09:45 Sun Jan 20, 2019
First Week at the Observatory
Hello and cheers from the summit of Mount Washington!
My name is Jay Broccolo (check out my bio in the Staff section if you would like to know more about me) and this is my first communication with you all from here in the Observer Comments. This is also my first shift week as a Summit Intern at the observatory so I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience so far with all of you wonderful readers and enthusiasts.
The shift week started Wednesday morning with a ride up the auto road in the Observatory’s Snow Cat. I had never been in one, let alone ride one to the summit of a mountain known for its extreme weather. It jerked us around a bit, but all in all, it was a fairly peaceful ride. We stopped at the 4300’ Mesonet station to charge its batteries and while we were outside, I noticed how poor the visibility was becoming. I have to give credit to the operators of the snow cat. The professionalism, safety, and caution taken by them allowed us, the crew, to enjoy the ride and conversation up to the summit.
Once at the summit and all of the gear was offloaded, we packed it right back up with all the gear of the previous crew and volunteers. Conditions were quickly deteriorating with the increase in wind and the decrease in visibility so after the pertinent operations were completed, the previous crew descended down the mountain in the Snow Cat. Following the introduction, it only took a few hours to experience what the mountain is known for.
On my first day as a summit intern we experienced sustained winds of 70+ mph with a top gust of 108 mph from the west, blowing snow, freezing fog, and a steady accumulation of rime ice of around 3 inches/hr. Needless to say but, it was quite the introduction to what will be the next 4 months or so of my time at the Observatory.
On Thursday, we were fortunate enough to be under a high-pressure system. This allowed me to see my first sunrise and sunset on the summit. I have summited Mt. Washington several times and never been lucky or unlucky enough, depending on how you look at it, to see more than an eighth of a mile in any direction. I could see over 100 miles in any direction, which is truly an amazing view. I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t experienced the sights to do so, although if you are reading this, you probably already have.
A climbing group hiked up to the summit on Friday and stayed with us over night before departing Saturday morning. They were able to experience the best of both worlds. On their hike up they endured poor visibility, fairly high winds, and cold temperatures. The next morning, they were graced with a gorgeous sunrise and fair conditions before the onset of the Nor’easter that is occurring as I write this. I’ve always been a proponent for the saying ‘You get back what you put into it.’ This group of climbers were visibly excited about what they had just accomplished and that they got an insider view of the weather station and the people who operate it. They were full of great conversation, questions, and interest. This, in turn, elevates our own enthusiasm, not that we already aren’t, but the added excitement makes the whole experience entirely more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Saturday was a doozy of a day. After the hikers began their descent, I conducted and recorded my first forecast for the observatory and I am looking forward to producing many more. This one was special though, I was fortunate enough to have a Nor’easter persist throughout much of the forecast period. For anyone not familiar with this terminology it’s essentially just a local colloquialism, but it has picked up so much traction over the years the news media and even the National Weather Service recognizes and defines the term. The reason this forecast was special to me is because I spent most of my graduate degree researching and analyzing factors that influence the development and intensification of extra-tropical cyclones over the Northeast of the US and wrote my dissertation on said topic. However, what occurs here on the summit can be vastly different from what transpires at lower elevations and at sea-level, mainly because of the orography of the White Mountains. I had to incorporate a few more parameters into my forecast. One of the goals I have here during my internship is to dive a little deeper in to mountain meteorology. Every mountain and mountain range is different in various ways which has a large impact on the dynamics of a region. Thus, understanding the orography of a region is extremely important in order to produce an accurate forecast. It can be a very intimate process between the forecaster, the orography of the forecast region, and the dynamics of the atmosphere. That being said, I am overjoyed at the opportunity. I have an amazing crew up here and will be picking their brains for their experience. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated along the way. For now, peace be the journey.
P.S. I feel like the volunteers up here this week require a special shout-out. I cannot describe the appreciation I have for everything they have done for me this week. The meals have been outstanding, the conversation meaningful, and the time together well spent! Their effort, caring attitudes, along with the friendliness, and cohesive personalities of the crew up here have made the observatory feel like a home away from home.
Jay Broccolo, Summit Intern