Observer Comments

11:02 Tue Oct 18, 2022

Leaving the Mountaintop I Call Home. Where Do I Even Start?
From the very beginning of working at Mount Washington Observatory, I knew this week would never come at the “perfect” time, would never be easy, and would certainly not feel right. In a perfect world, I would probably never leave this mountaintop that I have come to call home.
One of the many breathtaking sunsets I was fortunate to experience on the summit.
I write this during my final week as a weather observer at the summit, and if there ever was an appropriate situation in my life to use the term “bittersweet," this is it. The experiences I have had up here, the people I have met, worked with, and gotten to know, and the sights I have seen, will forever stick with me. As a scientist and weather observer, I dealt with A LOT of data in my time at MWOBS. I figured it would only be appropriate to provide some notable experiences and the stats to accompany them.
Following are some notable things I have been able to experience at the summit: 
      -Many continuous days of nothing but fog with almost zero visibility 
      -Many continuous days of mostly clear skies with over 130 miles of visibility, being able to see past
      my home in northern Massachusetts which is a 3-hour drive away from the base of the mountain
      -Deicing the instruments at the very top of the instrument tower in winds sustained over 100 mph,
      multiple times in an hour
      -Liquid rain falling heavily into an air (and likely surface) temperature of 26°F, resulting in feet of rock-
      hard glaze ice accumulation
      -Eating lunch on top of the instrument tower, the actual highest point in the Northeast, under plentiful
      sunshine and not a breath of wind
      -Viewing the northern lights dance across the horizon, the Milky Way in its entirety, and the Big Dipper       in every section of the night sky
      -Snow, sleet, and rain falling in every possible direction
      -Thousands of weather observations submitted to the National Weather Service with my initials
      -Living on the highest summit in the Northeast for an entire year of my life (2+ years of every-other-
      week shifts)
      -The opportunity to work the night shift four times, with one stint lasting over two months straight
As for notable statistics that I experienced, for the numbers people out there:
      -Highest wind gust while on shift: 157.3 mph @ 5:41 EST Jan 24, 2021
      -Highest wind gust while outside deicing: 115 mph multiple times
      -Warmest temperature: 66.0°F Aug, 2020 (67.3°F while sleeping Aug, 2021)
      -Coldest temperature: -22.6°F Feb, 2022 (-23.6°F while sleeping Feb, 2022)
      -Coldest windchill: -68.9°F Feb, 2022
Installing the RM Young propellered anemometer on a crisp spring morning.
It is true that all of us weather observers are drawn to the Home of the World’s Worst Weather for just that; the extreme weather. But after just over two years here, I can humbly say that I now prefer high pressure and the nice weather conditions that usually accompany it. I have definitely been enjoying my last few shifts on the summit, and was lucky enough to get an entire week of high pressure last shift, which has come to be my favorite. Along with the fair weather came many beautiful sunsets followed by just-as-beautiful sunrises. I will still cherish all of the cold, wind, and storminess that I was able to experience, but after two winters on the summit, let’s just say I have now come to appreciate fair weather much more!
My time on the summit has come to an end not for any one reason. I just feel the time has come. After all, I am a mechanical engineer by trade, and I was lucky enough to land this dream position straight out of college. I feel the need to continue on an engineering-focused path since I spent four years of my life studying it, and it is a passion of mine equal to weather. I specifically wanted to mention this fact because more than anything, it takes passion to follow your dreams. I entered this job with very little atmospheric/meteorological knowledge, and now I have gotten to the point where I have been training meteorologists to be weather observers. If anyone reading this has the dream to work up on the summit of Mount Washington, for any of the entities that call the summit home, I cannot recommend it enough. With all of this being said, I have no doubt I will continue to stare up at clouds and estimate their heights for the rest of my life.
I would like to finish up my final Observer Comment with some well-deserved thank-yous!
First off, thank you to Rebecca Scholand, former summit operations manager, for believing in me and hiring me knowing I had basically no previous meteorological background but the right passion to learn. I would not be writing this if it wasn’t for you Becca!
Thank you to Keith Garrett, our director of technology, for always helping me when I broke things, but also for always being lighthearted, fun, and a good friend.
Thank you to Ryan Knapp for always amazing me with your photography and building my interest in the Observatory through the images you post on our MWOBS social media and your own personal pages (@wxknapper for those of you who do not already follow him!). Also, I cannot thank you enough for your immense knowledge of all things surface weather observations, METAR coding, and general Mount Washington/White Mountain/Northern, NH information. I would not have become half the observer I am without your help.
Thank you to Jay Broccolo for being not only an awesome job trainer, coworker, and recent director of our weather operations (Boss!), but also like an older brother.
Thank you to Brian Fitzgerald for also being an awesome coworker, filling in as our summit manager when needed, and for being someone I could always talk to and trust.
Thank you to all of my other fellow observers with whom I had the pleasure of working, knowing, and building sibling-like bonds with. Nicole, David, Nate, Jackie, Stephen, Matthew, Francis, Alexis, Hayden, and Alex. Thank you to the many summit interns I had the pleasure to work and live with, with special thanks to Adam, Naomi, and Henry for stepping up to the plate when needed to help me with duties during the various times I was on the day shift all by myself. Also, thanks to our summit museum and gift shop specialist, Mark Trader, for making me try new food combinations and always making me laugh.
Thank you to the many wonderful North Conway-based staff as well! Donna Dunn for leading this organization while I worked here and listening to our many wants and needs as summit employees. Brenda Sullivan for always promptly getting me my paychecks and even responding to my “Forgot Password, Reset” emails at crazy hours on Sundays. Krissy Fraser, and now Charlie Buterbaugh, for forcing me out of my comfort zone to do media inquiries and interviews (even if I may not have wanted to). Stephanie Fitzgerald (and Krissy too) for always doing your best to get me properly fitted with XXL EMS gear to keep me warm and protected. Dr. Peter Crane for always keeping me in awe with the best stories of the rich history we have. Greg Fitch, Jon Powers, Craig Hill, and Pete Gagne for always helping me get safely to the summit and back down, whether by truck, van, or snowcat. Carrie and Sera for helping with coordinating volunteers and special trips. Thank you to all the summit volunteers, Observatory supporters, Mount Washington State Park, Mount Washington Auto Road, and Cog Railway employees for always being friendly and supportive.
Thank you to my amazing girlfriend for putting up with my crazy schedule and sending me love from a state away. My parents for all they do. Nimbus (and Marty) for keeping me company, and my own pets back home for still loving me even though I left them every other week. The list goes on and on. My experience would not have been the same without each and every one of you at the Home of the World’s Worst Weather, and the World’s Best People.
An impressive mirage effect I captured at sunset thanks in part to an inversion aloft and a hazy summer atmosphere.
This is only a goodbye for now, and I already look forward to visiting this magical place in the future.
A full moon from May, 2021

Sam Robinson, Weather Observer/Engineer


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