Observer Comments

13:22 Tue Jan 25, 2022

A Highlight of My First Shift: Warmer Temps at Summit Caused by Inversion
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work and live atop Mount Washington? My longtime desire to answer this question has led me to become the observatory’s newest summit intern as of last Wednesday.
 
Upon my arrival on the “rockpile,” I was welcomed by an enthusiastic, smart, and wonderful team, along with the Observatory’s notorious cat, Nimbus. My first few days have been much more than I ever imagined. Top experiences so far include snapping photos of rime ice formations at the summit and on Tuckerman’s ravine trail, learning from the crew about history and daily life at the Obs, and experiencing what is known as temperature inversion last weekend.
 
We had to change gears halfway through the week-long shift as the observers on duty brought me up to speed on their forecast calling for the inversion. The conditions we experienced Friday night into Saturday morning, Jan. 21-22, caused the summit to be warmer than temperatures in the valley. This inversion actually began happening in the late afternoon to early evening before sunset on Friday and continued through Saturday’s sunrise.
 
 
Our Current Summit Conditions with Auto Road Vertical Profile, pictured above on Jan. 22 at 9:43 a.m. EST, show the inversion on Saturday morning as temperatures increased from 1600 to 6,288 feet in elevation. These temperatures are continuously collected and updated as part of our Mount Washington Regional Mesonet. 
 
The observers predicted the inversion correctly while teaching me how to compile all the data and complete proper Mount Washington forecasts, which I have read countless times, like many of you who love adventure in the White Mountains’ higher summits.
 
Within the troposphere, where most of our weather takes place, temperatures usually get colder with a rise in elevation, just as you would expect during a hike to the summit. A reversal of this normal behavior happens during temperature inversions, also called thermal inversions. When skies are clear and winds are low, oftentimes under high pressure, daytime heating slows and stops as night falls. Air at the surface cools more quickly than it does aloft, especially in low-lying areas, like mountain valleys. As the warmer heated air from the daytime rises, cooler denser air remains and becomes trapped underneath the "cap" of warmer air aloft until the next morning when heating resumes or a new air mass mixes in.
 
In the case of last weekend, neighboring valleys had cold, light, northern air flowing down with ample snow cover and clear skies, which allowed for radiational cooling overnight. The buoyant warm layer of air aloft kept the denser, colder air near the surface until it began to warm through the morning with ample sunshine under the exiting high, as demonstrated above by our Current Summit Conditions with Auto Road Vertical Profile, showing the range of temperatures on Jan. 22 at 9:43 a.m. EST.  
 
I took full advantage of the resulting prime conditions at the summit, enjoying a walk outside and talking with some hikers who remarked how much warmer it was than when they started out that morning. The temperature difference from the valley to the summit was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit! This set up a perfect morning to take photos while visibility was on my side at about 120 miles.
 
During my weeks off the mountain, I live near the Belgrade Lakes region in Maine. I simply love anything that has to do with nature and extreme weather, and what better place to experience these things than on Mount Washington, in pursuit of a career in meteorology? As a volunteer firefighter/EMT who has also worked for the Forest Fire Service, I’m not your typical 9-5 guy. In my free time, I like to head up to Baxter State Park, or “upta camp” in Aroostook County, to go snowmobiling, boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking with my girlfriend Jill and our dogs Baxter and Cope.
 
It’s great to be here, and I can’t wait to come back for my next week-long shift at the summit weather station!
 
  Standing at the summit of Mount Washington during my first shift as a summit intern. 


Will Gabbert, Summit Intern
  

19:42 Tue Jan 11, 2022

Reflections on my first year as a Weather Observer
Last Thursday marked my first full year at Mount Washington Observatory. I joined the team as a winter intern last year and became a Weather Observer & Education Specialist in March.
 
The past year has been very formative for me professionally and personally, a lot of which I credit to my life at the Observatory. I’ve been exposed to so many unique experiences, from taking weather observations in harsh conditions to chatting about my work from the summit with students.
 
I’ll never forget my first experience with hurricane-force winds on the summit. Just two weeks into my internship, winds gusted to 157 mph! That feeling of opening the tower door to sustained 130 mph winds and hearing what that kind of wind sounds like was incredible. Though we haven’t hit a wind gust that high since, I still look forward to high wind events (even the relatively “unimpressive” 80 mph days!). Every day at the Observatory is always so unique and I’m grateful for each one I get to experience.
 
When not working at the weather desk or taking measurements outside on the observation deck, my co-workers and I have a lot of fun in our spare time on the summit. My favorite memories so far include hiking down to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, hanging out with State Park, nightly dinner conversations, playing and getting very excited over Mario Kart, and simply watching our favorite shows on the couch. We’re all big ol’ nerds on our shift, which makes deciding what to watch very easy. Star Wars? Of course! The Witcher? Absolutely!
 
I’ve also had some of the best times giving virtual programs as our shift’s Education Specialist. It’s fantastic seeing students from both local schools and across the country joining in and engaging. I’ve fielded some great questions from curious minds and been able to present on topics that I’m passionate about. It’s very rewarding seeing students and general audiences get excited about science and our work at the Observatory.
 
I consider myself a life-long learner, and there isn’t one person at this Observatory that I haven’t learned from. For that, I’m so grateful. Seeing my fellow observers and valley staff carry out their work and handle situations with such dedication, especially while also grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, is inspirational. Being able to learn from my colleagues and witness their own experiences has helped me grow as a Weather Observer, and as a person. Looking forward to all the incredible experiences yet to be had up here on the Rockpile!
 
Jackie Bellefontaine on her first day as an intern in January 2021Jackie Bellefontaine on her first day as an intern in January 2021.


Jackie Bellefontaine, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
  

20:22 Wed Jan 05, 2022

2021 By The Numbers
2022 has arrived, so it is a perfect time to look back and summarize the year that was (2021 in this case). If I were to use adjectives to summarize 2021 weather conditions on the summit, they would be: warm, dry, foggy, and windy. To find out why these words were chosen, let's look back at some of the stats from last year.
 
Our average temperature for 2021 was 29.7°F (-1.3°C), which is 1.7°F above the 1991-2020 30-year normal for our station. This would make the annual average temperature of 2021 tied with 1938 for the third highest in our dataset, which started in 1932. Our warmest temperature recorded in 2021 was 67°F (19°C), which occurred on August 12th and again on August 13th. Our coldest temperature recorded in 2021 was 28°F below (-28°F/-33°C), which occurred on March 2nd.
 
In terms of total liquid precipitation, from January to December of 2021, the summit of Mt Washington received 77.41 inches, which was 13.82 inches below the 1991-2020 30-year normal for our location. From January to December of 2021, the summit received 222.3 inches of snow, which was 59.5 inches below the 1991-2020 30-year normal for our location.
 
In terms of winds, for 2021 our average was 34.9 mph, which was equal (+/-0.0 mph) to the 1991-2020 30-year normal for our location. Our highest gust recorded for 2021 was 157 mph, which occurred on January 24th. From January to December, we had 135 days which had gusts of 73 mph or greater and of those days, 38 days had gusts that were 100 mph or greater.
 
As for our weather during 2021, we averaged 35% of the possible sunshine. The summit had 16 days that were noted as clear or mostly clear, and there were 44 partly sunny days, with the remaining 305 days being filed under mostly cloudy, cloudy, or obscured (fog). We had 321 days with at least some amount of fog recorded during a 24-hour period. We had 145 days with rain and 156 days with snow.
 
If interested in additional weather data, please check out our F-6 page (updated nightly), our Normals, Means, and Extremes page, our Current Conditions Page, our 48-Hour Higher Summits Forecast, and our Annual Temperature Graph (an update with the 2021 data included will be coming in the next day or two). If you need data for research purposes, you can submit a request HERE. If interested in supporting the work we do at our weather station, please consider donating or becoming a member. 
 
Moonlight on the northern Summits at dusk from November 2021Moonlight on the northern Summits at dusk from November 2021


Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist
  
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