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Observer Comments

April 2014

18:27 Tue Apr 15th

Barbara Althen and I are finishing up our fourth summit volunteer shift. This one was the most spectacular we've experienced so far. The numbers say it all:

1 - the number of nights with Northern Lights

2 - the number of sunrises with 100 plus mile visibility and a pink alpenglow

3 - the number of hikes taken: Mt. Clay; Lion Head; Nelson Crag

4 - the number of sunrises and sunsets combined

5 - the number of sunny, clear days or half-days during our stay

6 - the number of buckets of melt water taken out of the tower during the day when we reach 50F (10C)

7 - the number of nights the evening meal was served right on time (plus one more tonight)

8 - the number of decades since the Big Wind. We even made a cake to celebrate the April 12 anniversary.

9 - how we rated one of the sunsets, that lit up every mountain ridge a beautiful red from here to VT and even NY state.

10 - how we rated our week at the summit

Oh, better add one more...

11 - getting to stay up here another day because poor road conditions means shift chance has been postponed until Thursday.

Bill Ofsiany & Barbara Althe – Summit Volunteers

16:01 Mon Apr 14th

As my final week wraps up, I want to thank everyone at the Observatory for giving an absolutely incredible and unforgettable 1.5 years on the summit. I have seen and learned an incredible amount and am very thankful for all of the wonderful people both up here on the summit and down in the valley that keep the Observatory's gears turning.

If you want to stay overnight on the summit, the observatory has several options for you. Our winter and summer overnight trips allow attendees to spend a night on the summit, learning about topics ranging from photography to meteorology. Our volunteer program allows members of the observatory to stay on the summit for a week, while helping cook and clean. Finally, our intern program allows qualified applicants to spend a season with one of the shifts, helping out with projects and learning what observers do on a daily basis.

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer

16:33 Sun Apr 13th

The mainstream media and social media feeds are all abuzz about an upcoming 'Blood Moon' on Tuesday Morning (or Monday night for those of you who think 'morning' starts at sunrise). While a blood moon is being tossed around as an attention getter, in reality, the correct scientific terminology is simply a 'lunar eclipse.' A lunar eclipse is when the Moon passes into the shadow of the Earth.

From a meteorological standpoint, studying the color of the moon during an eclipse is an interesting study in how much volcanic dust and other particulate matter is present in the Earth atmosphere at that particular time. But this is about all I know since this is not my or any of my coworkers specialty; most people that have knowledge in knowing what to look for have a Masters of PhD in Atmospheric Science, Climatology or other related fields. So, much like you, we will just be hopefully looking up and watching this eclipse in awe. But you may have noticed that I said 'hopefully' in that last sentence. I said this because the odds of us seeing it from the summit of Mount Washington, NH are slim to none - with low odds expected across most of New England. Why? Well, the weather of course (something I do know about)!

Today, the region will be left in the wake of a warm front with ample amounts of warm moist air pumping northward for Monday. As this is occurring, a strong cold front will be approaching from the west late Monday into Tuesday. This means clouds, clouds, and more clouds making a lunar eclipse viewing very unlikely. However, I know my science isn't exact and there is always a sliver of hope, but if I were a betting man, I'd put all my money on 'No.' The good news though is this is the first of a Tetrad of Lunar Eclipses that will be visible from all of or parts of North America. So, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again...in six month intervals.

A video explaining the Tetrad of Lunar Eclipses can be seen HERE.

If you prefer reading about the Tetrad, you can head HERE.

A PDF about the study of Volcanic Emissions affecting the color can be read HERE.

If the Northeast happens to be clear, you can learn everything you need to know to view it HERE.

Lastly, if New England is clouded over, you can watch it live HERE.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

18:39 Sat Apr 12th

Today is a big day for the Observatory! Exactly 80 years ago today, the 231mph record wind was observed and recorded by Sal Pagliuca, Alex McKenzie, and Wendell Stephenson. Also joining the crew were 2 guests, Arthur Griffin and George Leslie. The fourth observer, Robert Stone, had to be transported down the mountain due to a skiing injury a few days before the record wind was observed.

Reflecting on some of the journal entries from these brave observers, perhaps my favorite line comes from Sal when he recalls the first few moments after realizing how large of a wind velocity was actually recorded:

'Will they believe it?' was our first thought. I felt then the full responsibility of that startling measurement. Was my timing correct? Was the method OK? Was the calibration curve right? Was the stopwatch accurate?
- Log Book entry, Sal Pagliuca

As weather observers atop Mount Washington, our primary mission is to accurately record and disseminate meteorological measurements to the best of our ability every hour, every day, every year. This mission has remained unchanged since the inception of the Observatory in 1932. To the crew's amazement, their long days of hard work and meticulousness soon paid off when a record setting observation was made just two years later on April 12, 1934.

Understandably, this explains Sal's feelings of doubt and uncertainty, as a wind velocity this large was unprecedented, however after a series of anemometer tests and calibrations, the record 231mph wind was confirmed to be accurate by the National Weather Bureau. In fact, this record still holds as the fastest windspeed ever recorded and observed at a staffed, non-automated station. While it's true that larger wind speeds certainly exist in extreme capacities, for instance 300+mph Doppler radar estimated winds within tornadoes, the 231mph measurement is still the largest non-estimated and non-automated wind record to date, which is an important distinction to make.

Fast forward to now, and you will see that although many changes have occurred over the past 80 years, the Weather Observers working atop the summit still seek to uphold this same mission of recording and disseminating accurate data with the hopes of advancing our understanding of Earth's atmosphere.

Happy Big Wind Day!

Kaitlyn O`Brien – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:23 Fri Apr 11th

I'm enjoying my last week here on the summit as my temporary position with the Mount Washington Observatory comes to an end. I've seen and learned so much since I started working with the Observatory in fall of 2012. I have walked (crawled) through 120+ mph winds, taken observations in -35 degree temperatures (with a -90 degree wind chill!), collected the precip can in fog so thick I can barely see my feet, and spent months learning about the human psyche while working nights. I couldn't have asked for a more unforgettable time here on the summit while working alongside a wonderful group of people.

The days ahead promise to bring a variety of conditions, with the summit sending me off with spring-like temperatures on Monday, only to dip back down well below freezing on Tuesday. As they say on the summit, 'if you don't like the weather, wait a minute and it will be different.'

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer

17:04 Wed Apr 9th

My favorite thing about my job is that no two days are the same. Just a few months shy of my two year anniversary with the Observatory, I'm happy to say that this still very much applies today. So, just what have I done this past week?

It started last Wednesday at shift change, which was Rebecca's last day on the summit, so naturally we threw her a little dinosaur themed surprise party. Thursday began with a monthly search and rescue working group meeting at Pinkham Notch, immediately followed by interviews for a new Transportation Coordinator at Great Glen. This is a very unique joint position with the Mt. Washington Auto Road, and we were able to talk with a lot of good candidates. We are hoping to make a selection in the coming weeks.

On Friday, I was the keynote speaker at White Mountain Community College at their Women in Science and Technology (WIST) forum. It was great to talk to a room full of high school aged girls about the path I took to obtain a career in science, and stress to them the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers.

I then did the almost three hour drive to Portland, Maine, for the Mount Washington Observatory fundraiser with Ginger Zee from Good Morning America. It was great to see her again after her visit here a year ago when she hiked to the summit. She is a weather nerd like all of us up here at the Observatory, and proud of it, and I hope she visits us again soon.

Monday was quiet and a great day to get caught up on administrative tasks in the office. On Tuesday, I came to the summit with photographers Jonathan and Nicole, who are taking photos for an upcoming edition of the alumni magazine for my alma mater, Metropolitan State University of Denver. Unfortunately, Mount Washington wasn't her usual winter self as we were getting spring-like conditions on the summit with rain and temperatures above freezing.

'Winter' is back however, and Wednesday brought temperatures in the teens with lots of rime ice, just in time for shift change! Wednesday wrapped up with a training meeting for the new website, which we need your help to complete! From server to website, we are making major changes to put us in the 21st century and would love your Support!

Cyrena Briede – Director of Summit Operations

06:17 Wed Apr 9th

Completing my fourth Volunteer Week here on the Rockpile, I'm still amazed at all the new experiences there are to be had. On the second day of our shift, we had the pleasure of hosting an overnight trip for a group of climbers from faraway Denmark (Maine, that is). The group climbed up and down the mountain with warm beds and a great meal in between. The sunrises were spectacular, as were the sunsets. Weather changes constantly, as you would expect in New England, Winter to Spring and back to Winter. This is all possible because I became a Mount Washington Observatory member, and so can you. Check out the MWOBS website to find out how, and you'll be glad you did! I am!

John Donovan – Summit Volunteer

20:22 Mon Apr 7th

Only 2 days ago I wrote a comment about the ice storm we saw and how ice storms are a relatively uncommon event on the summit. Mother nature must have heard me and felt spiteful, because another storm is about to begin this evening, with snow, sleet, freezing rain, and even plain rain all possible by tomorrow. This storm will have more precipitation than its predecessor, along with a bit warmer air. The summit will likely see plenty of glaze ice from freezing rain, making for a challenging night of de-icing. Precipitation should taper to showers tomorrow morning, with temperatures returning to near average for the summit in the lower 20s.

Tom Padham – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

16:22 Sun Apr 6th

It's good to be back!

After an unexpected absence for the first half of this shift, I re-joined my shift-mates this morning. No, it was not an impromptu vacation that kept me away, but a nasty illness. Sickness is something to very strictly and seriously guard against on the summit. For one, the altitude does have a noticeable effect on the body, often dragging out recovery time from illnesses. In addition, due to the close quarters in which we live, germs spread like wildfire, and I had no desire to spread the 'wealth' to anyone up here. For those reasons, I stayed away until I was certain I could return and be of some use!

In my absence, my co-workers Tom, Kyle, and Sam were forced to pick up the slack and cover all of the necessary tasks that I would otherwise help out with. Hats off and major kudos to the three of them, who handled the situation wonderfully, allowing me to rest up and return back to action on the summit quicker!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

17:45 Sat Apr 5th

Freezing rain events on the summit are relatively uncommon, since in order for freezing rain to occur temperatures at the summit need to be below freezing while above the summit has a deep layer of above freezing temperatures. Most often this layer of above freezing air is shallow and the summit may see sleet or wet snow. Last night into this morning was an unusual freezing rain event due to the long duration of the freezing rain seen on the summit, and how cold the temperatures were with the freezing rain.

For much of the night temperatures sat in the mid to upper teens, which is pretty cold for freezing rain to form (remember freezing rain forms as a liquid in above freezing temperatures aloft). Considering that it was only in the teens at 6,000 feet , the above freezing layer in which the rain was forming was probably several thousand feet above summit. Usually this would lend to sleet (ice pellets) for the summit, since the liquid rain would freeze on its way through air well below freezing . Because most of our precipitation fell in the form of freezing rain, the temperatures at say 8,000 or 9,000 feet may have been well above freezing, perhaps 40 degrees or so, a very balmy day for that high up!

Working in an ice storm on the summit is not as glamorous as it sounds (that is, if you think it sounds glamorous). Glaze ice forms very quickly if the winds are high and freezing rain is occurring. Glaze ice, or clear ice, is also much harder to knock off our instruments and tower, and doing so on an hourly basis does grow tiring. In addition sleet with a 50+ mph wind starts becoming uncomfortable, and with an 80+ mph wind becomes not very fun at all. Still, ice storms are a fascinating part of the weather we see here on Mount Washington and in New England; but I'm glad they're not an everyday occurrence!

Tom Padham – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

06:56 Fri Apr 4th

Despite the occasional frontal boundary, high pressure has been in control over the last few days, resulting in very pleasant conditions. Temperatures Monday rose to 34 degrees, followed by 29 on Tuesday and 31 on Wednesday. When our shift arrived at the summit Wednesday, it was the first time since probably late October or November that we were able to step out of the snowcat without having to wear a hat, gloves, or our ski goggles. For the first time in months while walking up and down the tower, drops of water were falling and colliding with the top of my head, a sign that all of the ice within the tower is beginning to melt! Maybe spring is actually here?

The severe weather outbreak across the south central United States yesterday is a second indication of spring. There were roughly 193 reports of severe weather stretching from Texas to West Virginia and about 8 tornadoes across three states. These outbreaks are quite common during the spring months, with May being the peak month for tornadoes. That same system will move northwest of New England overnight tonight, resulting in mixed precipitation across the higher summits as temperatures rise into the upper 20s.

Speaking of severe weather, yesterday and today mark the 40th anniversary of the 'Super Tornado Outbreak of 1974'. One of the worst in history, the super outbreak resulted in 148 tornadoes across 13 states and Canada. 307 people lost their lives and nearly 5,500 were injured.

If you too enjoy severe weather, come out to the Port City Music Hall in Portland, ME TONIGHT from 5:30 PM - 9:00pm for An Evening with Good Morning America's Ginger Zee - Meteorologist and Storm Chaser. A fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit Mount Washington Observatory, Zee will share the trials and triumphs of her ascension to stardom on Good Morning America, then offer an inside look at the world of storm chasing. WMTW-TV Channel 8's Storm Team including Roger Griswold, Matt Zidle, Mallory Brooke and Paul Janus will be there as well! A few tickets still remain and some will be available at the door (provided it does not sell out beforehand). We hope to see you there!

Samuel Hewitt – Summit Intern

18:12 Wed Apr 2nd

All though the weather conditions might not be as tranquil as Weather Observer Rebecca Scholand was humorously referring to in yesterday's observer comment; spring is truly in the air here on the summit. Since today is shift change day, it was surprising to return to the summit and see the snow melting and temperatures in the mid-twenties. While I love experiencing Mount Washington's extreme winter weather, spring and summer bring a whole different type of extreme weather. Thunderstorm and severe weather season is quickly approaching us here in the New England region. Before we know it will be common place to see cumulonimbus clouds towering in the afternoon skies and reports of hail, strong winds and tornados occurring nationwide.

To get everyone excited about the change in weather the Mount Washington Observatory has partnered up with WMTW 8 Maine's Total Weather and News , Residence Inn Marriot Cog Railway to bring an Evening with Ginger Zee. That's right, this Friday night (April 4th) you have the opportunity to see Ginger Zee talk about her first-hand experiences as storm chaser and her rise to stardom in becoming the Chief Meteorologist on Good Morning America. It addition to Ginger Zee you also have the opportunity to meet the WMTW 8 Meteorologist as well as see a live video call from us here on the summit. If you didn't get your tickets yet do not worry there are still some left and in addition they will be sold at the door on the night of the event. For more information on this event click on the Ginger Zee link above.

Michael Kyle – Weather Observer

08:40 Tue Apr 1st

photo - see caption below
April 1st Weather And View

Happy April 1st everyone! As I woke up this morning something about the weather didn't seem right. As I normally do, I walked outside for a cool blast of air in substitution for a cup of coffee, but was alarmed by the tranquil conditions and blast of hot air. Confused, I entered the Weather Room to inquire with our Staff Meteorologist Ryan Knapp. After discussing weather patterns and trends we have come to the conclusion that for the first time ever the summit is under the influence of a Tropical Gyre. Essentially the cousin of the Polar Vortex, a tropical gyre is a large undulating mass of hot air from the equatorial region that infiltrates north usually only as far as the Florida Keys. However, there is a first for everything.

The weather pattern setup that is allowing this tropical gyre is an area of extreme neutral pressure subsequently allowing no resistance to the gyre's infiltrative properties. With an escalator of heat supplying the Summit ample hot air for the day, it is unclear how this will affect our weather until midnight tonight, but now we can at least expect to see tropical conditions for the remainder of the day.

For information about the REAL weather for today please visit our Regional Forecast Page.

Rebecca Scholand – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

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