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Observer Comments

December 2012

17:40 Mon Dec 31st

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-30% ??

It is really dry in our weather room right now.

How dry is it, you ask? Well our mini temperature/humidity meter next to my computer was reading less than 0% for relative humidity, and if there was a number where the arrow were pointing it might have read -30%. Is that possible? (Answer: no, it's not).

It certainly feels that dry, no matter how much water I drink, and I've been drinking nearly continuously today; my throat and mouth are parched and my eyes feel like they should be submerged in a pool in order to keep them open.

Conversely, we are in the clouds with freezing fog right now, meaning relative humidity is at 100%, or put another way, we have reached a point outside where the air contains 100% of the moisture it possibly can and has reached saturation. At the saturation point, we have water vapor in the air that has condensed into 'dew', or in this case freezing fog.

So why aren't we moisture-rich inside then? It was easy figuring out the answer to this question last night when the winds were howling up to 118mph out of the northwest slamming right into our weather room, positioned perfectly in the wind's path. At -16 degrees ambient air temperature our wind chill reached -62 degrees with our peak wind forcing a tremendous amount of cold air rushing into our windows, which by the way are triple-paned and bulletproof. As sealed as our building is in winter, it was pretty easy to find the seals where wind and cold air were sneaking their way indoors causing our heaters to work extra hard and therefore dry up all of the moisture in the air. Even with two full-time humidifiers running, we are desperate for some water vapor. Investments in caulking and more humidifiers are sure to ensue.

Happy New Year! We are especially grateful for all of our supporters who have helped us through yet another year (and 8th decade) of observing some of the most unique weather on the planet. If you'd like to make a New Year's Resolution to support the non-profit Mount Washington Observatory, please do! Thanks again!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:26 Sat Dec 29th

This is certainly turning into quite an exciting weather week. The Nor'easter on Thursday was really impressive with horizontal snow flying past the summit leading to near white out conditions for most of the day. Trying to de-ice in the 100+ mph easterly winds was a real challenge, we are so used to our winds coming from the west to northwest that you instinctively position yourself out of the way of the falling ice, when the winds are 180 degrees away from normal you have to constantly remind yourself to take extra care and stand on the opposite side to usual otherwise it hurts.

Yesterday the winds finally turned round to the northwest picking up all the new snow and transporting it back over the summit before dropping it in the eastern ravines.

Today it's much quieter with very light winds and just a few flakes of snow slowly drifting down. Tomorrow, however, is looking much more interesting. The latest model numbers put the winds well over 100 mph by tomorrow night and the temperatures down to around zero degrees. There's a definite feeling of anticipation and excitement among the weather nerds up here - fingers crossed that it doesn't fizzle out - there's nothing quite like a good storm up here.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:05 Fri Dec 28th

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Snowcat during the day

Traveling up Mount Washington in the summer is quite an experience in on itself. However traveling up in the winter is a whole other experience, let alone in the dark. My name is Emanuel and I was a summer intern this past summer and was privileged with the opportunity to spend a week up here on the summit during the winter. I have never ridden in a snow cat and my first time would be in the dark, it would also be the first trip up ever for the OBS crew to make a trip up at night. Now this wasn't just for fun that we made the trip up at night. This was because, as many of you know, on December 27th the east coast was hit with a storm and for us to have traveled up during that storm would have been extremely dangerous. To add to that sometime in the morning of the 27th here on the summit we had a wind gust of 112mph along with near white out conditions throughout the day making travel up the mountain impossible.

Now that the winds have calmed down somewhat, with some gusts into the upper 70's, the conditions were favorable for us to dig ourselves out. We started at the front entrance where a 3 foot drift was built up in front of the door. With the help of the snow blower from state parks we were able to clear out the entrance in about 15-20 min with four people shoveling. The next door that needed clearing is the door leading out to the observation deck so the observers can go out and make the observation, this required chipping away at the ice buildup on the posts and building as well as clearing a path to the deck under the A frame to get to the deck. Lastly the emergency exit needed to be cleared. This was entertaining because of the direction of the wind, half the snow would be blown back onto the pile already accumulated in front of the door. After the necessary tasks are completed there is a bit of time to head out doors and experience Mount Washington for what she is with freezing temps and hurricane force winds before heading in once again to a nice cup of warm tea to warm up.

If you would like more information on how to support Mount Washington, visit our website and learn how you can become a member of this great organization!

Emanuel Janisch – Former Intern

16:46 Thu Dec 27th

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Isn't snow supposed to be outside the tower?

When the Sherman Adams Summit Building was constructed and finished in 1980, it was built for withstanding some of the worst weather this planet knows. This concrete and rebar re-enforced building encompasses the northern upper slope of the summit cone and was built into the mountain itself, bolted right down to the bedrock to ensure a safe and stable foundation, even in the nastiest of storms. Triple pane windows made of bullet-proof glass also serve as good protection from chunks of projectile ice flying that can hit the building at hurricane-force.

Our observation tower and observatory itself is well protected on the northwest (and windiest) side of the Sherman Adams Building, with our tower door and metal A-frame facing east, so as to keep us out of predominately westerly or northwesterly winds (and subsequent ice). Today however, winds whipped out of the dreaded east, hurling heavy snow and wind right at our observation deck door which we use every hour for venturing outside for assessing temperature, visibility, precipitation, etc. The day-shift observers were greeted with a pile of snow inside this morning, instead of outside of our tower, where we also received a quick punch in the face for those observers who weren't prepared while opening a door with immense pressure behind it. Our latch system wasn't entirely up to the task with all of the snow filtering through the seams jamming up the lock, so our bolt-action lock added a much needed back up to keep our door shut to prevent even more snow from piling up indoors. At its fiercest today (so far a gust of 112mph) the door became not only difficult to keep closed, but almost impossible to close from the outside when going outside for an observation. In fact, right about the time of our highest gust the handle broke off the door while attempting to shut it front the outside, prompting two observers to hurry back inside with the pieces and promptly shut and lock the door.

With the winds calmed to a more reasonable 50 to 60mph range we were able to repair the handle and remove most of the snow from inside the tower as the wind shifted to a more northerly direction before it eventually makes it way to a more familiar northwest direction tomorrow.

If you would like more information on how to support Mount Washington, visit our website and learn how you can become a member of this great organization!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

23:28 Tue Dec 25th

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Cheering on Santa Last Night

I would first like to start by saying thank you to everyone who has supported the Mount Washington Observatory this holiday season. We appreciate everything that you do for us in making our mission achievable. Further, I would like to thank everyone for the gracious gifts that we received on the summit . All of us, including Marty, are thankful for all of them. We also got to take a spectacular picture last night as Santa passed over the summit.

Tonight to celebrate Christmas, I have been in the kitchen cooking up a dinner fit for the hardy Observers. Being from Polish heritage, I decided to cook a mostly Polish dinner to include perogies, babka bread, and other side dishes. Hopefully it will be enjoyed by all.

If you would like more information on how to support Mount Washington, visit our website and learn how you can become a member of this great organization!

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:20 Mon Dec 24th

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Santa's coming!

As Becca mentioned in yesterday's Observer Comment, I usually do a yearly 'summitized' parody of a Christmas song or story. In 2007, it was a parody on the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'. In 2008, it was a parody on 'The 12 Days of Christmas' called 'The 12 Days of Summit Christmas' fittingly. In2009, it was a twist on 'Jingle Bells' called 'Summit Weeks'. In 2010, it was a twist on 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' called 'Marty the Black-Haired Maine Coon'. And last year , it was a parody on 'O Tannenbaum/O Christmas Tree' called 'O Christmas Cairn'.

For this year, I went with a 'summitized' parody for 'Deck The Halls' that I called 'Deck the Peak'. Hopefully you have as much fun singing along to it as I had writing (and singing along to) it. And before I go, from our crew/summit family, we would like to wish you and your family a MERRY CHRISTMAS and JOYFUL HOLIDAYS!

Deck the Peak

Deck the peak with snow, ice and rime
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Winter's here, and it's about time
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Wearing all our EMS gear
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Cold and snow are nothing to fear
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Aurora dancing to our north
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Colorful lights that they put forth
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

The fallen snow that we just measured
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
For winter sports, it should be treasured
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Another year is in the past
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
With a new year coming up fast
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Singing praise to you, our member
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Thanks! Now, to observe our weather...
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:42 Sun Dec 23rd

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Half of The Enterance Way Shoveled

Twas the night before, the night before Christmas, when all through the Obs,
Not an Observer was stirring, not even a mouse.
The anemometer was de-iced on the tower with care,
In hopes that century winds would soon reach here.

The Intern was nestled all snug in his gear,
While visions of extreme weather brought out a tear.
Roger cooking dinner, and Ryan Observing,
I was writing a comment to be oh so intriguing.

I am no Ryan Knapp but I sure can try, so you will just have to wait until tomorrow to hear his holiday parody.

Today I want to talk about something that was asked on our FaceBook page today when I posted a picture of all the drifted snow that needed to be shoveled. I had a few people inquire why we don't use a Snow Blower. To answer it simply, it rarely works. Most of the snow that gets drifted into our entryway is usually as hard as concrete, and it takes a sharp spade to slowly break off chunks that can be hauled away by a shovel. The large and powerful Snow Blower that we have here on the summit can only be used half of the time. It leaves human snow removal as the only option left. On the plus side, after shoveling for a few hours, there is no need for an additional workout at night.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

00:15 Sun Dec 23rd

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A summit map to help orient yourself.

Sometimes it doesn't take much to lose your way. I'm not trying to be deep or metaphorical here, I mean literally, it doesn't take much to lose ones way. I was reminded of this tonight when I was out getting our precipitation can at 1830EST. But I'm getting ahead of myself; let me set up the "why" behind me losing my way. Over the course of the afternoon, relatively low winds allowed a few inches of new snow to start accumulating on and around the summit. This snow was the light and fluffy variety, so it didn't take much to start transporting it or whipping it up. So as winds started to increase towards my 1830EST departure outside, the light and fluffy snow started to get whipped up into a ground blizzard with white out conditions.

Walking out to get the precipitation can, I was doing good. I first followed the wall of the generator housing for the Sherman Adams building. Once at the end, I pointed towards where the can should be and started counting my steps. A brief lull in the winds allowed for me to find the Nipher Shield and swap out the precipitation cans. I then turned back to where the Sherman Adams building should have been and started counting my steps back. But midway between the Nipher Shield and the corner of the Sherman Adams building, winds suddenly increased forcing me to turn away from them as snow, ice, and rime were being whipped up. And this is where I first started to lose my way. As winds died down a bit, I still couldn't see the building so, I started stepping towards where I thought the building was. Another gust, and again I find myself turning away from the winds and disorienting myself further. This stop and go process continued several times, turning me more and more around. Now I know better than to panic so I just calmly as possible tried to figure out where I was and figure how to move back to my goal. And I knew that if I started to feel the forces of gravity increasing as I head down a slope, I was really going the wrong way since it should always be flat in my location on the relative summit of the mountain.

After what felt like several minutes passing, I finally see a faint light through the fog, snow and blowing snow and started to head in its general direction. As I arrived at the light, I didn't find myself at the front entrance to the Sherman Adams building but at an entrance to the Yankee Building on the opposite side of the summit. While disappointed I was happy because I had my point of reference and could get back. So I waited for a slight lull in the winds then headed to where the Sherman Adams should be. I learned from my recent mistakes to not veer from my straight line path; so when strong gusts occurred, I just held tight, took the punishment and continued on. I passed the Nipher Shield and at that point I knew I was halfway home. After a bit more shuffling and pausing through the snow drifts, I found my way once again to the Sherman Adams building. And let me tell you, nothing feels better than finding your way back home after being lost, no matter how short the time span. Now, let's hope I don't repeat my mistakes again tonight when I go get the precipitation can again around 0100EST, being "lost" once was enough for today.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

21:29 Fri Dec 21st

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Hays wind chart for December 21st

We had another extreme weather day here on the Summit. We started off the day with temperatures in the teens with snow and fog, which of course attaches itself to everything that it comes in contact with and forms either rime ice or glaze ice. From a deicing standpoint, three to four inches of rime ice comes off the tower and instruments way easier than three to four inches of rock-hard glaze ice.

By midafternoon we had transitioned from snow to ice pellets. Eventually, precipitation transitioned briefly to freezing rain as temperatures rose steadily and peaked at 32 degrees just before five PM. However precipitation started transitioning back to snow shortly thereafter as temperatures started to fall with a cold frontal passage.

And what would the World's Worst Weather be without some high winds. We started off the day with winds around 50 miles per hour. By 2PM, we had our first peak gust for the day of 137.1 miles per hour. Shortly after 3PM, we had a second gust of 137.1 miles per hour and sandwiched in between those two gusts, we saw a number of gusts in the 110 to 135 mile per hour range.

We weren't the only ones experiencing these extreme conditions. As you may have read earlier in the week, we have a Meteorology student from Plymouth State University up doing a one week Internship with us this shift. And like all of the Interns I've worked with before, this type of extreme weather just seemed to make it all worthwhile for him.

So what about you? Would you like a chance to experience some of our extreme weather? If yes, you might want to sign up for one of our Day Trips, overnight EduTrips or an EMS climbing trip.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:47 Thu Dec 20th

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Undercast sea of Clouds

Today was a rare day on the summit of Mount Washington for the fact we spent almost all day with absolutely no clouds in the sky but a complete undercast below us. We were on our own mountain island stranded as far as the eye could see. All other terrain features were obscured by the clouds below us.

Considering we spend about 60 percent of the year in the fog it was a real treat to have the beautiful sky above us while the valley was obscured from the sun. We were able to observe every minute of possible sunshine today, despite it being one of the shortest of the year. Although I wish this trend would continue it will end tonight as we head back into the clouds, winds begin to ramp up, and snow begins to fall. At least winter has arrived.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

23:41 Wed Dec 19th

My name is Chris Harle and I am a junior in the Meteorology program at Plymouth State University. I will be interning here on the summit of Mount Washington for the next week. Being a meteorology student in the Northeast, I have been fascinated with the mountains' famous weather since I was very young. A dream is now coming true with this much anticipated stay.

Arriving at the base of the auto road this morning, hype filled the air about the first snow cat trip up the mountain this winter. The weather has rapidly changed in the last week providing a now significant base of snow on the auto road. We encountered heavy drifts as we continued our journey to the frozen tundra, requiring maintenance of the trail with the tossing of the passengers, including myself, back and forth.

As we approached the observatory, we were met by an excited crew anxious to help with the unloading of our equipment and then the loading of their own. As I meet more and more people through all of the nooks and crannies of the observatory, I had an unbelievable sense of excitement for my week to come. A privilege has been given so that my knowledge for meteorology can be expanded significantly with this experience. I want to thank the entire Mount Washington Observatory staff for providing this opportunity for students, such as myself, so that we may continue or education and fascination with the weather.

I am looking forward to a week full of high winds, winter storms, and significant snows. The active weather pattern that we have seen in the last few days is forecast to continue over the next week with the possibility for more significant winter weather events up here on the summit. I have an exceptional amount of information to take in while I learn the methods of the observers, as well as conducting useful research for future reference of scientists who will continue their studies on Mount Washington, home of the world's worst weather.

Chris Harle – Plymouth State University Intern

02:36 Wed Dec 19th

Life at 6,288' for the last week has presented a variety of opportunities. The drive up was in the 4 wheel drive Obs van equipped with tire chains for a scenic trip to the summit. Bruce and I arrived with the staff and two photographers with anticipation of what was in store for the week ahead. We soon settled in and became familiar with our surroundings and started to prepare our first meal for the group. Dinner conversation allowed us to develop new found friendships and become comfortable with our new home and of course, Marty.

The next several days provided clear conditions with spectacular views of the surrounding snowcapped summits and picturesque valleys. While venturing out on the observation deck at night we were presented with a bright night sky and a spectacular display of shooting stars (Be sure to check out the ObsCast for a time lapse video produced by Whit Haynes). We could easily see lights from Bretton Woods, Jackson, North Conway and beyond. We rose early the next morning to view a colorful sunrise. Conditions for hiking with proper gear were in order so off to Mt. Clay we went. This provided an interesting perspective of Mt. Washington and the surrounding area. As we returned to the summit of Washington, the weather quickly changed. Soon we were in the fog with limited visibility as the winds increased.

As the days quickly progressed, we have become engulfed in snowy conditions with winds gusting to 90 mph. One of the tasks to be completed here during a storm is of course snow shoveling. Shoveling snow into high winds certainly provides an interesting challenge. One even has to be careful to not let go of the shovel as it would certainly be blown away. With the onset of the storm, our trip down the mountain will most likely be in the snow cat.

Bruce and I would like to extend our sincere thanks to the entire staff of the Mount Washington Observatory for allowing us this unique opportunity to volunteer here on the summit. We encourage anyone who is interested in Mt. Washington to become a member of the Observatory and take advantage of all it has to offer…including volunteering on the summit. For additional information log on to mountwashington.org. or visit the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway Village. They also provide a well-stocked gift shop for last minute holiday gift shopping ideas.

Bruce & Mitch – Summit Volunteers

14:37 Mon Dec 17th

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Our gift to you for your support!

We're a nonprofit, member-supported institution, and we need YOUR help to keep our operations up and running. Up to 50,000 of you consult our website every day, yet less than 5,000 of you actually help support our work... Can you help even out that imbalance?

Please consider helping to support this website and all the important work that we do in weather observation, atmospheric research, public outreach and science education by making a tax-deductible donation or purchasing a membership today. Your support funds our operations!

We've even got a special year-end membership promotion to sweeten the deal: Become a member, purchase a gift membership for someone else, or upgrade your current membership and you'll receive a beautiful, solid pewter Mount Washington Observatory ornament in addition to our full suite of incredible member benefits. It's our little way of saying thank you.

There are exactly two weeks left until the end of the year, and we still need to raise $78,183 in membership dues and charitable donations in order to meet our budget. Your membership purchase or upgrade, or donation of any amount will help us meet this goal so that we may continue our 80-year legacy of independent scientific research and education on Mount Washington. THANK YOU for your support!

Abby Blackburn – Membership & Events Coordinator

23:22 Sun Dec 16th

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Tuesday's Culprit

Although forecasting is an enjoyable challenge for me, when it comes to matters such as precipitation type forecasting, things can get decidedly dicey. Even though computer models do reasonably well with predicting temperatures, a degree or two can make all the difference in determining an all-snow event vs. a freezing rain event vs. an all-rain event.

Last night (and most likely tonight) was (will be) one of those especially tricky situations, and gave (will give) my forecasting prowess a run for its money.

The day in question in tonight's forecast: Tuesday.

The big-picture: A low pressure system will develop over the Ohio Valley on Monday and trek east-northeastwards toward the eastern seaboard. This will place much of New England in its warm sector, most likely resulting in a primarily rain event for most of the region.

Zooming in: Model numbers have us lingering in the upper 20s F for most of the day on the summit on Tuesday, with a high of about 30F, with moderate to heavy precipitation falling for most of the day.

What my experience tells me: In this range of temperatures, without looking at the bigger picture, a wintry mix of precipitation is a good possibility, at least periodically through the event.

What the "big picture", stated above, tells me: In a warm air advection event, meaning an event in which warm air moves in to supplant cold air already in place, generally precipitation begins colder (snow, sleet, etc.) and trends towards warmer types (freezing rain, rain) as the warmer air mixes down from the upper-levels to the surface.

Another factor to consider: Initialization of the computer models. A forecaster must consider how the models are verifying at the present time, and adjust the future numbers accordingly. For example, if the models were predicting a temperature around 20F for the 6-9 hours prior to forecasting, and the actual outdoor temperature during that time was more like 24F, a forecaster should consider that the models are running consistently cold, and add a couple of degrees to the predictions for the following few hours. Over the past day or so, the models have been running a few degrees too cold, so I might consider adding three to four degrees to the official temperature forecast.

What that extra degree or two means: A high of 29F vs. 33F could make all the difference in the world when it comes to whether there will be a significant freezing rain event (29F) or an event featuring plain rain at times (33F). Of course, the temperature at the surface is not the only factor in determining precipitation type; not at all.

What temperatures above tell me: Looking at a vertical profile of forecasted temperatures is a very critical tool in determining precipitation type. While temperatures could be below freezing at the surface, differences in wind speeds and directions at different heights of the atmosphere very often allow for temperatures above the surface to warm above freezing before the surface does. A warm pocket above the surface could be deep enough to melt any snow falling from above. If a relatively shallow cold layer exists beneath that warm layer, keeping surface temperatures below freezing, the melted snow (rain) will freeze on contact, resulting in a freezing rain event. If the cold layer is a bit deeper, the melted snow (rain) will have a longer path through sub-freezing temperatures, giving it a chance to re-freeze into ice pellets (sleet).

I'll be delving much further into these issues, and more, tonight (Sunday night), and I am very much looking forward to the challenge! What will I ultimately conclude? Well, you can check that out by looking at the higher summits forecast page here.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:44 Sat Dec 15th

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Winter Storm Watch ares in blue. Courtesy NWS.

Winter doesn't officially begin in the Northern Hemisphere until Friday the 21st-- though here on the Rockpile we've been seeing a taste since October. Lucky for us, and now lucky for the valley, we'll be seeing our first significant winter storm enter the region late in the afternoon on Sunday with the bulk of the precipitation falling as snow for interior and Northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine starting Sunday night and early Monday morning, with lighter accumulations occurring straight through to Tuesday morning. Snow will likely linger on the higher summits beyond Tuesday morning, and perhaps in the valleys too (though perhaps changing to rain, sleet or freezing rain), as we closely watch a parade of systems starting to appear in our models.

On this morning's radio shows I was more than happy to state: the National Weather Service (click for detailed information from our regional NWS office) has issued a Winter Storm Watch this morning taking effect Sunday afternoon lasting through Tuesday morning. My excitement is due in part to the fact that right now as we speak, the summit of Mount Washington has only about 1 inch of snow, rime and ice on the ground with areas of deeper drifts. After November's major dry spell, December has been well onto its way of being a big repeat. The monthly average for December calls for 8.84 inches of liquid (be that from snow, rain, sleet, etc), and 50 inches of snow. As of the half-way point of the month we have received 2.21 inches of liquid and an even more measly 5.9 inches of snow. So you could say we have some catching up to do-- and hopefully with by the end of next week we'll be in more typical December standings. So for now, enjoy the snow and be safe out there!

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:11 Fri Dec 14th

Yesterday evening we were treated to a great celestial 'firework' display as a major meteor shower occurred overhead. For once the fog stayed away, the sky was crystal clear and there was hardly any background light due to a new moon. The Geminid meteor shower, which peaks this year on December 13th and 14th, is by far the most intense meteor shower of the year. It often lasts for days and includes everything from small dust grains, giving us those typical short lived streaks that flash across the sky, to larger particles which often lead to bright explosions as they burn up. While watching several of these 'shooting stars' flash by each minute I was thinking about the billions of years these grains have been happily orbiting around the the solar system only to be destroyed in a final burst of flames in the Earth's atmosphere.

Looking at the current conditions we certainly won't be seeing any meteors tonight as the freezing fog is back with a vengeance. The winds are also beginning to ramp up and the temperature is falling steadily. Looking at the forecast models it appears we'll be seeing some real wintry weather later this weekend, perhaps we'll finally get some snow - time to find those shovels.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

18:07 Thu Dec 13th

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The icy (but not snowy) road looking to the North.

Normally in early Fall, the last leg of our weekly commute to the summit involves driving up the 7.6 miles on the Auto Road to the summit building. This van ride up the auto road becomes challenging in late Fall, requiring chains on tires and using a plow to push snow off the road. At a certain point in the late Fall, we make the transition from traveling up the auto road by car to using our snow tractor. Last year, our previous Summit Operations Director Ken Rancourt said that in the several decades he'd been working, last year's transition of December 28th was the latest we've ever had to wait to take the snow tractor up to the summit. This year's Fall seems to have a similar warm and dry trend, with the road often treacherously icy, but snow not deep enough to protect the pavement from the snow tractor's sharp treads. Let's hope for more snow soon!

Normally each shift consists of three observers, one intern and two volunteers. After the month of November with no volunteers, the summit is back in full swing, with a shift of 8 people. We're excited to have two photographers on the summit, shooting time lapse, photos and videos for the observatory. Some exciting rime ice formation and night sky time lapse footage will be used in future renovations of our summit museum! You can see a sneak peak of the conditions they've been filming in here.

If you want to experience the conditions on the summit of Mount Washington, you can do so by joining one of the Observatory's Edutrips. Edutrips are themed trips that spend a night on the summit, taking the Observatory's snow tractor up and down the Auto Road. These trips allow participants to explore the summit and participate in a variety of activities revolving around the trip's theme. Both sleeping arrangements in the Observatory's cozy and warm living quarters and a delicious dinner cooked by the summit's volunteers are included in our overnight trips.

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount here. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

23:23 Wed Dec 12th

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A Gear Collage!

Although the calendar date is about 13 days short of Christmas, it felt like December 25th this morning for us observers, as a new shipment of EMS gear arrived on the summit!

Here are some of the pieces I received, that will go a long way to ensuring my warmth and dexterity during the long winter on the rockpile:

1. EMS Men's Theorem Pants: Essential for all of my trips and trudges through snowdrifts during the winter, and also to keep my legs warm through those nights when temperatures could potentially drop as low as -47F!

2. EMS Men's Ascent Summit Gloves: Fingers and toes are among the first parts of one's body to get cold when exposed to harsh winter conditions. Because of this, warm gloves are essential! These bad boys are sure to keep me warm during those nights when Mt. Washington is ripe with strong winds, heavy snow, and freezing fog.

3. EMS Men's Work Gloves: Uh oh...the fog just cleared, and the winds dropped to levels below which our pitot tube static anemometer can handle. Time to put up the RM Young Anemometer for low wind speeds! The summit gloves are a little too bulky, so I'll bust out these slimmer work gloves, so my dexterity isn't compromised when I'm installing the anemometer in the chilly temps.

4. EMS Men's Power Stretch 1/4 Zip: This is, by far, one of my favorite EMS pieces due to its incredible versatility. If I'm lounging around the living quarters, working hard in the weather room, or taking a jaunt around the summit in milder temperatures, this piece is an excellent choice. I was most certainly excited to see we received the latest version, in a sharp blue shade!

Check out all of these gear pieces, and more, at ems.com!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

22:05 Tue Dec 11th

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Sunrise on the Summit

It's been two years since our last volunteer operation on the Rockpile and it was good to be back. Lots of new faces, interesting people with fascinating lives to share at the dinner table and around breaks for good eats, but first Mike and I would like to thank our four legged friends who made our time here so special.

Slim's two golden retrievers Zephyr and Jack, (Slim is the Transportation Czar for MWObs,) are both beautiful and friendly (it's probably overkill to describe golden retrievers as friendly.) Brothers in every sense of the word, their personal duty…taken seriously, is to ENTHUSIASTICALLY WELCOME the incoming crew. Our responsibility as the incoming crew...to hug and pet them the requisite amount of time...until your arm falls off...a duty taken seriously and enthusiastically by us and a great way to begin our shift, thanks fellas!

One of the great things about being up here is the opportunity to help out in any and every way imaginable. There may be close to an entire shift when you are in the fog so we like to keep busy with projects beyond cooking and baking. Take yesterday for example, Marty had been bothered by the refrigerator door not closing properly so he wanted to ask Mike to level the frig. He thoughtfully stuck his head around the door jamb into the pantry where I was prepping for dinner and asked me if I thought Mike would mind checking out the problem?

"Of course not," I said, "Mike hates downtime, I'm sure he'd be delighted to help you out." So when approached with the request...Mike said, "I'm on it...provided Marty will supervise..." the men were in business, I'm happy to report the refrigerator is now level.

Marty has his moments of entertaining the volunteers as well. I was working on a project up in the visitor's rotunda, with my ever present glass of water on the table before me thinking I was alone when out of nowhere this black flash came zipping by and zipping by again, then up in the air, a full pirouette onto the table and came to a dead stop in front of my water glass. See glass, smell glass, touch glass, look slyly at bewildered volunteer, move glass stealthily to the edge of table, turn back to volunteer wink and vaporize into the evening.

Mike and I enjoy having our first cup of coffee for the day upstairs in the public rotunda area. After leaving the dark confines of the downstairs it can be a pretty colorful moment on entering that space or it can be pretty grey, either way the coffee tastes great. The other morning while enjoying coffee, we managed to catch Rebecca as she was heading out to retrieve the precip can which happily had a little bit of snow in it.

Tom Guilmette, photographer, is currently on the mountain with us filming/video recording footage to be shown in the new MWObs Museum with a planned opening of 2014. Presently he's working on time-lapse recording of the formation of rime ice. When I last saw him he said last night's footage was great.

The Obs crew works hard in and out of the elements 24/7 yet there is a casual quiet professionalism about them and their workplace. Always busy, always willing to take time to answer questions, clearly enjoying each other and the work they do. Steve Lanciani, Obs intern is finishing up his final shift this week we wish him well and success in all his endeavors. Thank you to all (especially Ryan, Rebecca, Roger and Steve...Slim, Zephyr, Jack and Marty!) who made this such a wonderful opportunity.

Sue Zloger - Summit Volunteer

*Please disregard the signature below.

Abby Blackburn – Director of Summit Operations

00:36 Tue Dec 11th

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Giving Mother Nature a Jolly Hint for Snow

Today has been anything but winter weather. I woke to snow but the warming temperatures quickly changed it to freezing rain, then rain. With the snow on the ground dwindling by the time I took over observations for the day, I had my doubts if we would have a white Christmas here on the summit in two weeks. Knowing that this is the summit of Mount Washington and anything can happen, I tried my best to encourage Mother Nature with a little holiday spirit. I turned to my trusty Santa hat and performed observations as jolly as I could. Hopefully the fact that the temperatures are dropping again is a sign that it worked. For now I will just have to keep my fingers crossed and wish for snow!

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:50 Sun Dec 9th

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A sample of my experiences

Time flies when you're living on a mountain, that's how it goes...right? The time has come for me to say my goodbyes to the summit, as I have reached the final days of my internship. It's hard to believe that on Wednesday, I will head down after shift change and not return the following week. Having lived this week on-week off life since August, it will certainly feel weird when I don't meet with the crew at the base next Wednesday morning. It will be nice to get back to my fresh-out-of-college life and continue applying for meteorology jobs, and I also look forward to working at Waterville Valley to make a couple bucks. Those college loans don't pay themselves back you know, but boy would that be nice. This being said, I will definitely miss all aspects of the Rockpile, from the rugged alpine landscape, to the crew, and the Sherman Adams building that I called home for 4 months. This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an experience that I will never forget.

So what did I do in my time here? To avoid writing a novel, I'll point out the major duties. A great deal of time was spent working on my project, dealing with our 80+ year historical data set. I wrote a program to go through over 680,000 lines of hourly observations in excel and note any erroneous data. I then went back and fixed these errors so that our database is clean and consistent and can be easily consulted for research. Perhaps one of the most rewarding tasks however, was shadowing the hourly weather observations and learning how to properly report conditions to the National Weather Service. I learned many tricks of the trade and gained valuable experience for my career in meteorology. Of course, I also have to mention my time spent shoveling and de-icing in hurricane force winds, you know, your average daily activities.

Yes, there was a lot of work involved in my time at the Observatory, but there was also time to just take in all the sights and sounds of the mountain. Having been here during the transition from summer to winter, I experienced an extreme spread of weather phenomena. Here is a small sample of what occurred: rain, snow, fog, rime, thunderstorms, beautiful sunrises/sunsets, 3 daily record highs and a daily record low, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake, Hurricane Sandy (resulting in 140 mph winds that literally threw me to the floor of the observation deck, hence a century club *attempt*), a fascinating aurora borealis display, and much, much more.

In some ways, four months on top of the Northeast is enough. In other ways, one could spend their whole life here trying to experience all that this mountain has to offer, most likely still missing out on some things. Unique is an understatement when describing this opportunity that I was given, and I don't think words will ever properly sum up my time here, so I resort to countless pictures, videos, and stories of a lifetime. The Mount Washington Observatory has an amazing partnership with this extreme and unforgiving landscape, that I hope lives on forever. And for those of you who want more than just my summary, I invite you to come experience it in person through the many ways that the Observatory offers. To the summit crew (Marty included), the valley staff, and everyone in between, I extend my greatest thanks. Keep exploring, keep observing, and you can bet I'll be back many times.

Stephen Lanciani – Summit Intern

22:14 Sat Dec 8th

After a couple of near perfect days here on the Summit with clear skies, low winds and moderate temperatures for this time of year, we moved back into the fog early this morning. Today also saw a few hikers coming to the Summit to take advantage of the conditions before winter is upon us again in full force.

Inside the Observatory, the Christmas Tree is setup in the Living room with decorations being added. Under the tree, a couple of gifts can be seen. There's also a wreath hung in the North window of the office area.

Even though it's the weekend, the work goes on as usual. For our shift, this is 'hump' day (the nickname given for middle of a work week). Along with the Observations that we do each hour, we all have other Observatory related tasks to complete. Becca was working on an Obscast and I spent the day working on a project in the tower. As this is Intern Steve's last shift with us, he's been making notes for our next winter Intern that will pick up his work of validating our 80 plus years of B-16 data. As for Marty, he just hangs around making sure everyone knows how important he is to the Observatory and going next door to State Park to get treats.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

17:38 Fri Dec 7th

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EMS Crew out for a Hike

My first winter overnight trip since joining the Obs team in June - good living! I had the fortune of being on a trip along with a team from Eastern Mountain Sports doing a photo shoot for their climbing school. The day started with a smooth ride to the summit arriving at 6,288' to sunshine, calm winds and endless visibility (or 120 miles is what I am told from Intern Steve).

We proceeded to spend the entire day outside with EMS photo staff Robert Moses & Eric Irwin as they shot the crew lead by EMS Climbing School Guides, Keith Moon & Dave Lottmann, demonstraiting and advising on winter mountaineering. It was a perfect day surrounded by a snow covered summit, mountain views, a cast of characters, lots of laughs, and plenty of awe at how lucky we were to be in this incredible place.

The day outside was followed by a fabulous meal prepared by summit volunteers, Mike & Sue, and then a visit to the Observation tower where we saw millions of stars and 360 degree views of the night landscape reaching as far as Portland, ME and Canada.

The adventure continued true to course as we woke to a beautiful sunrise.

I won't bore you with more but before I close, it only seems appropriate to mention that EMS offers day and overnight mountaineering trips to the summit of Mount Washington throughout the season - try it for yourself! It is sure to be an adventure of a lifetime.

Happy Holidays!

Krissy Fraser – Development Coordinator

22:19 Thu Dec 6th

Today kicked off the trip season on the summit with our first overnight. Eastern Mountain Sports rode to the summit today with various staff members to capture some pictures and footage for their climbing school. They were in luck too as the weather could not have cooperated more. With winds decreasing as the day progressed and temperatures rising just enough, it made a long day outside tolerable.

Even though this first trip of the season was EMS staff there are still plenty of trips to sign up for. Between our EduTrips and DayTrips, as well as Partner Led Climbing trips, you can enjoy all that Mount Washington has to offer in the winter. With any luck you will experience the extremes of the mountain and the shear beauty on a clear day. Either way, you can not go wrong. Our trips even make the perfect holiday gift. To learn more visit our education homepage.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

00:23 Thu Dec 6th

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Truck & Van w/ chains was part of todays commute.

If you work a typical 9 to 5 job, a commute is part of your daily routine. You wake up, get ready, and then head out the door to hop in a car, wait at a bus stop, ride on a train, board a plane, or walk. If all goes right, you show up on time, do your job, then at the end of the day, you take your method of transportation home and call it a day waiting for the process to repeat the next day. Now, if you have been at a job long enough, you know precisely how long it takes to get to work and give yourself enough time to arrive with minutes to spare. But, that is assuming everything goes right, which seldom happens. So, you might give yourself a bit of wiggle room by leaving earlier, setting the clocks ahead, using radio for commute updates, check smartphone information, etc. But, sometimes, something just happens and you're left there waiting as you call in apologizing for being late. Fortunately, this kind of stuff is rare for all of us working on the summit, but it does happen on occasion.

Now, since we live and work up here for a week at a time, our typical daily commute consists of us shuffling upstairs from the living quarters to the office above. But, this isn't when we're going to be calling up to apologize for being late. Those calls come from when we are affected by outside forces on Wednesday when one shift heads down off the mountain for a week and a new one comes up for their work week. For this to happen, three things must occur. First, everyone has to meet at the base on time and load the vehicles. The second part is then taking said vehicles up the road to the summit. And third is taking said vehicles down the mountain and dropping everyone off. On a good day in summer, taking out the meetings we have, a shift change can take just over an hour. In the dead of winter, a good day without meetings takes between two to three hours. But these are ideal conditions and if you know Mt Washington, ideal days are not very common.

Usually steps two and three are where shift change delays arise. Trips up/down may be slow going or delayed due to dangerous weather like blinding snow, whipping winds, cold temperatures or heavy and deep snow drifts. Occasionally, it might be a mechanical delay where something in the snow tractor, truck, or van breaks and we have to wait for it to be replaced or repaired. Sometimes, it might be an obstacle like a fallen tree or a broken down car on the road that must first be removed. But, these delays are common and are ones that we all expect. It is the delays in step one (getting to the base of the mountain) that can sometimes cause the biggest issues. It might be a lost or confused new intern or volunteer. It might be car trouble. In these cases, calling might be difficult since the mountains inhibit cell service. Or, it might be road construction, or, as in my case this morning, a giant turbine on Route 16 closing down traffic. And since, again, we live in a mountainous region, when a section of road becomes pinched off, all you can do is wait or take a detour several miles out of the way, sometimes outweighing the amount of time it takes to just wait. And while it may have been my turn causing the delay this week, I hope all my coworkers had some understanding as it is only a matter of time until something delays them and in turn, us, on shift change day.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

17:09 Tue Dec 4th

It's Tuesday here on the summit, our seventh day and last day of our shift before shift change takes place tomorrow. As is customary on Tuesday, today is our big clean-up day and the day for prepping for the other shift to take over the reigns. Typically we have members who come up and volunteer with us for the week and often aid us in welcoming guests, cooking, and you guessed it- cleaning, especially on Tuesday. In order to run a manned-mountain-top weather station that is operating 24/7 we need to be constantly maintaining instruments and keeping our facility neat and tidy (especially since it's not exactly cost-effective to hire a maid service to hike up and down). Just like at home it's necessary for us to dust, mop the floors, vacuum, windex, clean bathrooms, take care of laundry, etc, etc (let's not forget making a grocery list either!).

Fortunately and unfortunately things quiet down during the month of November once the Auto Road has closed and there are no visitors to the Observatory for Winter EduTrips or Weather Station Tours, so we take a break from having summit volunteers as well. Cleaning and maintaining the place where you work for twelve hours a day is a little daunting in this facility I must admit, and on a day like today once all the chores have been finished I've found an even greater appreciation for our summit volunteers (and sure miss the company as well!). If you have any interest in becoming a volunteer if you're already a member, or would like to become a member and volunteer for a week with us, follow the links!

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount here. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Brian Fitzgerald – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:43 Mon Dec 3rd

This morning, I woke up to typical Mount Washington weather. We were completely socked in the fog and winds were gusting above hurricane force. One of my favorite times on the summit is during moments of patchy fog in high winds, which we had later this morning as the fog on the summit began to clear. It's hard to imagine how fast the wind is actually traveling unless you have a reference, which, in this case, is bits of fog flying over the relatively clear mountain.

As the summit cleared through the day, the valley remained under a dense deck of clouds below us. Throughout the day, it seemed as if we were an island in a sea of clouds with Mt Mansfield poking its summit above the sea to our West. What caused this sea of clouds below us? Many of you may already know, but for those of you who don't, let me explain.

If air cools to a certain temperature, called the dew point, a cloud forms. Normally, this happens as air rises and cools as it decompresses, forming clouds above us. Frequently in the winter, air cooled on the slopes of a mountain will sink down into the valleys. This air then slides underneath the air that was previously in the valley, forcing it to rise and condense. This is why you may often find the coldest temperatures on a calm night in the valleys and not on the summits where they often are. This is also often the reason why valley fog exists.

It just goes to show that when it's an overcast, foggy day in the valley, it is not necessarily the same up here. If you want the chance to see spectacular sunsets over a sea of clouds, consider signing up for one of our Edutrips. They are themed trips that spend a night on the summit, taking the Observatory's snow tractor up and down the Auto Road. These trips allow participants to explore the summit and participate in a variety of activities revolving around the trip's theme. Both sleeping arrangements in the Observatory's cozy and warm living quarters and a delicious dinner cooked by the summit's volunteers are included.

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount here. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Mike Dorfman – Summit Intern

23:40 Sun Dec 2nd

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Catchin' some rays during the short days

Things have been a lot quieter up on the summit over the last few weeks.

I've had the observers all to myself, and haven't had to share them with any tourists, guests, volunteers, etc. This is important, because I need quite a bit of attention for all of my kitty needs.

That's right, you guessed it, friends! It is I, Marty, the one and only, awake and risen for a few fleeting moments to grace you all with the most important purr-spective on the rockpile-MINE!

This summer was certainly a busy one, with lots of activity happening all around me. I've remained strong and largely silent, though, observing through all of the hustle and bustle. It is only when one of my observers forgets to fill my dish promptly, or fails to leave a door open that I desire to utilize, that I'll communicate verbally. My words are few, yet important. So, listen up!

With winter fast approaching, I'd like to tell you all about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The chance...

The honor...

The privilege...

...to meet yours truly, Marty, the Observatory Mascot (or, should I say, Mas-Cat?) in the flesh and fur!

How is this possible? By taking advantage of the Winter Day Trips and Edu Trips offered by the Mount Washington Observatory! You can come up and visit us for the day, or even overnight if you wish, and experience my incredible domain that is Mt. Washington in the winter. But the best feature will be waiting for you on the inside: ME! You may have to wait in (fe-)line to catch a glimpse of my nighttime coat of fur, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

And, ok, the weather is purr-tty cool too.

To find out more about our day trips, go here.

For the heartier souls that wish to endure an overnight trip, take a look.

That's all from me(-ow).

Now, I shall return to my slumber atop the weather room stereo.

Marty – Summit Cat

18:29 Sat Dec 1st

Starting this month the Observatory has several overnight partner-led climbing trips for those adventurous folks who would like to hike to the summit of Mount Washington in winter conditions. These trips are a great way of meeting like-minded individuals as well as a way to learn winter mountaineering skills from very experienced instructors.

Next month the Observatory begins it's Winter Day Trips and overnight Winter EduTrips.

Day trips are a perfect way to experience the mountain in winter, see it's amazing weather first hand and to take a ride in our snowcat. EduTrips are a two day excursion that offer similar experiences to the day trips but also include an overnight stay with the crew. Each EduTrip also offers a different educational theme and is lead by a specialist in the given field. If anyone reading this is looking for something a little different to do this winter, or perhaps for a unique holiday gift, then maybe a trip to the top of Mount Washington would fit the bill?

Please click on the following link if you want to see a full list of these special winter Observatory events.

Observer footnote: Our year-end fund drive is taking place through December 31, and we need your support. Please make a tax-deductible donation of any amount here. As a nonprofit, people-powered institution since our founding in 1932, we need your help to continue our work! Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Steve Welsh – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

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