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Observer Comments

October 2012

18:58 Wed Oct 31st

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Splintered wood from a sign on the summit.

As many of you know, there are two shifts that rotate working as summit crew. Living outside of Boston, I saw some of the damage first hand. Weathering out the storm in the protection of my house hundreds of miles away from the center of the storm, I could only imagine the damage it was inflicting further south. I lost power early on in the storm, so only after I arrived at the summit this morning could I see pictures of the destruction in New Jersey and New York.

Even driving in New Hampshire, downed trees and swollen rivers were a common sight. The summit recorded a peak gust of 140 miles per hour, the fastest that many of the current observers have seen on the summit.

Although I wasn't on the summit for the hurricane, I can imagine what it was like from the stories of those who were. The concrete building is quite anchored into the ground, however any wooden structures outside were put to the test. The posts holding up one of the large signs on the summit snapped in the strong wind. Heading up the tower sounded as if a train was barreling past. Sedge (a type of alpine grass) was pasted onto the windows, a sign that even the well-adapted alpine plant was having a hard time in the wind. The high winds gave one of our observers, Becca Scholand, an opportunity to join the unofficial 'century club', whose members must walk the perimeter of the observation deck without traction devices or touching the ground in sustained 100 mph winds. Although the winds are dying down and the moisture from the storm is slowly moving north, the hurricane left a scar on the east coast that will not leave the memories of locals any time soon.

Observer footnote: If you think you have what it takes to predict when wintry weather will hit the area, enter our snow contest. Purchase a ticket for $2 and register your prediction of the day and time that Jackson, New Hampshire will receive its first 6' of snow in a single storm. If your prediction is correct, you'll win half of the ticket sale proceeds! The other half will be split equally between the Observatory and Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

23:35 Tue Oct 30th

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Gulfside Trail

Today (Tuesday) has inevitably arrived (and nearly past). It's the last day before the summit staff shift change. This is the fifth time in the past four years that I have experienced this bittersweet day as a summit volunteer. I, along with my observer housemates for the week, leave for lower elevations tomorrow; off the summit of this sublime, ferocious, otherworldly place that the top of Mount Washington is to me. That's the bitter.

Going home to my lovely wife, family and friends, to my job; back to the pleasant routines of my happy valley life-back to share the experiences and photographs of my week here- that's the sweet.

Tuesday is not my favorite day up here. It is a day of cooking, as usual. I like that part. But also of cleaning, organizing, taking inventory, and packing to leave. The hikes I haven't taken, the emails I haven't written, the book I haven't finished, must all be put aside until the scrubbing, vacuuming and disinfecting are complete. If this sounds like complaining to you, it's only because as I write this, the odor of oven cleaner and Lysol are still strong on my hands.

Tuesday aside, the experiences I've had as a volunteer are, as the commercial says...priceless! Watching the sunrise reflect off the Atlantic, feeling the crunch of rime ice under my boots, seeing flocks of Snow Buntings flying among the rocks and sedge along the Gulfside Trail, are all inexpressible joys to me. I have revisited many of what are, by now, some favorite haunts up here- the Nelson Crag, Boott Spur, Mt. Clay, Monroe and Franklin. None of these things, even on my fifth visit here, fail to entertain awe as well as inspire and renew my spirit.

This week brought the added anticipation of a big storm. I spent parts of Saturday and Sunday helping prepare the Observatory for this event-weather stripping the tower and parapet doors, as well as repairing and reinforcing their handles. I got to aid Roger in relocating a radio antenna to improve data transmission from Wildcat Mountain, 2000' below us. I was grateful for the hands-on work and the feeling of helping this hardworking and competent crew.

Out of concern and sympathy for all the people who are suffering from the effects of Sandy, I will only say that it was impossible not to feel the adrenaline rush of experiencing a major storm here in the home of the World's Worst Weather. The wind literally howled, the vent ducts banged violently with every gust, the windows were plastered with flying sedge, water in copious amounts found dozens of entryways into the building. We watched as the recording arm on the Hays wind speed recorder spiked to nearly 140 MPH. Quite an impressive show.

Many thanks to my friends at the Observatory for the opportunity to spend another drudge Tuesday up here...as well as an unforgettably marvelous week before it above the trees.

Joe Kayan – Summit Volunteer

16:27 Mon Oct 29th

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Snow stakes along the Auto Road

With all the talk of winter coming, conditions worsening, and more recently of Hurricane Sandy, I want to take a break for a minute to talk about something different...a near-perfect day that we had on the summit this shift! On Friday, October 26th we set a new record daily high temperature of 55 degrees, breaking the previous record of 52 degrees set in 1971. Yes, this was nice, but the fact that the sun was shining bright and winds were almost calm for the entire day made it even better. Joe, our volunteer this week, and I went for about a two mile walk down the auto road to fix some of the fallen wooden stakes (seen to the left of the road) that mark the road in the winter. About halfway down to the hairpin turn I had to shed some layers and was just wearing a long sleeve shirt and work pants. Joe was even down to just a t-shirt and some work pants, and the temperature increase as we descended was evident. By the time we had stood up, hammered, and rock-supported the posts, we had both broken a sweat. This was one of the last things I imagined I'd experience in the last week of October on the rockpile. We decided to take advantage of the situation and looked out over the Great Gulf for a few minutes, discussing the near-infinite visibility and the sheer beauty of the Presidential Range. We then made our way back up to the observatory, making sure to get back in a timely fashion, but also making sure to enjoy the great outdoors. The rest of the day consisted of constant trips to the observation deck (solely to observe, of course). This whole experience was quite a treat and showed me that although we are home to the world's worst weather, Mother Nature can make an exception sometimes.

Stephen Lanciani – Summit Intern

19:21 Sun Oct 28th

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Clouds from Sandy provided a colorful sunrise.

Should I go hiking the Monday or Tuesday? That is a question we have been asked and you might be asking yourself. So here is my long and short response.

The long response is this: A storm is coming up the eastern seaboard. Now, you may have heard it called Hurricane Sandy, a post-tropical low, a Nor'easter, Frankenstorm, the Perfect Storm -Part Deux, or one of many other names. Regardless of what you want to call it, the bottom line is a strong storm is coming with its impact occurring Monday through Tuesday (and possibly into Wednesday). It will bring heavy rains and high winds across the state and not just the summits. That means lower elevations will see tropical storm gusts (39-73) to possibly hurricane force gusts (73+mph). Since this isn't the first time New Hampshire has experienced a strong storm, we know the effects a strong storm has on the state and the Mountains (think back to Hurricane Irene). It will result in flooding, excessive trail runoff, adverse road and trail conditions, flying debris, and several fallen trees around the White Mountains and the rest of New England.

How does this translate to you hiking? Trails will be a mess. Roads will be a mess. Conditions will be dangerous. Calling 911 may be difficult if an emergency arises as cell towers may be affected and call centers may be bogged down. If you do get through to emergency services, help will not be as immediate as it would be under normal circumstances. Travel and rescue resources and personnel around the state will be stretched thin in the coming days, with any search and rescue efforts that arise in the backcountry likely being slow going or possibly even delayed until resources become available or safer conditions are met.

This potential for dangerous conditions has prompted the US forest service to strongly advise against backcountry travel in the White Mountain National Forest from Sunday evening through Thursday, November First. The Randolph Mountain Club is echoing the same statement and although cabins and shelters in their system are stated as remaining open during this period, they are strongly advising against travel during the same Sunday - Thursday window. The Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Huts are realizing the dangerous conditions and are echoing a similar massage as the USFS as all their huts are listed as being closed from Sunday through Wednesday as a precaution. And even though the Mount Washington State Park summit facilities and the Mount Washington Auto Road have been closed for the season since October 21st, it doesn't hurt to remind people that their is limited outdoor shelter on the summit and no transportation up or down the road. We don't have vehicles up here and none of us are EMT trained. So, if we need to get you to a hospital, we will need to call the authorities, get a vehicle up here, get you loaded and then headed down to a hospital. On a good day, this takes three hours but with adverse road and travel conditions, three hours will be highly unrealistic.

So that is the long of it. The short response: Should I go hiking Monday or Tuesday? Better yet, let me reword that - Would I go out hiking Monday or Tuesday? NO.

Alright, that maybe blunt and a bit too short, but it is my personal decision and it is the answer that I would provide my friends and family, regardless of their skill level. But, let me back my response just a bit more as to why I wouldn't. While statistically you won't likely get hurt, if you do get hurt, remember, it doesn't just affect you. SAR efforts require several individuals, many of which are volunteers. That means these men and women have to give up helping their family and neighbors and local community to drive to the base, under dangerous conditions, and then traverse in conditions that threaten their safety to get to you. And while the summit staff will usually volunteer to help out in SAR effort, given the conditions we see coming, we will not likely be volunteering for SAR efforts in the next two days. We know what hazards these conditions can have and it is not safe for us to assist from above.

So that is the long and short of it. So please be safe in the coming days and maybe instead of hiking, consider volunteering your time helping out family, friends, neighbors, and/or communities that might be affected in the days ahead.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:57 Sat Oct 27th

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Sandy et al from space earlier today.

Reading through various status updates, comments, tweets, etc. about the upcoming storm, it seems that people are becoming more and more polarized in their opinions about what to do and what will be happening. Some are either over preparing like it is the end of times or they are taking the opposite approach and ignoring it all together because they feel it is being overhyped. But, I feel you shouldn't be doing either of these, you just need to find a happy medium as you would with any big storm. So, here is what I would say if I were talking to a friend or family member:

Yes, the storm is big. Yes, we are in relatively uncharted territory in modern meteorology; we have never really seen anything like this before. Yes, it looks, as of now, it will no longer be a direct blow; but remember that Irene wasn't technically a direct blow either and we all saw the devastation that it brought to parts of the state. Yes, it will be rainy. While most will see 1 to 3 inches of rain out of this, some may see upwards of 8 inches or more. So, yes, it may flood as a result in some parts of the state. Yes it will be windy. Winds may not be hurricane force in many areas but they will be prolonged and high with gusts upwards of 50 mph or more in many areas, this will likely bring down branches. And as the ground moistens up, trees may topple as well. This will likely knock out power, so yes, you may be powerless for some time. Yes, there will be coastal flooding as the storm surge is met by a full moon and a high tide. And yes, there is even the possibility of snow on the backside of the storm later in the week.

So, this is going to happen, so don't burry your head in the sand or run around like a panicked Muppet. What should you do? Stay level headed and prepare as you would for any other similar Hurricane, Tropical Storm, Nor'easter, or severe weather event; this isn't the first time many of us have been through a big storm. So, know your areas evacuation routes. Know where local shelters will likely be just in case. Check flashlights to make sure the batteries work. You may not have or need a generator, but if you have one, check to make sure the fuel and oil are still good and that it runs. Keep your cell phone charged in case you lose power. Have a radio to listen for updates in case you lose power. Have enough food and drinking water on hand just in case of a worst case scenario. If you think windows or doors may be smashed, buy plywood or other materials to protect them. Clear away trees or shrubs that pose a threat. Make sure gutters and drains are free of leaves, especially since it is fall and these will likely cause minor flooding first. Move or secure boats if in danger. Have utility companies, insurance carrier, and relevant numbers on hand to call if any issues arise. Have a plan for you pets. Make sure your vehicles are fueled. Have some extra cash on hand in case ATM's lose power. Bring in or secure objects around the outside of your home. And lastly, stay informed via internet, phone, radio or TV, so you know what is happening at all times to stay ahead of things.

Remember, you have survived major storms in the past. So, if you need to put yourself in a proper frame of mind, think back to other big storms you were in. Better yet, think back to the worst storm you were ever in and if you could have a do over, what would you do differently. If, for instance, you didn't need a generator for that storm, you're not going to need one in this storm. If you didn't need 30 gallons of water and 50 loaves of bread in that storm, you're not going to need one in this storm. If during that storm you lost power but didn't know how to contact PSNH or other companies, this time, know how. If last time, a garbage can smashed through your sliding glass window, this time pull them in or secure them. If last time the street drain on your block backed up and flooded your street and basement, lend a helping hand and help keep it clear. If last time you wished you had a tarp, extra blanket, more batteries, duct tape, zip ties, etc, do it over and have them on hand this time.

But, in the off chance that this is all new to you for one reason or the other, again, don't panic. Talk to your neighbors and friends as to what they typically do to prepare for Nor'easters, Hurricanes, or other big storms. This isn't the first time many of us have prepared or been through a big storm, so we all have our own tips and useful ideas. If you aren't fortunate to have neighbors or friends around you and are reading this, you have the internet, which is a great tool and resource. You can use FEMA's Tropical Cyclone guide or turn to Ready NH or any one of several other sites for some additional pointers. And to continue to track the storm and check for any watches or warnings in your area, turn to the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service, Accuweather, The Weather Channel, our severe weather resources page, or any other weather provider including, but not limited to, your local news sources online or over the airwaves (TV/radio).

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:49 Fri Oct 26th

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A view of the insides of the Hays Chart

This morning started out with my normal routine of Observations and Daily Check where we take a second look at yesterday's Observations to make sure everything that was input to the station records makes logical sense and there were no keying errors. As we've beefed up our Input Validation over the past few months the number of minor errors that slip by and need to be corrected has dropped to nearly zero.

The next task was to take advantage of the low winds today to examine the Hays Chart Recorder that records our higher winds and try to determine why, as of late, it decides to stop rotating the chart and thus recording wind speed at random times and for no explained reason. After a little research I found that we may be able to get a whole new clock movement or the existing clock movement can be repaired by a company that specializes in this type of work out in Oregon State. Luckily this particular clock movement was used in a large number of different types of clocks for many years and there is great interest in restoring those clocks by collectors. If you've been lucky enough to have toured the Observatory and seen our Hays Chart you probably already know that it looks much like an old fashioned clock except instead of having hands on its face it has a round paper chart that is drawn on by a pen plotting out the wind speed over a 24 hour period.

Now that all of the new electrical switch gear is up and running here in the Sherman Adams building it was time to have our frozen bulk food order come up and get put away. There were lots of boxes of meats, vegetables, cheeses and all manner of other assorted goodies that will be prepared by our Volunteers for us and our Day Trip and overnight EduTrip guests.

Once the food that Slim brought up was all unloaded it was time for him and me to work on doing some much needed repairs on the Winter Vane that serves to give us wind direction during high winds and icing conditions. So down it came from the Instrument Tower and into the shop to be disassembled, cleaned and the bearings replaced before it headed back up onto the Instrument Tower. Once Slim and I got it back up and working smoothly Slim headed down the mountain and Becca and I were left with the task of aligning the instrument so we would get accurate Wind Direction readings. As a testament to how real world experience is put to use every day on the Summit Slim knew from his days in Auto Racing if we took the seals out of the new bearing and cleaned out all of the existing grease with a solvent and applied a much lighter lubricant we could get a smoother operating vane that would work in much lower winds than before.

The last mundane, however very important, task to be done was to fix the door handle on the Observation Deck door with some parts that Slim brought up for us.

In between all that work we did get to enjoy a perfect day at the top of the Northeast where we also broke the daily record of 52 degrees with a new daily high of 55 degrees today.

Observer Footnote - From our friends at the U.S. Forest Service:

The National Weather Service is currently predicting the possibility of a severe storm event to arrive in New England beginning Sunday (10/28) evening and possibly lasting through Wednesday (10/31). The Forest Service is strongly advising against backcountry travel in the White Mountain National Forest during this time period. Extreme caution should be exercised due to heavy rain or snow, possible flooding, adverse road conditions, and falling trees across the Forest during this time period. This message will be updated as forecasts or conditions change.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:35 Thu Oct 25th

Finally, we have power again! State Park has been replacing a major electrical sub-system, which required them to place necessities (weather instruments and the like) on temporary power and cut the juice to the rest of the Sherman Adams Building. For almost 48 hours we have been living with no heat, no light, and only non-perishable food. Thankfully, winds have been nearly calm, conditions have remained dry, and temperatures have risen above normal, allowing to the building to retain at least some heat. It should be noted however that the bunk rooms still dropped into the 40s, and many blankets were necessary! Dishes have been piling up and the shower has remained vacant as a result of no hot water, and cooking has been done on a griddle upstairs with no use of microwaves, toasters, ovens, etc. Dinner was consumed under overhead string utility lights, and a headlamp was a must when using the facilities. In reality though, this all wasn't too weird, because it actually reminded me of backpacking and sleeping in huts or shelters. The fact that we spent a couple days in the some of the same conditions as the early observers is what made the experience different and unique. Most importantly though, I gained an extreme appreciation for power and technology! I am very thankful for all the hard work that has been done up here over the years, allowing us to have heat, water, electricity, and all the comforts of home. With all of today's improvements in technology, it's sometimes hard to remember that I'm living on top of a mountain...well...almost. Looking out a window usually reminds me.

Stephen Lanciani – Summit Intern

18:59 Wed Oct 24th

Well I am back on the summit after my vacation and ready for winter. The past few weeks I have been calling Long Island home where I have been relaxing. Although my definition of relaxing took me through 11 states, a river, numerous beaches, a old live fire military range, and involved every form of transportation I am back and feeling refreshed. I visited with friends and made new ones along the way all while never feeling too far from the Observatory.

On one particular instance I was on the Outer Banks of North Carolina enjoying the evening with friends at a restaurant when our waiter noticed my wallet. Now on my wallet is a sticker with the outline of Maine. The waiter quickly asked if I was from Maine and when I said no I am from North Conway, New Hampshire his eyes lit up. He then proceeded to tell me all about skiing and hiking in Tuckerman Ravine. When I informed him I worked at the Observatory he almost jumped with excitement. Turns out he is a member and fan of the Observatory!

It really is a small world!

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:31 Tue Oct 23rd

Finishing my 3rd tour of duty as a volunteer on the summit of Mt. Washington with the Observatory, I'm frequently asked, why? Why tolerate the nasty weather, the many fix-it jobs, and the endless meals? Well, when the weather is nice the views are breath taking, the stars at night are flashlight bright....and I love to cook. Besides, what could be more fun than tackling 100mph winds, -20 degrees, all in a white out? It's also a matter of giving back.

My brother and I have climbed many peaks and trails in New England, including Mt. Washington dozens of times. At first it was for the fun of it, the beauty of the mountains, and the people on the trails. Later we cranked it up a notch and Mt. Washington became our training ground for bigger and better things. After years of training on the flanks and peaks of the White Mountains we took what we learned to the Colorado Rockies, the summit of Mt. McKinley, and the Peruvian Andes. We survived all of this in no small part due to the folks at the observatory. Before any of our climbs here in the east, be it an easy ice climb on Frankenstein cliffs, or an all-day push up through Huntington Ravine and on to Damnation Gully, we always depended on the forecast given daily over the radios or posted at many huts and at Pinkham Notch. We learned to respect the weather, to understand the dangers of sudden weather changes, and to know when to turn back and save that peak for yet another day. I am proud to say I have all ten toes and all ten fingers, because I've listened and heeded the weather warnings from the Mount Washington Observatory. And for that, I thank them and gladly conclude my third week as a volunteer. Hoping the meals I've cooked and the repairs I've assisted with have in some way helped other fledgling climbers with big climbs in their dreams; learn to respect the forecast and warnings given for free by the folks up here on this big Rock Pile. Climb safe!

Brad Chapin – Summit Volunteer

15:29 Mon Oct 22nd

State Park will be performing essential maintenance work, here at the summit of Mount Washington, starting early tomorrow morning. The work will entail major changes to their electrical sub-system. They have transferred all essential systems over to 'temporary power' including our instrument network, computer servers and radio equipment. All being well there should be no outages affecting the data feed to our website, however, as with any major transition we could experience some downtime, if this occurs please be patient and we'll be back on line as soon as possible. It is expected that the work will take one to two days to complete.

Yesterday evening we saw our first 100+ mph winds of the season, the last time we experience air currents this high was way back in May, when we peaked at 109 mph on the 29th. Currently winds are averaging only around 75 mph, however, we are expecting them to ramp up to the century mark once again this evening as a building high pressure system pushes in. At least we'll see some clearer, calmer conditions tomorrow along with milder temperatures - this is welcomed for once since we'll also be without heat until the electrical work is finished.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

16:43 Sun Oct 21st

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Well it's that time of year again. After a really busy summer season the Sherman Adams building is now closed to the public. The Auto Road is also closed to the summit, however, they'll be running Snow Coach tours to treeline starting in December. Weather permitting the Cog Railway will be running trains to the summit until conditions prevent them from doing so.

Anyone planning on hiking Mount Washington should now be prepared for winter conditions and realize that there are no facilities available to them once they reach the top. This means no restrooms, no food services and no shuttles either - if you hike up then you'll also have to hike down.

As if on queue the weather turned today as well. Yesterday we saw unusually mild temperatures, in the upper 40s, just shy of a daily record. The winds were very light and we could even see the surrounding peaks. Not so today, it's been a much more normal day for late October - temperatures in the upper 20s, winds reaching 80 miles and hour, panoramic views to about 100 feet during particularly clear spells and we have ice building up on everything. It looks like it's going to get colder and windier tomorrow.

So long summer.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

19:35 Sat Oct 20th

Here on the summit of Mount Washington, we have a very unique work schedule. With shifts between 6 and 8 people, we work for 8 days straight and then can enjoy 6 days off. Many nine-to-fivers might drool at this schedule, but it is not as incredible as it looks. When we're on the summit, work is nonstop and there is always something to fix, de-ice, digitize, observe or otherwise work on. We take observations once an hour, every hour of the day, every day of the year. With two day observers and one night observer switching off at roughly 5:30 AM and PM, the work is and nonstop.

Why am I up here, you might ask? Because I love it. I love the feeling of being in a close-knit community where we all work together towards a greater goal; research, observation and education. As the intern, I love learning from the rest of my crew. Even if it means working 10 (or more) hour days, I'd much rather work long and stimulating hours than short and boring hours.

Not only am I surrounded by educational opportunities every day, but I'm also constantly immersed in weather that I love. The summit crew loves to experiment with the extreme weather up here. I'll review a few cool things that we've done for fun in the past, most of which you can access on our youtube page.

One of the observers, Becca Scholand, decided to play with bubbles on a cold and calm night. As she blew the bubbles, they would almost instantaneously freeze. Expecting a hard solid sphere, it's surprising how fragile these frozen bubbles are.

Observers have done numerous time lapse videos in the past years, highlighting cloud movements, sunsets, and stars. These videos were made by setting up a camera to take photos every few seconds for a long period of time. Time lapse videos are very difficult to capture on the summit due to the extreme wind shifting the tripod-mounted camera.

We also love to play in our famously strong winds! From vaporizing a cup of boiling water to snowboarding across the (flat) observation deck, our winds allow us to do some incredible things. We also have an unofficial, but exclusive, club called the 'Century Club'. To get a sense of what this entails, you can check out this short documentary (and see an attempt at it here).

To be on the summit crew, you have to have a certain personality and be willing to work long hours, committed to the goals of the observatory. However, working on Mt Washington isn't just a job-it's a lifestyle. We don't go home to a warm house or back to our families at the end of every day (we have surrogate ones up here!). We are immersed in the weather that we love, playing with it and playing in it whenever we are able.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

22:06 Fri Oct 19th

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Sometimes snow angels on the deck are part of work

Life and work on top of Mount Washington can be as exhilarating as it is brutal. In the early days of the Observatory, observers would spend two three or four weeks at a time working around the clock to make sure a weather observation was made every hour of the day. In the 1930s observers were essentially unpaid volunteers to boot, but since the Great Depression had hit, staffers felt themselves more than lucky to have room and board (a luxury many people in the country could not afford). It was also typical for many years that only two observers were on each shift with one person working twelve hours during the day and the night observer working the twilight hours. As the decades moved forward weather observers were paid and had their work weeks decreased to shorter stints (still ten days or more at a time).

Fast forward to the past decade and observers on the Rockpile now work eight days on with 6 days off. During the daytime there are now two observers who split weather observations and specialize in either IT (due to all of our technical equipment and instruments) or Education, while the night observer works as the Staff Meteorologist. As you might imagine, taking time off, being sick or swapping personnel on shifts is not quite as straight forward at your typical nine-to-five. The most recent example of this happens to be the latter, where our Weather Observer/Education Specialist Rebecca Scholand is swapping shifts with myself. In order to accomplish this we devised a plan that required me to work eight days in a row with my now former shift and work straight through another couple days until Rebecca could come up and work straight through for ten days until she is synced up with the other shift's schedule. Confused yet?

So here I am on day ten of my shift firmly in the groove of working on the summit and ready to see friends and family down in the valley again. It's remarkable how many forms of weather you can see up here in ten days. During this time we've seen fog, freezing rain, snow, snow grains, blowing snow, rain showers, rain, near-calm winds, hurricane-force winds, visibilities of 130 miles and sometimes just the hand in front of your face. Did I mention we've seen a temperature spread between 47 and 7 degrees (7 being a new daily record low)? It's been a long shift for sure, but in the grand scheme of things, I can only imagine what a month of isolation in the 1930s might have been like during winter.

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

23:33 Thu Oct 18th

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Graphics from the CPC

Will the upcoming winter be snowy or not? Warmer than average, or colder?

Today, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released their official predictions for the upcoming winter.

As far as New England is concerned, there is a lot of uncertainty with respect to temperature and precipitation. In both areas, there is an equal chance of an above- (warmer/wetter) versus a below- (colder/drier) average winter season. The uncertainty is due to the inability of the CPC to nail down the behavior of El Nino. El Nino conditions (or a lack thereof) have a large effect on the climate of the continental United States, and due to the unexpected absence of these conditions, there is a bit more uncertainty than normal in the CPC's forecast for the northeastern United States.

For the rest of the country, however, the results are a bit more conclusive:

With respect to temperature, a warmer-than-average winter can be expected for a large swath of the western continental United States, while Florida can expect a possible colder-than-average winter.

With respect to precipitation, it looks like a drier-than-average winter for the Pacific northwest, along with the upper Midwest. In contrast, portions of the Gulf Coast may experience a wetter-than-average winter.

For more information and further in-depth graphics, check out the CPC's website.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

22:20 Wed Oct 17th

Over the past 50 years of hiking this area, summer and winter, Barbara Althen and I have probably been on the top of Mt. Washington about 30 times. Because it is the halfway point in a day hike, we only spent about an hour on the summit each time, before heading down. That hour was a biased one though, since we picked the day and the weather, be it July or January. This week, we lived up here, and were fortunate enough to be here during the transition period, where fall morphs into winter, and back again. Sure we were in fog a lot, but we got to see a sunset, and 120 mile visibility, during the day and at night.

We set a daily record low temperature of 7 degrees, and saw rime ice plaster every building white with ice feathers 20 inches long. We felt winds at 83 mph push us around. It wasn't a Century moment, but it was impressive nonetheless. We saw crowds of tourists, and times when we were the only ones on the rocks. We got to see hikers coming up out of the ravines into snow, fog, and minus 10 degree wind chill. Most important, we got to meet a group of people who work for the Observatory, who love weather, and we got to be a part of their world for 168 hours. For that we thank you very much.

Bill Ofsiany – Summit Volunteer

18:26 Tue Oct 16th

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L to R: McKenzie, Monahan, Pagliuca and Dodge

Eighty years ago yesterday, Alex McKenzie, Robert Scott Monahan, Salvatore Pagliuca and Joe Dodge with the help of many supporters took their very first weather observation under a newly formed group of citizen-scientists known as the Mount Washington Observatory. Picking up where the U.S. Signal Service (the precursor to the Weather Bureau) had left off decades earlier, the new observers began settling in for their first winter at the home of the world's worst weather in the cramped quarters of the Auto Road's Stage Office, moving supplies, and tweaking instruments.

In a similar tradition, the summit was buzzing with projects to finish yesterday before winter settles in for good. Instead of receiving deliveries of coal or fixing telegraph lines, we found ourselves replacing one of our old refrigerators and freezers with the help of our valley staff and Mount Washington State Park employees, and shoring up storm windows/working with communications engineers in our server room to make sure everything is in working order (winter repair visits become just a tad more difficult).

While the technology may be different from 1932, many things remain the same. The most obvious thing, as you might imagine, is that our weather observations are still happening, every hour on the hour without fail. Governing weather organizations and more technically-advanced instruments have certainly changed over the years, yet whenever an observer goes outside we still have our sling psychrometer in hand (unless we're in the clouds) ready to assess the temperature and dew point just as we have since our inception.

If you have spent any time with the Mount Washington Observatory in the past 80 years, chances are you have noticed another time-resilient quality: passion. From our Management, to Interns, Observers, Volunteers or Members, passion runs deep for this organization, and more pointedly, Mount Washington. Anyone who has felt the rush of the wind against their body, the stinging, choking cold, or seen the sun rise up over the Atlantic or set west onto the Green Mountains has been touched by this place. And it's that sense of place that has kept us all coming back over the years (or kept us here for some of us).

I am willing to bet that back in October of 1932 McKenzie, Monahan, Pagliuca and Dodge were probably not celebrating the start of the Observatory, especially when so much work was needed to be done. Fast forward 80 years and here we were battening down the hatches and carrying and replacing major appliances as fast as possible while the weather still allowed, with celebration being only an after-thought (our volunteers did make a fantastic birthday cake, though). I'm proud of our heritage and traditions here at the Observatory, and just as proud to think of where the Observatory is today and where it will be in the future. I feel confident that in another eighty years our passion, curiosity, and wonder for Mount Washington will still be here- along with a robust and enduring Observatory.

Thank you to everyone who has stood by the Mount Washington Observatory over the years!
Here's to the next 80!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:36 Mon Oct 15th

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Marty, trying to take over my job.

Today is one of my last remaining days working in the summit museum. It's hard to believe that the season is coming to an end, but the recent blast of frosty weather that paralyzed the summit was a reminder that winter is just around the corner. It has been awesome getting a chance to live and work at such an extraordinary place. Joining the Observatory crew for the summer has allowed me to meet several amazing people and see some of the best and worst weather Mt. Washington has to offer.

This past weekend I saw a little taste of winter on Mt. Washington. For months now, I have been telling curious visitors about the brutal winter conditions we receive on the summit, but I had never gotten to experience them first hand. With raging winds, blowing snow and rime ice coating virtually everything, you can see why the museum hasn't been open much in the past four days. It's rather astonishing how quickly the weather can turn a bustling outpost into a ghost town. Things have since improved a bit and we have resumed normal operations today.

First, I'd like to extend a huge thank you to all of our members, visitors and supporters. We could not do what we do here without your generosity and assistance. Also, I want to thank all of the Observatory staff for everything you do - I'm really proud to have been part of such a dedicated organization. Finally, thank you to my fellow shift mates - Ryan, Brian C., Roger, Brian F., Steve, Chris, Adam, and all of the volunteers - you guys truly made this a summer to remember.

Anthony Grimes – Summit Museum Supervisor

20:56 Sun Oct 14th

A typical week on the summit has a crew that consists of three weather Observers, an intern and one to two volunteers (FYI - in the summer, we gain one additional intern and a museum attendant). Among this small group of people, we divide ourselves into two shifts so we can maintain our hourly weather observations around the clock as we have for the past 80+ years. The two shifts consist of a day shift (two Observers and an intern) that starts at 0630 EDT (0530 EST) and lasts until 1830 EDT (1730 EST) with a night shift (one Observer) that starts at 1830 EDT (1730 EST) and lasting until 0630 EDT (0530 EST) the following morning. These start and end times for both shifts are maintained throughout the year.

While our shifts start and end at the same time year round, the rising and setting of the sun is not working on a similar schedule. In the summer, the sun rises earlier and sets later and in the winter it rises later and sets earlier. As a result, this means that, depending on the time of year, the sun will rise and set during either the day shift or the night shift. Now, it should go without saying that, regardless of when it rises or sets, the day shift will always be working in some amount of daylight and the night shift in some amount of moonlight (when available). In the peak of summer, there is a maximum of 944 minutes (or 15 hours and 44 minutes) of available sunshine which allows for a bit of sunshine at the start of the night shift and a bit of sunshine at the end of the night shift. However, in the dead of winter, we bottom out with only 543 minutes (or 9 hours and 3 minutes) of available sunshine minutes meaning the night shift resides entirely in darkness.

While we still have some time until we hit the minimum of available sunshine minutes (that comes in December and early January) we have hit that time of year where the sun no longer rises or sets during the night observers shift. That means I start my work in darkness and end my work in darkness. Luckily with this time of year, the rise and set times are still near my start and end times, so if they are looking epic, I can still see them. But there does hit a point where I can no longer waste valuable sleeping time to catch them; but that point is still about a month away. But this time of year, we start losing daylight minutes quickly plunging me more and more into darkness and racing us towards that point where I no longer feel like staying up to see the sun rise or wake up early to see it set. Let me illustrate what I mean a bit more with some numbers.

At the start of the month, there was 11 hours and 57 minutes of daylight available but by Halloween, there will only be 10 hours and 27 minutes of available light, a loss of an hour and a half of daylight. Contrast that with December where the sun starts to hit its lowest point on the horizon, the first will have 9 hours and 19 minutes of light and the end has 9 hours and 6 minutes of light, so only a change of 13 minutes. Quite a difference I would say. And while this illustrates my plunge into more darkness, it is also serves as an important reminder for visitors to the summit that you need to start earlier this time of year, start checking the operating schedules on any given day for the Sherman Adams Building, the Mount Washington Auto Road, and The Cog, and start packing flashlights/headlamps just in case you are out later than expected.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:07 Sat Oct 13th

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Daily Record Low of 7.4 degrees

Early on the morning of Saturday October 13th, we set a new Daily Record Low for this day of 7 degrees. The previous Daily Record Low was 8 degrees. So how much did we really break the record by you ask. Well record highs and lows are kept to the nearest whole degree and the temperature we read off the Low Thermometer was 7.4 degrees and that rounded down to 7 degrees. Had it read 7.5 degrees or higher we'd only tied the previous record.

Since we're talking breaking a Temperature record today I'm going to share some of the types of Temperature statistics we keep and the easiest way to do that is to list them.

Record Daily High / Low - This is when the Temperature for the 24 hour period for a specific date is exceeded. For instance 7 degrees is the coldest it's ever been on the 13 day of October since we started keeping records over 80 years ago. This is not the coldest it's ever been in the first part of October as in 1965 on the third or October that year it was only 3 degrees.

Daily High / Low Equaled - This is when we equal an existing high or low temperature for a specific day of the month. Had the low for today been 8 degrees we'd have reported that we equaled the Daily Low for October 13th which was 8 degrees set in 1936 and matched again in 1993.

Monthly High / Low - These are the record high and low temperatures for the whole month. As an example -5 degrees is the record low temperature for October set in 1939.

All time High / Low - This is the highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded at the station. For all of you trivia buffs out there the record low temperature ever recorded at the station is -47F set on January 29th, 1934 and the record high is 72F and it was set on August 2nd, 1975 and tied on June 26th, 2003. Our Daily Average High Temperature is 34 degrees and or Daily Average Low Temperature is 20 degrees.

We also do Monthly High / Low equaled as well as All Time High / Low equaled along with seasonal records.

Carefully observing the weather and recording the temperature on an hourly basis for the past 80 years is only part of what makes our climate record invaluable to researchers studying the higher summits.

If you care to see more or our climate statistics you can take a look at our Normals, Means, and Extremes Web page.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:12 Fri Oct 12th

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Confused yet? So am I.

Up high at the Mount Washington Observatory we are surrounded by all forms of technology- some forms simple, while some forms are a bit more complex. The Observatory houses everything from radio antennas, microwave-link dishes, Polycom videoconferencing technology, digital barometers, anemometers to more low-tech items like mercury thermometers and mechanical barographs and wind charts. Given our isolated nature on the Rockpile it's extremely important as Weather Observers that we know how to operate, and perhaps more importantly, fix instruments and technology when they break. After all, that's half the reason why this station is still staffed and not simply an automated station like you might find at a small airport. You better believe that when the winds are ripping across the summit at 100mph and our wind vane freezes in place we need to be able to hop outside and fix it at a moments notice. The weather waits for no one, and frequently waits for the most inconvenient time to mess with an instrument.

While it's impossible, and likely not very exciting for me to cover every instrument in the building, I'll attempt to share a couple of items that are representative of the breadth of technology we have up on the summit. The first, and most complex that I will share is something known as a sonic anemometer. This instrument as you might imply from its name this is a wind measurement device that uses sound. How does this work you may ask? Well to get technical for a moment, this anemometer has three prongs of transducers on the bottom and top of the instrument through which ultrasonic sound waves are emitted and measured. As the wind flows through the device the time it takes for the sonic pulses will ultimately give us our data. Now this is also a 3D instrument which is able to give us not only wind speed, but wind direction and also the angle at which the wind hits the instrument. If you've spent any time on top of Mount Washington on a windy day you'll note that winds normally travel up the side of the mountain at an angle far lower than most people are use to on flatter terrain. This instrument as you might imagine, does not come cheap and for that reason we typically only use this anemometer in nothing less than ideal conditions (no icing conditions allowed!).

One of the more famous and much less technical instruments the Observatory operates is something called a sling psychrometer. This instrument has been used since the very beginning of the observatory and has been used almost every single day since 80 years ago. The sling psychrometer is taken out by an observer whenever we are not in the clouds because the purpose of using this instrument is to find the current ambient air temperature and the wet bulb temperature. By finding these two numbers we can use a formula to calculate relative humidity which is a significant factor for forecasting precipitation events, fog, heat indices and helping folks understand how dry or sticky a day will be. As you can see in the image above, the sling psychrometer, two mercury thermometers attached to a sling. One thermometer is the dry bulb that measures the ambient air temperature and the second with the cotton swab on the bottom is the wet bulb which is soaked in water prior to being used. When the instrument in slung outside the wet bulb will read the current wet bulb temperature based on the evaporative cooling effect of slinging the instrument round and round. These two numbers have been recorded every hour on the hour since 1932 keeping our valuable 80 year climate record very consistent. This technology has been around long before I was born and likely will be used long after I'm gone in the hopes that this simple technology will ensure consistent and accurate weather observations.

If you are curious about more of our instruments and technology here at the Observatory I'd highly recommend checking out the free Weather Discovery Center in North Conway Village where you can link up live with the summit for more instrument and weather education or by visiting our website at MountWashington.org .

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:34 Thu Oct 11th

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A tale of two elevations

Ever since I was young I have loved the Fall season. The leaves change color, humidity drops, and it holds my birthday in September. Plus, who doesn't love a cool, crisp autumn day when the wind tickles your nose with the smell of cider and apple pie? Until recently, these reasons among others made me enjoy this season the most. I used to only appreciate the changing of the seasons for what they were at normal elevations, but things have changed since coming up to live and work on top of Mount Washington. My internship began in mid-August when everything was still green, and temperatures were mild, if not hot. I came up for my first shift in shorts and a t-shirt, finding it hard to shove all the down jackets, shell layers, hats, gloves, etc. into my pack and eventually into drawers. I wore sneakers most of the time, finding them more comfortable and breathable than my boots, and wool socks were an afterthought. A pair of Oakley sunglasses was the only accessory above my neck, with the exception of the occasional Bruins cap. I wondered when I maybe would have to at least wear a light windbreaker...

My answer came quickly and quite clearly. Yesterday. Now in week 5 of my stay at the OBS, I couldn't pull out my winter gear fast enough. The word 'short' is completely out of my vocabulary, and long-sleeve shirts have found their way to the top of the drawers next to fleece vests. A soft shell jacket, down insulator, and waterproof shell hang on a hook in the weather room for quick access. Down mitts, a winter hat, and ski goggles have replaced my outdoor accessories, and sit on top of the heater below my jackets (notice the plural, jacketS). Those mild 60 degree temperatures have turned to averages below freezing, with almost daily hurricane force winds. Temperatures today struggled to break 20 degrees, and will fall to single digits tomorrow night. Oh and did I mention the snow and ice that now blanket the entire summit cone? It's like Mother Nature got tired of warmth and flipped the switch overnight. Disclaimer: Yes, as a meteorologist I know that is not the case, but I like to pretend sometimes that it's this easy.

So does all this change make me like the fall season less? Absolutely not! It's actually quite the opposite. This rapid and drastic change has made me appreciate the changing seasons even more because I now know how things work at 6,288ft. This Fall, I was given snow for my birthday and a bird's eye view of the foliage. Heck, I can even make out the faint smell of a fresh apple pie baking in the valley...or maybe it's coming from the oven vent downstairs...less talk, more pie. Fall rocks.

Stephen Lanciani – Summit Intern

23:39 Wed Oct 10th

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Monday nights Aurora, as seen from the valleys.

It always feels odd coming back to work after vacation; readjusting my sleeping pattern, readjusting to waking up with a clock, packing up work clothes and gear in a backpack the night prior to summiting, answering emails that went unchecked or unanswered, and then trying to play catch-up at meetings where one week alone can bring drastically different outcomes than what you remember when you left. Playing into all these readjustments is the weather. As I was unpacking my work bag last night and refilling it for this week, I noticed a difference in what was coming up with me as opposed to what I brought down last month. Thinking back three weeks ago, leafs were still on the trees and shrubs all around the summit, snow was hinted at on the peak but didn't stick around long, temperatures were still averaging above freezing and considered "warm" to me, and high winds were something we only looked forward to. Returning earlier this week and then driving up today, I found the leaves all but gone around my house and the summit, snow is now coating the summit in an almost permanent fashion (being replenished as it falls again tonight), temperatures now average below freezing, with single digits possible on the summit later this shift, and high winds are now becoming their typical every-other-day affair in our forecasts. Gone are the days of packing up shorts, light pullovers, and summer boots; in their place, snow pants, winter coats, and insulated winter boots. Was I shocked at this? Not at all, I work at Mount Washington after all, so this is normal and to be expected, especially this time of year. Does this mean we won't see a warm up again until spring? No, but those days will become fewer. So like myself, visitors need to leave the summer mindset of three weeks ago behind and start packing and preparing for winter-like conditions on the higher summits.

Lastly, let me just state that the picture appended to this comment has nothing to do with what I wrote about. I just wanted to add a slightly better image of the Aurora Borealis that Observer Mike Carmon mentioned in his comment on Monday night. But, neither of our images truly do any justice to what was viewed - but pictures rarely capture the image as well as our eyes in my opinion.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:28 Tue Oct 9th

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Supercooled Sunrise 10/7/2012 6:50 AM

The guidelines for volunteers are published, tried, and true. They work. Previous volunteers know this.

I will share my notes, photos, and asides here.

There is structure in the way work takes place here. Atmospheric science relies on it. Lives of the visitors and staff depend on it.

Help in any small way you can.

Do bring a camera! Pay close attention to witness phenomena of any size. Observe the little things underfoot swords of rime. The observatory tours start with a description of how the mountain accentuates the wind. It is measured in such a small space. The affects are evident above and beyond the summit such as standing lenticular clouds. There were gliders dancing in and around these.

Hikes you take often start with reminders of the past.

Remember to keep looking out and up! The fog does clear. At night you could witness displays of shimmering aurora high above places far away.

You are also very lucky if your stay is during the transition seasons of Spring or Fall. This is when there is the greatest variety: from supercooled sunrises to snow drifts on top of clouds on top of October leaf peepers in valleys far below.

To those volunteers on the waiting list, get ready for what has to be the greatest gig on this mountain.

Tim Myers – Summit Volunteer

23:13 Mon Oct 8th

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Tonight's Aurora

It's been quite a thrilling 24 hours up here on Mt. Washington.

Even though I've been working up here for as long as I have, with many shift weeks consisting of 8 days completely ensconced in the fog with not a thing to see, there comes those times where it's an absolute pleasure to exist up on the rock pile.

Last night, snow started to descend around 9:30 P.M., and continued to fall until 3 A.M. In that time, we received about 4 inches of powder, which remained light and fluffy on the ground thanks to a lack of any sort of significant winds. I later remarked to a co-worker that it felt like those few-and-far-between (at least for me, hailing from NJ) Christmas Eve's, when there was a slight chill in the air, with temperatures in the 20s, and a picturesque snowfall gently blanketing the landscape.

As the sun rose this morning, a brilliant white emerged around the summit, despite the thin fog that lingered from the overnight storm. The first significant snowfall of the Mt. Washington winter season had embraced us!

The fog thickened for most of the day thereafter, keeping the surrounding scenery to a bare minimum. Despite the inclement weather, which included some additional snow showers, hordes of visitors still managed to make their way up today, via the Cog Railway or miscellaneous hiking trails.

Fittingly, as the last Cog full of passengers departed for the valley, the fog promptly cleared, saving the best views for those of us who call this mountain home. Snow had blanketed many of the surrounding peaks of the White Mountains as well, providing an amazing contrast with the shades of fall foliage still dotting the lower elevations.

And, if that wasn't enough, as I was ascending the tower at around 10 P.M. this evening, one of our volunteers called from above, enlightening us that an Aurora Borealis was occurring outside. I ran up to the Observation Deck, and witnessed some of the most brilliant ribbons and colors I had ever seen in the northern sky. I managed to snap a photo of the color, although pictures never do these phenomena any semblance of justice.

Say what you will about Mt. Washington, but as a meteorologist, today was one of the most fulfilling days I have yet to experience up here. Incredible!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

23:04 Sat Oct 6th

Well, as an MWOBS member, one of the opportunities is to volunteer for service on a shift at the one and only Mount Washington Observatory. Once assigned a shift, you then wait in eager anticipation for the day to come. A volunteer's responsibilities include cooking for the Obs crew, light cleaning, and maybe some painting if needed (don't bring your good clothes for that). In exchange, you get to know the really knowledgeable weather crew, and hang out on the 'Rockpile' Home of the World's Worst Weather.

So, here is what my day included today. Up at 5:30 am, into foul weather gear, and out onto the observation deck, head lamp and coffee in hand. Blowing 40 mph winds greeted me as I left through the Observation Tower hatch. I came in for a breakfast of eggs over easy, and thoughts of a lunch menu for some visitors hiking up to meet the new Director of Summit Operations. Well, they sat down to homemade Tomato Rosemary Leek Soup and Garlic Bagel Chips freshly toasted. In return, I had the opportunity to sit in with the visitors from The National Weather Service during a Q&A with the Obs Crew.

Now, I get back into gear and head up to the top of the weather tower where I spend 45 minutes dead on into 50 mph winds, gusting to 70 mph. Upon returning to the living space, I get to help Marty, the Summit Cat, but you all knew that, chase a mouse and chipmunk around the quarters.

I have to end this comment, as I must go back to the kitchen to bread boneless chicken cutlets for tonights dinner: Chicken Parm with Spinach Tortellini.

You can live the dream like me by becoming a MWOBS member.

John Donovan – Summit Volunteer

21:14 Fri Oct 5th

Everyday on the summit of Mount Washington is an adventure. As the Museum Attendant, you may think I get to experience the changing of the weather as much as the observers, but that would be incorrect. Working on the summit in the museum requires long days working in a basement with no windows. I must ask almost everyone I see who walks down my stairs what the weather is like outside. Some understand why I ask, and others look at me with a very confused look on their face.

With that being said, if we as a crew did not get along as well as we do, I would never have the opportunity to witness half the things I have on this very unpredictable mountain top. Our 'crew' consists of three observers, one intern, two volunteers, and one museum attendant. All but one of the observers is awake all morning and afternoon and none of them ever hesitate to relieve me in any change of weather so that I have a chance to witness it.

On any given day, as you may already know, the weather up here can change within hours, better yet, even minutes. Also, as I already mentioned, I very rarely know it's even happening. When it happens, the excitement levels up here rise. It's almost like receiving a gift you only dreamed of. A lot of visitors come up here for a beautiful clear day, but hey, unless you're hiking, forget about it. Why not experience the fun and adrenaline rush of playing in some 60+ mph winds! Or, the experience of it starting to snow after getting to the top either by the Cog Railway or Auto Road when you started at the base on a sunny day. How many of you can say you were in 70 degree weather and drove about 20 minutes into the sky where it was snowing and back into the sun a few hours later?

I believe the full Mount Washington 'experience' is not the blue bird skies and 50 degree temps, but the wild most ridiculous weather you could imagine.

On another note, there is one question I am frequently asked that I would like to sum up for most people who may not have any clue. What is it that we do up here for fun at night, or on our free time since we live up here for 8 days at a time? Well, as funny and weird as this may sound, one of our most exciting things we do is wait. If we see a thunderstorm rolling in that afternoon once the building is shut down, we all gather in the weather room, shut off all the lights, and wait. I have sat on top of the windows and have witness some insane direct lightning strikes up here. Up close and personal.

If the weather isn't going to be anything too exciting for us, the next best thing on any given clear day or night is to gather around on the observation deck, either to take in any and every gorgeous sunrise or sunset, or maybe even something as simple as just staring at the stars, Milky Way, and the city lights in the distance. If it's the perfect time of year, and the Aurora Borealis is going to happen, we will usually all wait for that knock on our bunk room doors to run outside and witness a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of us who come from cities where such an amazing thing is a rare occurrence.

Last but not least, there is one other thing that most of us enjoy the most. This occurs at the beginning or end of the day, when all the visitors head home and the road and train shut down. As much as we love to see visitors, because it helps us remember we aren't as secluded as we may think sometimes, we all love to just sit back and take in the peace and quiet when we know it is just us (the Observatory staff & State Park Rangers). There is no better way to start or finish out your day in peace. Here at the Observatory, we work long and hectic days, and we do enjoy our time to ourselves and with each other.

There is never a lack of fun, joking, or even some fun pranks up here. We will always find ways to stay entertained. Weather it's the excitement of me trying to spook people with ghost stories, or all of us just sitting around the dinner table telling stories or jokes.

Samantha Brady – Summit Museum Supervisor

21:47 Thu Oct 4th

Mount Washington is known for having the worst weather in the world. A relatively 'calm' 40 mph summer day can give a taste of how much more extreme summit weather can be from valley weather. This weather happens primarily for three reasons, the summit's prominence, its exposure and its storm tracks.

At 6,288 feet, the summit is the highest point in the northeast. Normally, wind is slowed by friction from the ground. Air that collides with the summit has not been slowed by this friction, which allows for higher wind speeds on the summit than in the valley.

As air is forced upward over the presidential range, it accelerates through what is called the Venturi Effect. Similar to when you put your finger over a garden hose, air is squeezed into a small space and accelerates. As the air rises over the mountain the 'cap' of the stratosphere forces flowing air into a smaller space and forces it to accelerate.

Finally, Mt Washington is known to have the wildest weather on earth because of the storm tracks which affect it. Mt Washington is at the confluence of three major storm tracks, allowing severe storms to regularly hit it. Such storms can bring winds in excess of 100 miles per hour and very high amounts of precipitation. The record 24 hour snowfall is 49.3 inches in 1969, which is over 4 feet of snow!

One of the most famous landmarks in the observatory's existence is our extreme wind. On April 12th of 1934, a wind speed of 231 miles per hour was recorded on the summit, and this remains the highest wind speed ever recorded by man. As wind speed increases, not only do the amount of air molecules increase, but the molecules aren't as likely to stream around an object in this wind. This therefore quadruples the force of the wind every time the speed is doubled, making the relationship between wind speed and force exerted by the wind a nonlinear one. Most people have an extremely difficult time standing in 100 mile per hour winds. When our record wind speed was recorded, stepping out of the building would have been like stepping into the center of and F4 tornado.

A 3-cup anemometer, used in some observatories, would not be accurate in the extreme icing conditions that exist on Mount Washington for most of the year. To record these extreme wind speeds, the observatory went to airplane technology, using a heated pitot anemometer. This device is essentially a heated tube with one open end which is angled into the wind. From the difference in pressure between the inside of the tube and outside of the tube, the wind speed can be determined. Even with the heated anemometer, observers have to go out constantly (every 20 minutes in extreme icing conditions) to deice the instruments.

Each winter, observers experience extreme weather on top of the highest summit in New England. To accurately record this weather, they must use specialized equipment, which has been developed and improved in the observatory's decades of existence. Observers work hard to brave the elements and test their own abilities in such harsh weather.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

21:14 Wed Oct 3rd

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Golf Ball Sized Hail?

No, not quite, but easy to see here on the summit of 'Big George' that it's only a matter of hours between beautiful sunshine and fall colors to snow and foggy white outs. Sound upside down and crazy? That it can be!

I actually found the golf ball on day #1, on my first foray, walking down to the 'Cow Pasture' and Nelson Crag Trail, which is just off the Auto Road above the 6 mile mark.

This is my week as one of the MWOBS volunteers on the summit. My partner Warren Schaier and I have split duties beautifully (I cook, he cleans); such a deal! But the greatest deal of all is the opportunity to spend consecutive hours at the summit, because it's in this time frame that you can witness the true mercurial weather of Mt. Washington in all it's glory and fury!

We arrived in a fog (no I'm not being sarcastic). It really was thick, with rain barely holding off.

But, less than 24 hours later, we woke to a gorgeous window of blue sky and sunshine! It was now day #2, and our (volunteer) morning chores of dishwasher-emptying and cleanup were done. We grabbed our packs and gear, and headed out for a fall foliage hike down to Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

It was 8:30 AM, and we were on the trail, but its upside down for sure! Why? Because we started our hike down the mountain. That seems to be the way it is up here. The scenery was spectacular: a fall foliage panorama, Bretton Woods, the peak above the nubble, and the historic Mt. Washington Hotel, with her red roof down below. The 2 lakes by the hut reflected blue sky in their full pools.

The OBS meteorologists and observers predicted fog and rain, and then possibly snow moving in, and they were right on! It was a quick hike back up (just ask Warren!), and, before we returned, we were in pea soup fog! Ok, I know Brian, Roger and all call fog by a nice scientific name, but hey, we're the cooks, so to us, it's pea soup!

On day #5, yet another quick shift of wind and temperatures, and we woke to my 1st snowfall of the season: an inch or more of the white stuff, and it was fun! Who knew we volunteers would get to experience it all?

Sadly, my volunteer week is ending. Yet, in true dramatic Mt. Washington fashion, it ended on a high with the promise of a full circle by the time I wake up tomorrow.

For today, my last full day, it was back to sunshine, temps in the 40's, and enjoying a last seasonal hike in short sleeves, no hat, no gloves, and circumnavigating the big boy George himself. I went down Tucks Trail, over Lions Head Trail to The Alpine Garden, and on up through Nelson's Crag, across the Cog tracks, and back on the summit around Gulfside Trail.

I hope you like my shot of the grasses as they were swaying in 'the garden', with sunshine and color all around!

It was a complete experience to say the least! Tonight the fog has moved back in solid, and tomorrow, rain predicted.

Until next time, my grateful thanks to the dedicated MWOBS scientists and observers who made this trek possible: Roger, Brain, AJ, Brian F. and Steve.

Beverly LaFoley – Summit Volunteer

21:03 Tue Oct 2nd

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My final picture with the entire summit crew

As I write this, I am just starting the overnight shift, which I have been working this past week in order to cover for Ryan while he is on vacation. This will be the last shift that I do as an observer on Mount Washington, almost exactly 5 years and 4 months after starting as a member of the full-time summit staff. Working at one place for nearly five and a half years may not sound like much to a lot of people, but when that work involves living in some of the worst weather you will find anywhere on the planet for eight days at a time, it is indeed a signifcant chunk of time. Also, consider that the average tenure for an observer over our history is about a year or two.

I've had a lot of people ask me how it feels to be leaving after all the time I've spent on Mount Washington. Unfortunately, I haven't had a very good answer for them. All I can really say is that, well, it's weird. It's weird to think that next Wednesday will come around and I won't be packing up and saying goodbye to my fiancée (and our kitties). It's weird that I won't have two homes anymore, and what has felt like two completely different lives. It's weird to think that I won't get to see the sun rise or set from the mountain on a regular basis. Like I said, it's just weird. Despite that fact that tomorrow marks my departure from the Observatory, and all these 'weird' changes, it still really hasn't sunk in yet. I've gone through so many 'lasts' this week, packed up almost all my stuff, and said goodbye to a number of folks that I won't see very often anymore, but it still doesn't seem real yet. I really thought it would at this point, and now I'm starting to wonder when it will. Only time will tell.

I've also had a lot of people ask me, 'What's next?'. The short answer is that I will be sticking around the Mount Washington Valley in the short term. Since I moved to New England in 2007, I have really come to love the area, and I would like to be able to stay. So this winter, I will be working at the best ski shop in the Mount Washington Valley, Stan and Dan Sports. Once ski season gets going, I will also be teaching skiing at Attitash Mountain Resort, just like I have for the past 6 winters. At the same time, along with a fellow Observatory employee, I will be starting a local business which will specialize in Apple© product support, repair, education, and consultation. Don't worry though; I won't be leaving the meteorology world completely. I've been talking to a fellow Penn State alum that runs a website that creates weather and snowfall forecasts and discussions specifically for ski resorts and skiers, called OpenSnow.com. I will likely be contributing to that website for New England ski resorts, and perhaps in some other ways too. Rest assured I will be staying very busy.

Before I go, I naturally have some people to thank. Unfortunately, I couldn't possibly individually name every person that I want to thank, and I also wouldn't want to accidentally forget someone. So, I'm going to speak more generally.

First and foremost, thank you to all the members that are reading this. You are the reason why this organization even exists in the first place. It's been a pleasure meeting as many of you as I have over the years. Also, thanks to our corporate sponsors, both current and past, for all your generous support. Just like our members, without that support we wouldn't even exist as an organization. Speaking of the organization, thank you to every single person that I have ever had the privilege to work with in my time here. From the observers, to the administrative staff, to the many interns, it has been a pleasure working with you, and I have learned something from all of you. Thank you to the entire Board of Trustees, but especially to the handful that I came to now more than others. Of course, I can't forget the countless summit volunteers that I have lived and worked with over the years. Thank you to all of you as well. I have met a lot of great folks and made some life-long friends through the volunteer program.

There are a few people that I would be remiss if I didn't name explicitly.

Thanks to all of my family, but especially my parents: my mom Yvonne, my dad Ken, and my step-mother Barb. Thinking all the way back to my internship that ultimately led to my full-time job here, I couldn't have done it without your support on numerous levels, and I'm very thankful to have had that support.

Lastly, thank you to my wonderful fiancée Laura. We met nearly three and a half years ago, when I was already well into my tenure with the Observatory. Maintaining a budding relationship can certainly be a challenge when you live on a mountain for 8 days at a time. Although she knew full well what she was getting herself into when we met, that doesn't mean it has always been easy for her to deal with. Despite this, she has been nothing but supportive of the work that I have done on Mount Washington. She has always recognized that it's very important to me, and although I know that it has been hard at times for me to be away so often, she has never once complained. Even this past spring when I was contemplating whether or not it was time for me to leave the Observatory, she wanted me to do what I thought was best, regardless of whether that meant continuing or not. I know that she has had to sacrifice a lot to allow me to continue to have the great experience that I have on Mount Washington, and I can't say thank her enough for that. We have our wedding scheduled for September 28, 2013 at Castle in the Clouds in Moltonborough, NH, and I am very excited at what the future holds for us.

I'll leave you now with a quote from my final comment as an intern, back on May 3, 2006:

'Maybe I will be back, but much like the weather on this mountain, the future can be very unpredictable. Only time will tell…'

P.S. Be sure to keep an eye on my Mount Washington Blog on AccuWeather.com over the next several days. I've been posting a series of entries that will highlight my favorite photos, of several different categories, that I have taken in my time on the mountain.

Brian Clark – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:12 Mon Oct 1st

photo - see caption below
Diagram of Orographic Uplift

Happy October! It was quite the surprise to wake up to a blanketed-white summit and snow flakes flying. While a slight chance for mixed precipitation showers were in the forecast for today, it's always a pleasant surprise when you wake up to a new day and month.

The white stuff made a transition to rain by late in the morning as low pressure moved offshore, though not quite taking all the rain with it. As most of the rain in the region tapered off, steady light rain showers refused to leave the radar over the White Mountains, and more specifically right over our station, leading at least one observer to make the comment, 'Ah, upslope showers.' What is an upslope shower though? Certainly in my time as a hiker, intern and observer I've heard the term upslope showers being thrown around and wondered why Mount Washington was plagued by this.

Essentially, when we talk about upslope showers, we're talking about precipitation that is being formed by the size and shape of the mountain itself. Mount Washington is not the only mountain in the world that experiences this effect, but nearly every topographically-prominent mountain contributes to something known as orographic lift. When moisture-rich air is pushed into and up the side of a mountain it cools and condenses into clouds and eventually falls as precipitation on the windward side of the slope. On the back-side, or lee-side of a mountain, the prevailing wind (the air that has risen cooled and condensed) on the windward side of the mountain will now begin to warm and dry, leaving what is known as a rainshadow. One of the best examples of this phenomena is the Tibetan Plateau in southwest China, where monsoon moisture from the Indian Ocean drops significant precipitation south of the Himalayas, leaving Tibet parched and dry.

While Mount Washington may not have the same towering stature of the Himalayas, we still experience significantly higher precipitation from areas as close as Pinkham Notch, where rain and snowfall amounts typically fall to about half of the summit's total. This is just another reason why it's critical for visitors of the summit to expect the unexpected when venturing above treeline.

Tomorrow, as moisture slowly leaves the region we can expect that upslope showers will dissipate and who knows, maybe the sun will make an appearance on high. I know my fingers are crossed.

For more information on the Mount Washington Observatory about events, information on becoming a member or local forecasts and outlooks, visit MountWashington.org .

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

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