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Observer Comments

16:04 Sat Apr 18, 2015

From Great To Awesome

As the sun began to rise over the horizon the skies were mostly clear of clouds. Temperatures were slightly above average. The winds were light, at least they were by summit standards. The lovely start to the day was greatly appreciated since it took a while to get the wet bulb reading off the sling. As the morning transitioned into the afternoon the weather turned from mostly sunny to mostly cloudy, and then conditions just continued to worsen.


Just like the forecast was calling for a, weak area of low pressure was beginning to push south from Canada and into New Hampshire. By the middle of the afternoon the outer bands of precipitation started to be seen on the horizon, but it was all falling as virga. With so much dry air in place at the surface the precipitation was evaporating before reaching the ground. As the low pressure continued to push south, enough moisture finally moved in sending the summit into the clouds and bringing showers of snow pellets. More interestingly are the convective aspects that are currently moving through the White Mount Mountains.

While I have been writing this thunder and lightning has been flashing and crashing all around, with several direct strikes hitting to summit. The winds jumped up from about 30 mph to 45 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. As a weather nerd, today was truly an awesome day. It started off beautiful and ended with a bang, literally! Days like this are why I love to work at the Mount Washington Observatory!

Michael Kyle, Weather Observer/IT Specialist

16:54 Fri Apr 17, 2015

Spring Snowstorm On The Horizon?

As our Co-Director of Summit Operations Mike Carmon mentioned yesterday, signs of spring abound across the higher elevations of New Hampshire. Our snow depth is at its lowest point in nearly 3 months, and temperatures have been climbing above freezing on the summit much more frequently the past few weeks. Does this mean we’re done with snow and wintry weather across the higher summits? No way!

Looking ahead at the weather over the next several days, a very active storm pattern will lead to plenty of precipitation across New England through the middle of next week. While the lower elevations will likely see heavy rain and even have concerns for flooding, the very highest elevations of New Hampshire will likely see several inches of heavy wet snow. Tomorrow a quick moving system will dive south out of Canada, with enough cold air in place for mostly snow beginning around noon and lasting into the evening. While this will be a short lived event, precipitation may fall heavily, with isolated thunder not out of the question especially further south and east.

The more interesting storm system will approach the area by Monday, with slow moving low pressure moving into the Great Lakes pulling up plenty of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. Typically this type of scenario, with low pressure passing to our west, would result in a surge of warm air and likely rain this time of year for the summit. At this time, it appears enough cold air will remain in place ahead of the storm to keep precipitation all snow into early Tuesday morning. This will be followed by only a few hours of rain or freezing rain before more snow arrives on the tail end of precipitation Tuesday night and possibly into Wednesday morning. With such a slow moving system, snowfall amounts could be impressive for this time of year, possibly exceeding a foot if enough cold air remains in place throughout the storm. This serves as a reminder that although spring seems to be here in the surrounding valleys, winter conditions can be seen at any time of year on Mount Washington.

Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Meteorologist

15:07 Thu Apr 16, 2015

40-Degree Warmth

I stepped outside for an observation earlier today. After utilizing the sling psychrometer, the temperature read 37°F, with plenty of sunshine overhead, and a warm 25 mph breeze. I remarked to no one in particular, "wow, it's really warm out here." And then I thought twice and chuckled to myself.

Where does 37°F feel "really warm"? The summit of Mount Washington, that's where.

After an impressively cold winter season in which we've seen over 300 inches of snowfall (so far), temperatures struggling to rise above zero degrees for days on end, and winds gusting to some of their highest levels in the last decade, 37 degrees and sunshine in fact feels like a mild spring day for us summit folks. I'm not quite ready to bust out the shorts, but add another 10 degrees and reduce the winds to near-calm, and you'll be left with Mt. Washington t-shirt weather.

The landscape reflects the spring fever as well. Patches of bare sedge and rocks are now much more ubiquitous around the summit cone, and the large snow drifts are steadily succumbing to the increased solar radiation.


This time of year also means more complicated transportation up and down the Auto Road for our shift changes. Yesterday, we ascended up a little more than half of the road in a truck and van, and then hopped in the Snow Cat (after transferring all gear and personnel) for the notoriously snow-laden 5-mile and Cragway sections to the summit.


Summer is coming, though, and we'll be ready and waiting for it!

Mike Carmon, Co-Director of Summit Operations

08:21 Wed Apr 15, 2015

When you step out of the Snow Cat upon arrival at Mount Washington Observatory the experiences start piling up. Driving almost vertically up a 20 foot snow pile to clear the entrance for unloading, we've arrived. A well organized fire line of Observers and Volunteers pass along the many backpacks, food and gear that is arriving, then pass along the many backpacks, trash and gear that is departing. Now to unpack, organize the kitchen and plan the night's first meal. Done! Let's get in our mountaineering gear and go outside and see what the weather is doing. All righty then. we have rain, freezing rain, freezing fog, ice pellets, snow and LOTS of wind. I experienced a105 mph sustained wind and a 117 mph gust that taught me how to fly. What an experience THAT was! I went hiking to a nearby Crag and enjoyed a lunch in a Snow Cave protected from the wind and listened to melting streams of snow and ice crackling underfoot. I did laps in wet snow on the Summit Cone as continued training for Seek The Peak 2015. When you Volunteer at Mount Washington Observatory, you also get to interact, host, as I call it, with Edu-trip overnight guests. We hosted a very interesting three day visit from an AIARE course, held by Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. A wonderful, hearty group of outdoor adventurers willing to brave The Home of The World's Worst Weather to learn about avalanche protocol. We made sure they were well fed so they would have the energy they needed to brave the elements. After dinner, conversations at our community dinner table featured talk about their days' adventures, personal backgrounds and the world in general. You meet so many interesting people while Volunteering at MWOBS. The groups are now gone and the population goes from 16 to 6. It's much quieter, except for the 100 mph Winds howling along the outside wall of the Obs Tower, and life slows down. We are here during the 81st anniversary of BIG WIND DAY and we baked a cake to commemorate the occasion and had a chance to bond more with the Obs crew. What a GREAT group of dedicated people! Now the HARD part, time to start thinking about packing up and going home. I'm already thinking about my next chance to Volunteer in the Fall. You know, you can Volunteer also! Go to www.mountwashington.org to check out how to Volunteer. All these experiences and more could be yours!
Sunset on the summit of Mount Washington

John Donovan, Summit Volunteer

20:23 Tue Apr 14, 2015

Ramblings from a Volunteer
As a Boy Scout it was my first time up Mount Washington with a troop from Dover, NH. I learned very quickly that you don’t take this mountain for granted. While ascending Tuckerman Ravine trail I witnessed a body in a stretcher being brought down from Lunch Rocks. It was death #38 as noted in Not Without Peril by Nicholas Howe. That number has now been exceeded by over 100. You can find the book at the Weather Discovery Center gift shop in North Conway and read about it on page 182.
As a volunteer cook, this is my 10th time serving crews that record weather conditions found nowhere else in the world 24/7/365. This information is needed by scientists, government agencies, universities, media, military, right down to hikers, skiers and recreational enthusiasts. I believe Mount Washington and its environs have one of the highest number of recordable deaths in the world; this on a mountain that is just over 6200’ and has made information available to warn and prevent further incidents.
Walking about the buildings on the Rockpile in the quiet, the history and questions about that history are ever present. What signals and information are passed up and down the antennas of Yankee Building? Who of importance stayed in the Tip Top house? What about the former summit hotels, now replaced by the Sherman Adams Building? I’ve seen folks lounging near the Cog tracks opposite the entryway to State Park’s Gift Shop and the Observatory’s Extreme Mount Washington Exhibit; but I’m still waiting for the moose to show up.
Volunteer Gates Ingram observing sunset on Mount Washington

Gates Ingram, Summit Volunteer

06:28 Mon Apr 13, 2015

Sunny and Mild

If one had to summarize Monday in three words it would be “sunny and mild.” While these three words will be departing our vocabulary a bit Monday night into Tuesday, they will be returning to the region for the midweek. High pressure, which will be providing the fair weather on Monday, will be sliding offshore heading into Monday night as a low approaches to our northwest. As the low passes to our north, it will be dragging a trailing weak cold front with it, which will approach from the west. As this front passes, it will bring some light rain showers to the lower elevations Monday night into Tuesday. For higher elevations, rain will be seen at the start, however some peaks may see a wintry mix on Tuesday as a secondary cold front swings through. As the front exits, high pressure will be rebuilding from the west for Wednesday and Thursday bringing a return of spring-like conditions and those three magical words - sunny and mild. Looking further ahead though, unsettled weather will then be returning as we head into the weekend.

Mount Washington sunrise on April 13, 2015The view at the start of the sunny and mild Monday.
06Z GFS model for MondayMonday - High pressure exiting and a cold front approaching from the west.
06Z GFS model for TuesdayTuesday - A cold front and associated rain showers sweep through the East.
06Z GFS model for WednesdayWednesday - High pressure returns and with it, sunny and mild conditions.

Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist

14:38 Sat Apr 11, 2015

Glaze Ice Galore

It’s crazy to think that since I started interning in mid-January, I had yet to see temperatures above freezing on the summit until just yesterday, when we peaked at 44˚F in the afternoon. 

These temperatures brought about a slew of different weather phenomena as we transitioned through the freezing line. I found the abundance of glaze ice yesterday morning to be particularly interesting, so I figured I would talk about it a little bit.

So what is glaze ice?

Back in February, I explained the formation of rime ice, and discussed how water can exist in a supercooled state, which means that it stays as liquid water below 0˚C or 32˚F. The water forms rime ice when it freezes after coming into contact with a surface.

Going off of this basic definition, glaze ice is essentially the same thing as rime, but with some differences.

 To start, we’ll talk about the difference between freezing fog and freezing rain. Freezing fog leads to rime and freezing rain leads to glaze, so there’s a big connection here.

First, let’s take a look at the difference between a cloud droplet and a rain droplet. The cloud droplet exists as a liquid in a supercooled (below freezing yet still liquid) state whenever we experience freezing fog, and the rain droplet also exists in a supercooled state, except during a freezing rain event.

For our purposes, the primary difference between a rain droplet and a cloud droplet is the size. Rain droplets are much larger than cloud droplets. Take a look…

Raindrop size vs cloud droplet sizeImage Courtesy of Dr. Robert Houze, University of Washington Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences
 The smaller cloud droplets freeze more quickly than the much larger raindrops, and air gets trapped during the rapid freezing that occurs. This makes rime ice far less dense than glaze ice, and produces its white coloring. Conversely, glaze ice is relatively clear, and much denser and heavier than rime ice. This makes glaze much more dangerous when it accumulates on overhead objects.

With significant glaze accumulating yesterday morning, it felt quite necessary to wear a helmet going outside to de-ice with these heavy blocks of ice flying around.

Later last night, as we returned to sub-freezing temperatures, rime became the dominant form of ice once again.

Here’s a picture of a large chunk of glaze ice that I pulled off of the A-frame yesterday. You can see the contrast between glaze and rime quite well here. As the block of ice sat outside overnight, rime ice began to accumulate on top of the glaze ice. The color difference is quite noticeable. Check it out!

Rime and glaze ice

Nate Iannuccillo, Summit Intern

16:47 Fri Apr 10, 2015

Spring is Coming!
While the valleys have been experiencing on-again, off-again spring weather for the last few weeks, the summit has generally still been in full-on winter mode. We only recently broke our streak of below-freezing temperatures a few days ago on April 3rd! But in the weeks ahead we will be slowly transitioning into summer "warmth" (think 40-60 degrees) and seasonal risk of thunderstorms!

The front that brought severe storms to the Midwest yesterday is passing over us this afternoon and is resulting in some lightning strikes to our north and south. One of the most exciting but dangerous weather phenomena that we experience during the summer are convective storms that often roll over the summits. We get direct lightning strikes to the summit on a regular basis, so we must be extremely careful about our safety.  The only times we don’t go outside for our observations are during these lightning events.

As the summits slowly transition from winter to summer, hikers who wander above tree line may encounter the dangers of cold weather risks (hypothermia, frostbite, etc) as well as potentially deadly warm weather risks such as thunderstorms or sudden downdrafts! Before wandering above tree line, be sure to check out our Higher Summits Weather Outlook. Additionally, while it may seem safe by this late in the season, snow in the mountains continues to remain unstable (for example, there were three human triggered avalanches reported Thursday alone). To better understand what you're heading into when heading onto steep snow, be sure to visit the Mount Washington Avalanche Center's page to see their latest forecast.

Michael Dorfman, Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:34 Thu Apr 09, 2015

Do April Showers Really Bring May Flowers?
We have all heard that April showers bring May flowers! But do you think the flowers will be extra pretty in May because the April showers seem to be of the snowy consistency?
That's the story again for this weekend, which currently looks to be quite the mix. Friday will see an area of low pressure moving over the Great Lakes region, ushering plenty of moisture into the Northeast. Ahead of the low, a warm front will pass, allowing temperatures to rise. However, as the low passes, a cold front will move through and send temperatures plummeting once again. So what's the result? Rain to start, then a transition to sleet, and finally snow will likely follow overnight into Saturday morning. Any remaining precipitation should move out by Saturday afternoon.
GFS prediction for Friday 8AM Friday 8AM: An area of low pressure situated over the Great Lakes region brings a surplus of moisture into the Northeast. Image courtesy of The Weather Gun
GFS prediction for Friday 2PM Friday 2PM: The low slowly progresses, bringing a steady amount of precipitation to the state. Image courtesy of The Weather Gun
GFS prediction for Saturday 8AM Saturday 8AM: A cold front follows, allowing any lingering precipitation to transition back to snow. Image courtesy of The Weather Gun
Well, this certainly not the best news around, but who knows, maybe those flowers in May will be worth it!

Kaitlyn O'Brien, Weather Observer/Education Specialist

20:10 Wed Apr 08, 2015

Observing the Observers
Our shift ran Wednesday to Wednesday, April 1-8. The Bombardier Sno-Cat brought us up the Auto Road bumping and shimmying, often times pushing drifted snow as we proceeded by birch poles marking the edge of the road. Some stuck up only inches from the snow road's surface, even though some of the markers are over 10 feet high. Occasionally pavement was bare due to the windblown conditions, especially near the top.
The Observatory staff was generous to let us ride up front. Our driver, John, offered interesting commentary and answered questions. We lucked out with spectacular weather. We could see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, which appeared as a shiny band of silver in the distance.
The week brought interns interviewing for summer positions, a Plymouth State University presentation about the effect of the boundary layer's elevation on weather data at the summit; and two groups who had hiked up, led by guides from Eastern Mountain Sports and International Mountain Equipment. We were happy to share the newly remodeled bunk rooms with very appreciative overnight guests.
We enjoyed seeing Observatory website acronyms: SN BLSN FZFG for Snow, Blowing Snow, and Freezing Fog. The weather we experienced this past week included temperatures ranging from -3 F to +35 F, a peak wind gust of 98 mph, and an average wind speed of 47 mph. The Rockpile received its first rain showers of the year, but also saw an impressive snowfall of 22.6" for the week. Visibility ranged from 0 to 120 miles.
We were treated to two red-sky sunsets with clear evening lights of distant towns and ski areas. It was equally impressive to stand at the Observatory windows seeing clouds, fog and snow fly by. Thank you Mt Washington Obs staff for being so polite, informative, and hungry for the food we prepared. Being with you for the week has been a total pleasure.

Brenda and Preston Conklin, Summit Volunteers

21:17 Tue Apr 07, 2015

Interesting Snow (And Lots Of It!)

What a weekend! Above freezing temperatures and warm wet fog really decimated our snowpack on Friday. The summit cone was showing more sedge than snow and the cols and peaks along the ridgeline were looking pretty rocky. Things quickly got wintery again on the rockpile, however, as we’ve picked up 22“ of snow since Saturday and our snowpack is now deeper than it been for most of the winter. This snowfall has been a bit different than most we have seen this winter as well. Slightly warmer temperatures and relatively light winds mean that instead of watching this snow blow away in giant plumes, it has drifted considerably on the summit. Of course this made for quite a day of shoveling…but what better way to enjoy the sunshine.


With varying temperatures throughout the weekend we also saw a great variety of snowflake types. Along with the dendrites and needles we collected rimed crystals, spatial dendrites, and these beautiful capped columns that Kyle caught yesterday afternoon.

These crystals start by forming as hexagonal columns or prisms, which is a simple and common snowflake geometry. They are then blown into a part of the cloud which is at a different temperature and crystal growth transitions to plates, which grow on each end of the column resulting in a spool-like capped column.

Adam Freierman, Summit Intern

17:05 Mon Apr 06, 2015

Chocolate, Snow, and King Marty

Easter has come and gone on the summit, and most of the staff up here won’t be able to look at chocolate for quite a while. I may have gone a little overboard with the amount of candy I brought up for the holiday. But I can safely say it was enjoyed by all yesterday! Between the candy, snacks, appetizers, the awesome meal cooked by our volunteers, and the inevitable dessert, it was surely a holiday fit for a king! 

King Marty, on the other hand, hasn’t seemed to have had his fill at all. I caught him snooping through our leftovers this afternoon. Who knew his sweet tooth was so unrelenting?


With the amount of snow we’ve seen up here since Saturday (we’re up to 12.6 inches, and still counting!), it felt like we should be celebrating Christmas instead of Easter. But as always, the weather always has its own plans, and runs on its own schedule. One of my favorite sayings is “the mountain does what it wants.” This week has certainly been no exception!

So, until the skies clear and the summit begins to thaw, we’ll rely on our chocolates to boost our mood in lieu of the sunlight we crave. 


Mike Carmon, Interim Director of Summit Operations

17:36 Sun Apr 05, 2015

Happy Easter!

We’ve seen a large variety of weather this week, with signs of spring on the horizon across the high peaks of New England but plenty of wintry weather as well. The summit broke above freezing for the first time in over 80 days, with our first liquid precipitation of the year the overnight of the 2nd into the 3rd. Winter came rushing back in not long after this, however, with the summit picking up nearly 8 inches (or roughly 4 marshmallow peeps) of snow yesterday along with temperatures bottoming out around 0 along with hurricane force winds.

Looking ahead, winter still doesn’t plan on giving up its grip just yet across the higher elevations. A series of mostly weak low pressure systems look to bring frequent snow showers to the higher summits through most of the week. It seems likely that over several days the summit may see in excess of 6 inches of snow, only adding to the snow pack in place. Still, eventually the longer days and stronger April sun will begin to win out, and before long the snow will melt in time for many summer visitors to begin enjoying the views from atop the Rockpile. Until then, I’m personally looking forward to the small steps towards summer, like the first day I’ll be able go outside without a heavy jacket and gloves!

Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:58 Sat Apr 04, 2015

A Great End To Winter Trip Season!

Last night at the Observatory our shift hosted our final climbing trip of the season. Throughout the winter it has been a pleasure welcoming climbing trips and educational overnight trips into our home on the summit. These folks always arrive at the Observatory with enthusiasm to get an extended peek at life on top, and usually a bit of gratefulness to have a refuge from the wild weather outside. Eight days on top of a mountain in winter can feel like a lot longer, and it is nice to have these guests to break up the week and to share our excitement with. It is a rewarding experience to take guests up into the tower and have the fog break at just the right moment for them to catch a glimpse of what lies beyond.

The climbing trip yesterday arrived a little later than normal, as they took their time enjoying the nice soft snow and views in the warm spring sunshine. They were sure to make an early start of it this morning however. When I went out to retrieve the precipitation can at 7:30 there was a fresh and fluffy couple inches blanketing everything underfoot, and snow was falling vertically making for the most tranquil morning I’ve experienced here. It wasn’t long though before we were right back in full-blown and full-blowing winter conditions, with winds gusting to almost 100 mph by lunchtime and snow blasting our windows. While we now have a stretch of quieter shifts before the Cog and Auto Road open to mark the beginning of the summer season, I’m sure the weather will keep things plenty interesting.

Adam Freierman, Summit Intern

19:39 Fri Apr 03, 2015

The Streak Has Ended

Yesterday at around 7:30 PM the summit’s temperature reached a reading greater than 32°F for the first time in 87 days. That 87 day stretch of below-freezing temperatures is tied for the 5th longest, for days with temperatures below freezing since 1935. This was the first time in 37 years that the summit saw more than 80 consecutive days with temperatures not exceeding the freezing point! For many reasons, this has been an impressive winter across New England. While it was fun seeing how long this streak was going to last, now that it is over, it’s nice to see warmer temperatures making their way back into the forecast. Although this weekend’s forecast might be calling for another late-season storm in the higher elevations of the White Mountains, the long range forecast is showing the return of above-average temperatures for the end of the next work week.

Michael Kyle, Weather Observer/IT Specialist

16:59 Thu Apr 02, 2015

Summer, Then Back to Winter

With the spring season in full swing, those infamous April showers are to be expected, and the next few days will be no exception to that. However, glimpses of winter will continue to nose their way into the forecast from time to time.

A strong warm front will approach the region tonight, ushering in some of the mildest air the region has experienced since the turn of the new year! High temperatures soaring into the upper 50s are likely as far north as the Berlin/Gorham area on Friday, with readings well into the 60s throughout southern New Hampshire. Along with these warmer temperatures, rain will overspread the area, lasting through the early part of Friday, with even the summit of Mt. Washington experiencing plain rain for a time! 

In fact, the above-freezing temperatures we're expecting overnight tonight on the summit will be the first since early January!  

However, this summer preview will not last long, as an area of low pressure off the coast rapidly deepens and pushes a strong cold front through New England. This will bring an abrupt end to those relatively-balmy temperatures, prompting precipitation to change back to snow on the summit as the mercury tumbles back into the sub-zero realm. If the low sets up just right, a significant amount of snow could be seen on the higher summits by late Saturday. 

Even though summer keeps assuring us that it's on the way, winter just won't let go!

Mike Carmon, Interim Director of Summit Operations
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