08:11 Fri Jul 26, 2019
A Year Ago Today
July 12, 2019
A year ago today.
It’s a phrase that floods our social media these days, but we don’t always think about it. Where were we? What were we doing? Was the Mountain in the clouds then, too? Probably, it is a majority of the time but, hey, maybe a year ago today was a special day. I know it was for me.
It’s a Friday, and a dreary one at that. Rain and fog fill the air, and winds are just high enough to feel slightly less than pleasant on exposed skin. But it’s a busy day nonetheless. Twenty-two people are coming up from the base, looking to see what the Obs is all about. The NEPARS group is on its way.
The Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric and Related Sciences (NEPARS) is a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU... yes the acronyms are largely over now) jointly run by Plymouth State University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. As a summer program meant to broaden student understanding of research and career opportunities in meteorology, climatology, and similar sciences, the REU not only gives students the chance to perform research, but additionally provides opportunities to go to different places to see where these studies can be applied, places including the one and only Mount Washington.
My apologies, apparently there are a few Mount Washingtons in other states. I’m referring to the one this website is about. Back to the blog.
The scents of spicy chili, sweet cornbread, and sugar cookies already fill the kitchen as the volunteers prepare the group’s lunch. Tom prepares a few words of wisdom and knowledge as the education specialist on the mountain. AJ practices another ob and then gets ready to help students up to the parapet. John looks over a webpage over sling psychrometers one more time to ensure he can explain how observations are done. Emma looks over the schedule again and races to the museum and I run through the speech on Mount Washington’s weather, MWOBS research, and daily operations one more time.
Educate, investigate, operate. Let’s go.
The group walks in and after splitting up into three subgroups, the tours begin. John brings a few to the Observation Deck, another set is brought downstairs to the living quarters, and the rest stay with me. We look at the topographical map which illustrates why Mount Washington faces such severe weather, the Weather Wall with its exciting Hays Chart spinning in circles, and out the window to see if the clouds have cleared at all (the answer is no). Some of the students stare wide-eyed at pictures of rime ice, and I can’t help but smile, knowing I felt the same way almost exactly one year ago. I’ve given this tour many times now but I’ve been on it too, and the last time was as a member of the very same REU.
A year ago I was doing research in Plymouth, working with Mount Washington’s weather data for my project. Seventeen college students in desperate need of coffee made the same early morning drive in July, 2018. On the tower, my research partner and I stood wide-eyed at the pitot tube that was providing the wind data our research relied on. I had been on the mountain before and had always looked for an opportunity to participate at the observatory, but this visit gave me a chance to talk with the interns and observers, learn more about experiences and programs during the summer season, and understand the daily life of an intern. With those discussions, there was no question about what I wanted my next summer to be.
Now, because of this internship, the inner workings of a pitot tube are no longer a mystery. Forecasting takes two hours rather than three and a half (though I still need Tom to check every time), and the significance of these forecasts is now more than just a blurb on the Obs website. Talking with hikers, volunteers, and the State Park, interns gain a greater appreciation for the importance of interpreting models and radars. Seeing rime ice for ourselves emphasizes why MWObs is staffed 24/7. Giving tours, we test our own knowledge while sharing with others what happens behind the scenes. I can share this love for the mountains and weather with the REU. Climbing up to the parapet, sharing pictures of rime and snowmen on Jefferson, explaining the extremes, talking about playing in hurricane-force gusts... I’m glad to see that some of them are as excited as I was. Up here, no day is the same; they are as unique as the phenomena we witness.
Experiences like these open doors, teach lessons, shape personalities. This internship has already provided its fair share of eye-opening sights and, when there’s nothing to see but white, certainly mind-opening conversations.
A year ago today. Makes you wonder about a year from now.
Anna Smith, Summit Intern