in deciding to
bring me here. Without you guys, I wouldn’t have been blessed with
the summer of a lifetime like I have been. Each and every one of my coworkers
strives to do the same as Kaitlyn. And without a doubt, I can call each one of
them my family. My home away from home with my family that I will miss very,
Thank you for taking the time to read
this. I hope in reading it you’ve gotten a glimpse into what
it’s like here. And maybe, hopefully, you’ve started
formulating your own hopes, ideas, and plans to come visit. It truly is an
incredible experience. And if you have the means, I hope you find your way here
and have just as amazing of a time as I have had.
As I pack my bags for the final time this
summer, setting my GPS for the 14 hour drive back to Cleveland, Ohio, I will
look back on each and every minute, think about each and every person I met
here, and do my best to force back the immense feeling of sadness I have about
leaving here. Somewhere in my heart, I know that this is not the last time I
will be here. I know someday, somehow, I will come back and hopefully continue
to be a part of Mt. Washington and the incredible community that works here. I
love it here, and love is a powerful force that can make great things
“Where we love is home
– home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” Oliver
16:44 Mon Aug 17, 2015
After what has been a fairly mild summer (at least here in northern New Hampshire), this week the thermostat has been cranked. A large dome of high pressure has built over the Eastern Seaboard where it will sit in the coming days setting up as a Bermuda High. The anticyclonic (ie, clockwise) flow around the high will mean warm, moist air from the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico will continue to stream northeast keeping things warm and muggy in the coming days. Short-term, this set up of summer-like weather might sound ideal to some people. Long-term though, this set up brings an increasing potential for severe weather and hurricanes.
While the periphery of the high is responsible for hot, humid, and hazy conditions on the East Coast, towards the center of the high in the Atlantic, air is sinking causing it to dry and warm. This sinking motion suppresses cloud formation over the ocean, allowing sunlight to warm the waters in the Atlantic. The longer the high is able to stick around, the more it is able to allow sea surface temperatures to rise around the inter-tropical convergence zone (or ITCZ for short), which in short, is the breeding grounds for the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes. As an area of low pressure forms or moves off the horn of Africa and encounters these warm waters, it intensifies. It then is steered clockwise around the large dome of high pressure towards the Caribbean and Eastern US. As of this writing, there is already a disturbance forming which will need to be monitored in the coming days for its potential to develop into a possible hurricane later in the week.
While hurricane potential is something to eye on in the really long-term, short-term, the hot and humid conditions will be a primer for severe weather in the coming days. As a cold front slowly approaches from the west, the atmosphere will become increasingly unstable, heightening the risk of daily showers and thunderstorms for the region. Convective activity will be spotty on Tuesday but as the front approaches for an expected passage on Friday and Saturday, activity will become more and more widespread. As the warm weather increases outdoor activities, those playing outdoors should take precaution and keep an eye on the forecast as well as the sky in the coming days.
Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist
18:45 Sat Aug 15, 2015
Ride to the Top
Today was the annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb
! Congratulations to all of those who endured the 7.6 mile uphill trek. Luckily, it was a beautiful morning and the showers and convective activity held off until the late afternoon.
Kaitlyn O'Brien, Co-Director of Summit Operations
Towering cumulus clouds surrounded the summit throughout the day, making for variable visibility. One minute we were in the clouds and the next, we had a spectacular view of the giant tufts of moisture growing higher and higher right before our eyes.
With an area of high pressure approaching the region overnight, summits will gradually clear for tomorrow revealing a gorgeous day. Temperatures are expected to reach the low 60s at 6,288 feet, while temperatures in surrounding valley locations may peak in the mid 80s.
If you haven’t made it to the summit yet this summer, tomorrow is your day!
17:20 Thu Aug 13, 2015
I cannot believe the summer season is winding down already. It seems like it was just yesterday I made the trip up Mount Washington for my first shift. Even though this summer passed by in the blink of an eye, the awe inspiring beauty of Mount Washington has left me with many memories.
For example, my first day, I remember pulling off halfway up the Auto Road to put chains on the tires of our van, because of icing at the top. Upon summiting, patches of snow dotted the landscape above tree line. What snow that I saw that morning is now long gone. On that particular day we hit a 98 mph gust, which just so happened to be the highest wind speed I saw all summer long. Talk about being thrown right into the Mount Washington work environment!
I remember experiencing my first thunderstorm and watching the lightning flash, witnessing a few direct strikes to our building, and delaying dinner because we couldn’t take our eyes off the storm.
I remember the breathtaking sunsets I’ve watched dip low over the western horizon with fellow staff and volunteers perched high atop the observation deck, and the calming silence that takes over the summit when we realize we are the only ones left.
I remember all the things I’ve learned from full time staff members not only about meteorology, but more about life and work in general at this unique location.
I remember the friendships and connections I’ve made with our visitors and the general public. Between casual conversations in the gift shop, to the members who have greeted us with energy and excitement for their tours, it has been incredible meeting so many fantastic people who support us and the work done here.
Many times I am reminded of the special history of the Observatory and the hearty souls that have worked here in the past. Mount Washington to this day still possesses the highest wind speed ever observed by man. To share some of the same duties and responsibilities as the group of observers who were here to witness that, even for just the summer, has been nothing short of an honor.
The season will soon be changing; meaning some of the faces at the summit will be changing as well. I find it difficult to not see myself gearing up for another week on the summit next Wednesday, as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Best of luck to the new interns coming in! I am sure your experience here will mirror mine.
As the months have passed I have grown closer to all the dedicated men and women who work here. Due to the distinct lifestyle that all of the employees up here take part in; I do not merely see them as my coworkers, but as my extended family of sorts. Thank you Mount Washington Observatory for granting me the opportunity to participate in this second to none internship program.
Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern
15:44 Tue Aug 11, 2015
Until Next Time
I’m really not even sure where to begin; it seems unbelievable that I’m writing this already. And it makes me incredibly sad. This summer was filled with more weather, merriment, and learning than I could have ever imagined. Like the lichen grows on the rocks, the White Mountains have grown on me.
It seems funny looking back to the beginning of this summer because I was so nervous embarking on this journey. This was my first time moving to a new place on my own, living by myself, and having a job related to meteorology. Not to mention my first time ever in New Hampshire was in April for my final interview before the internship. We took the snow cat up the mountain, and I didn’t even realize that there was an actual paved road because there was still so much snow. I really, really like it here—on the mountain and in the valley. I’m surrounded by so many people who inspire intelligence and adventure, and I’m so thankful for everything they have taught me.
In addition to learning what it takes to be an operational meteorologist and weather observer, I also learned a lot about myself. You learn a lot about yourself sitting in a dark room, watching lightning strike the summit and surrounding mountains over and over again. And you learn a lot about yourself at 5 in the morning, watching the sunrise over a sea of clouds. And you really learn a lot about yourself when you’re lying on a deck looking out across the Milky Way, watching the Perseid meteor shower from the tallest mountain you’ve ever been on.
I have seen so many truly beautiful things during my time up here, including how hard everyone works and how dedicated they are to the observatory. I have taken some pictures, but honestly I feel silly trying to capture these moments instead of enjoying them while they last. Plus nothing ever looks as good as it does in person. Sometimes I just shut my eyes tight and try as hard as I can to etch these things into my memory forever.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work at the Mount Washington Observatory, and I am tremendously unhappy to be leaving so soon. The observatory really does feel like a home away from home, and everyone here is like my second family. I am going to miss it all so much.
Thailynn Munroe, Summit Intern
16:44 Sun Aug 09, 2015
The Week (So Far) In Pictures
Our shift started off on a unique note this week, with the MWO Summit All-Staff Retreat taking place. For the first time in a long while, nearly all of our valley staff came up for a two-day, one-night retreat to the summit. The name of the game was fun! Wednesday was full of science experiments, fun & games, and our first-ever "all-staff weather observation." There were even a couple rounds of MWO Jeopardy!
The second day of our All-Staff Retreat saw the summit socked in the fog for the second consecutive day, with chilly conditions in the morning, as temperatures ranged in the upper 30s with winds gusting near hurricane force. Inside, though, our valley staff companions treated us to a hot breakfast to warm our souls, to be followed by an all-staff scavenger hunt. Fun was had by all staff, both summit and valley, and we all enjoyed spending time together and getting to know one another even better. The retreat was an enormous success, and we’re already spinning ideas for next year!
The third day of our shift saw the summit emerge from the clouds for the first time, resulting in a visible sunrise. The soft morning glow reflected brilliantly off the fog-soaked observation deck during a particularly peaceful morning for me.
Saturday kicked off with some picturesque views around the summit, and concluded with a stellar sunset. It was an incredibly busy day atop the Rockpile, which kept our interns busy with lots of tours. Even Marty was ready and meowing to go to say hi to the guests passing through!
Today began with more stunning scenery, as overnight fog cleared to reveal an undercast below the summit. The undercast gradually rose through the day, and clouds began billowing and towering above the height of the summit, looking ever-formidable as the afternoon progressed. Winds dropped off to near nothing for a large portion of the day as well, which allowed temperatures to rise to their warmest readings this shift.
Mike Carmon, Co-Director of Summit Operations
15:24 Fri Aug 07, 2015
Marty's Big Day
Hey guys, Marty here. I just wanted to let everyone know that this past week I was taken down for a veterinary appointment in the valley. The ride down was definitely not my favorite part; as many of you know I almost never leave the summit, so I’m a little wary of cars. However, once I was down there I adjusted right away. In fact, I actually thought it was really cool seeing all of the trees and blue skies, which are sights unseen at an elevation of 6288 feet! The veterinarian gave me a clean bill of health. She actually said I was probably the healthiest she had ever seen me. My coat is super fluffy and shiny, and my eyes are bright. I’m almost 9 years old, and I still feel like a kitten!
The beginning of this shift on the summit was pretty exciting. I was really happy to be back with all my fur-iends in the Observatory and State Park. Not only were all the summit staff here, but almost everyone who works for the Mount Washington Observatory was here for the night as well for a staff retreat. It was such a blast hanging out with everyone and getting to know them. They are all pretty paw-some so if you’re ever in North Conway, you should check out the Weather Discovery Center and say hi to them.
It has been a really busy and exciting summer here at the Observatory, and I am starting to see signs that the season is winding down and will be coming to an end soon. This will be the last shift week for the two summer interns on Mike's shift, and Kaitlyn's interns only have a couple shifts left also. It is really sad to think about saying goodbye, however, I am looking forward to living and working with the new fall interns. Up here, we really are a family, and I am happy to have met so many fun, friendly, weather enthusiasts.
If you are ever at the summit building, make sure to keep an eye out for me! I sometimes like to patrol the rotunda or even the outdoors and check out all the visitors. I hope to see some of your smiling faces!
Marty, Summit Cat
21:49 Mon Aug 03, 2015
Hiking and Lightning: These are a few of my favorite things! (As long as they are not occurring at the same time…)
Well, it’s been another wonderful week up here on the Rockpile. This past Wednesday a few of us hiked up to the summit for shift change. We started at Pinkham Notch and hiked up Tuckerman Ravine. On the way up, we stopped to look at Crystal Cascade, a beautiful waterfall just a short hike from the Pinkham Visitor Center.
This was my first hike up the mountain I have called home this summer. This was also my first time getting a good look at Tuckerman Ravine. We took a brief pause by the Hermit Lake Shelter and the surrounding mountains were glowing from the recent sunrise.
The view from Hermit Lake was also quite beautiful even with the top part of the ravine obscured by fog.
Once we made it over the Little Headwall, the fog cleared some and gave us a great view of Tucks.
As we made our way up the Big Headwall, we saw there was still a pretty large chunk of glacier there, impressive for the tail end of July.
We made it to the summit and I insisted on getting a victory shot at the summit sign. A nice man offered to take a picture of Ryan and me once we got there.
Needless to say, it was a wonderful hike, but an exhausting first day of work.
We had a busy few days of tours and I’ve spent the remainder of my time forecasting, doing historical data entry, and working on an IT project. By Friday afternoon we had cleared pretty nicely.
Conveniently, Saturday was a pretty quiet day in the Obs, so I was finally able to show my family around the summit! Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day so Sunday night, I decided to visit my dear friends down at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut.
I hiked back up to the summit via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail since Tuckerman Crossover is one of my favorite trails.
We spent today watching storms develop and they did not disappoint! This morning we could see pink cumulonimbus clouds associated with severe thunderstorms in Quebec.
This afternoon we got quite the show, with small hail, strong gusts, and several direct lightning strikes to the summit. Having had a fairly tame summer here weather-wise, I was chomping at the bit to be in a storm like this on the summit and it was thrilling! After the chaos of our storm had passed, we cleared and had the most incredible view of a storm moving through to our north (pictured below). This is one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen and I am sure to never forget it.
Elena Weinberg, Summit Intern
18:59 Sat Aug 01, 2015
Another Electrifying Birthday on the Summit!
We here at the Observatory have a continuous 8-day-on, 6-day-off schedule, maintained 365 days a year through holidays and birthdays. It is typically the luck of the draw whether you’ll be on the mountain or off the mountain on any given day, so I’ve had a couple of birthdays on the summit. So, it being my birthday, I’m going to discuss one of my favorite things here (as well as a common weather theme): thunderstorms!
Today, we experienced some impressive temperature drops as lines of convective rain showers moved through. To understand these temperature drops one must first understand how thunderstorms form. As the sun beats down on the earth’s surface, the air directly next to the ground begins to warm. As this layer of warm air grows, a buoyant force pushes it upward due to the temperature difference of the cold air directly above it. This layer of warm air then eventually forms bubbles that lift off like a hot air balloon departing the ground on a cool summer morning.
Of course, you can’t yet see any of this since air is clear. As the bubble of warm air rises, it cools due to decreasing pressure with height (temperature and pressure are directly correlated thanks to the Ideal Gas Law) . In unstable conditions, the surrounding atmosphere remains below the temperature or the rising bubble of air, allowing it to continue to rise.
Colder air can’t hold water vapor in gas form as easily as warmer air. Because of this, once the air cools below its dew point a cloud will start to form. Then something happens to this air mass that is not so “Ideal” (in the sense of the Ideal Gas Law). An impressively large amount of energy is stored in gaseous molecules. When the gas molecules condense into liquid cloud droplets, this energy is released in the form of heat. To follow the hot air balloon comparison, this would be like pulling the burner, allowing the balloon to heat up even more and accelerate upward. As it accelerates upward, more air condenses and allows it to accelerate even more.
This air will accelerate until either the surrounding air is warmer than the bubble of air or atmospheric conditions interrupt the upward flow of this air (for example a level of fast moving air would disrupt this convection). Severe thunderstorms can push through the troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere) into the tropopause (a layer of the atmosphere where air doesn’t cool as much with height). Once the cloud rises to a level where there is no buoyant force, it spreads out creating the stereotypical anvil shape that we all recognize as a thunderstorm.
While all this convection is occurring, collector droplets (soon to be rain drops) form within the cloud. The convection in the cloud takes these droplets for a ride, sometimes pushing them so high in the cloud that even summer temperatures dip below freezing and freeze the drop. If this drop makes this trip in and out of the below-freezing zone several times, it will collect more liquid and freeze this liquid in layers. This eventually falls as hail in severe storms.
The hail doesn’t perpetually ride the Ferris Wheel of convection–it may simply get too heavy to be pushed up by the updraft, or it may get forced down by a downdraft. These downdrafts consist of air falling rapidly towards the ground through a storm. This falling air is colder than the surrounding air, and is often the reason why we see significant temperature drops during thunderstorms. These downdrafts can be extreme, regularly surpassing hurricane force (74 mph) on the summit. Combine this with hail and lightning regularly striking the summit and it is very evident that thunderstorms are exciting yet very dangerous from our perspective on the top of the mountain.
So, the next time you’re planning on venturing above tree line during a warm summer day, be sure to check our higher summits forecast to understand what you might encounter along the way! In addition to monitoring the forecast, always be aware of your surroundings. Tall, convective clouds, especially in the morning, can be a sign that the atmosphere is unstable and supportive of thunderstorms. Safe hiking!
Michael Dorfman, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
Mount Washington Observatory
- 2779 White Mountain Highway
- P. O. Box 2310
- North Conway, NH 03860
- Tel: 603-356-2137
- Fax: 603-356-0307