08:00 Wed Feb 05, 2020
A Quiet and Beautiful Week Two
My second week is finishing up and it was a much different (but still awesome) experience from my first week! In my first week, I was thrown into the lion’s den experiencing winds nearly at 120 mph on my third day here! This week, however, conditions were extremely “calm” by Mount Washington’s standards. We barely saw any gusts over any gusts over 50 mph all week until Monday afternoon! We had a weak high pressure ridge hanging out over New England for the first half of the shift keeping winds very mild. That is very uncommon during the winter months considering we average gusts over 100 mph once every four days this time of year on the summit. I was reminded of the power of this mountain very quickly that afternoon as I was struggling to hold my position while de-icing the instrument ring on the tower. Winds were sustained around 85 mph with a few gusts breaking the century mark Monday night!
The “Home of the Worst Weather on Earth” sure was not living up to its reputation for a good portion of this shift. Even so, that was no problem because the calm and clear conditions allowed me to enjoy the other spectacular aspect of the mountain; the geography! Thursday afternoon, I was able to explore some of the mountain for the first time with winds below 15 mph and sunny skies that afternoon. I hiked down to Lake of the Clouds and was mesmerized by the views along the way. I really felt like I was able to start getting a feel for where landmarks were located which gave me a much better understanding of the mountain! It is very easy to get caught up with only focusing on happenings at the summit so this short hike was very beneficial for the new guy here. Being from one of the flattest states in Delaware, I have had very little hiking experience in the mountains. That walk back up to the summit was a very humbling experience to say the least. I think my legs are still feeling it! I am looking forward to the next hike.
"Lake of the Clouds"
We had two hiking trips that climbed the summit on Friday and Saturday in beautiful weather. We met some awesome people from the Eastern Mountain Sports and Synnott Mountain Guides groups. Both groups were fortunate to climb in unseasonably calm conditions making both trips a huge success! My favorite part of the week came on Sunday morning when the Synnott group was set to leave and we had a beautiful undercast. An undercast is when the peak is in the clear while clouds blanket the sky below. I had only ever seen an undercast from aircraft, so getting to see the clouds sitting below while standing on a mountain was a first for me. It was fascinating to watch the clouds interact with the mountains around us from above and study how they moved around or over them. It gave me a literal new perspective on cloud formation and movement! In my second week, I was able to see another one of the amazing phenomena that this mountain has to offer. Check the Facebook to see a time-lapse of it taken by observer Ian Bailey!
"Undercast rolling into the Great Gulf and over The Crag"
The next thing I am waiting on is for my shift to experience a major snow event while on the mountain. After a quiet January for major snow makers, I am keeping fingers crossed for February to change that. It looks like this low pressure coming Thursday after shift change might do the trick so keep an eye on our forecasts! This brings me to my research project that will involve taking snow depth measurements on the summit. We have found that trying to determine snow depth on the summit is very difficult especially from the high winds constantly blow snow off or into drifts. I will be collecting data daily at specific points on the summit for the next few shifts. The goal is to determine where is the best location to measure depth so that we can give the most accurate information to the public and NWS. After analyzing the data, we can look into other research relating to the snow depth on the summit.
I would also like to give a shout out to our volunteers, Pat and Steve, for making my second week awesome once again! Pat is always good for a midday visit to the Weather Room where he will have us laughing the whole time. Steve is making the best desserts which I am finding very hard to refrain from eating every time I pass through the Observer Lounge. They have been doing this together for years and I have even learned little things about the observatory from them! They are quite the duo and I highly recommend booking a trip the first week of February during their shift next year.
I also forgot to give a shout out on here to the volunteers of my first shift; Bruce and Andrea, for making my first week run so smoothly. Thank you for making this feel like home, Bruce and Andrea!
The second week, while different in terms of weather, was another success for me. I was able to explore the mountain, witness a spectacular undercast, and am getting more confident taking on the challenge of forecasting for the mountain. I am also excited to get my research project underway my next shift!
Caleb Buchler, Summit Intern