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Observer Comments

August 2014

22:03 Fri Aug 29th

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Northern Presidentials at Sunset.

Labor Day Weekend usually signifies the 'end' of summer for many people since kids head back to school and fall is right around the corner. Labor Day also marks several changes for the summit as well. The first change of note is the weather, especially if you are considering a hike to the summit. September is the month when the summit will typically see the first inch (or more) of snowfall. It also the time of year when rime and glaze ice start to become commonplace making for icy trail conditions. While the start of the month normally sees a daily average temperature of 46F (8C), by the end of the month the days are averaging 36F (2C); and these are the averages (which means low temperatures), can be even colder. So hikers should never assume that just because it is a nice, warm day below that it is just as nice on top. Prior to departing, you can check out our 36 hour Higher Summits Forecast and for a second opinion, you can use NWS's Recreation Forecast. Computerized forecasts like those on weather.com or accuweather.com can be used for our location but should always be followed up with checking the MWO or NWS outlooks as your trip approaches since automated services typically keep us warmer and far less windy than reality.

The next change of note is the length of days. The days are getting shorter; they have been ever since June. While September 1 can see 13 hours and 26 minutes of sunshine on the summit by the end of the month, summits will only see 11 hours and 59 minutes of daylight. So, start early if you expect to end prior to needing a headlamp (although you should always pack a headlamp, as you never know what might happen while on the trails).

With shorter days, this also means the operating schedules of summit transportation and facilities will be changing. The operating schedule of the Mt Washington Auto Road can be found HERE. The operating schedule of The Cog can be found HERE. The operating schedule of Mount Washington State Park (MWSP) can be found HERE - this page lists their Cafeteria hours in addition to the Sherman Adams Summit Building. Additionally, since the Mount Washington Observatory is located within the Sherman Adams Building, our hours of operation for Extreme Mount Washington and Observatory tours will reflect similar hours of operations as MWSP. And the big asterisk for all of the operating schedules listed above is once again the weather. Bad weather can limit the services of all summit operations - so yet another reason to keep an eye on the weather on any given day. And if you have any further questions about the operating hours of any transportation or the summit facilities, contact information can be found in any of the links I provided above.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:40 Thu Aug 28th

Winds are ramping up and temperatures are falling! Winds on the summit are currently gusting 50-60 mph and as a Canadian high pressure builds in overnight, temperatures are expected to sink into the mid 30s. This will make for chilly conditions atop the summit with wind chills making it feel like it is 15-25F on exposed skin. A coating of glaze ice is even possible if the fog sticks around and the temperatures manage to make it to the freezing mark.

Now is the time of year when we begin thinking about making the transition from summer to fall. Temperatures average in the upper 40s for much of the summer. Combining this with much calmer average winds, we can get away with things like occasionally opening windows for some fresh air. We also put up summer instruments that are more typical to a sea- level weather station, such as the RM Young anemometer and the MET-2010 Thermo- Hygrometer. For much of the year, we measure our wind speed with the same instruments used to measure airspeed on airplanes! We have to be cautious this time of year though as we make the transition back to rime and glaze ice season which can easily damage these instrument. Soon we'll also be putting the bullet-resistant storm windows back on to prepare for the harsh winter conditions a few weeks away. Until then though, we will enjoy the end of summer while it lasts!

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

22:09 Wed Aug 27th

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Halfway to the summit of Mount Chocorua!

It sure was a great off-week! On Monday, my friends Arielle, Andrew, Mercedes, and I were able to take advantage of the beautiful weather and hike Mount Chocorua. We had a great time and enjoyed the clear 360 degree views from the summit. Mount Washington stood tall to the north, and we could distantly see the familiar puffs of smoke from the Cog Railway as it chugged along, bringing eager visitors to the 6,288 foot summit.

Now we are back to work for another shift week, and somehow, next week will already be September. I must say I am looking forward to the change in seasons, as this will be my first fall (and winter!) on the summit. In addition to the vibrant autumn colors, I'm looking forward to experiencing what winter has to offer atop Mount Washington.

Kaitlyn O`Brien – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

13:40 Tue Aug 26th

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Short Range Visibility Markers

While most people want to come to the summit of Mount Washington on days where the visibility stretches on for 100 plus miles, those days can be pretty rare. Even during the summer when the weather is much mellower, phenomena like haze, smoke from distant forest fires, and low level clouds can dramatically limit visibility on the summit. The most drastic and common phenomena that obscures the visibility on the summit is fog. On average the summit of Mount Washington is in the fog for 60 percent of the year. Just because the summit is socked in the fog doesn't necessarily mean that there is nothing to see.

When the summit is in the fog, great views can be seen during your travels up and down Mount Washington. Then, while you are on the summit, the views may vary from 1/2 of a mile down to 0 feet, but you can still see some of the unique alpine flora found on the summit, as well as some of the short range landmarks. Depending on the conditions, these landmarks can include Ball Crag and down into some of the surrounding ravines. In the picture above you can see some markers that can be used as a gauge to determine the short range visibility. As for the days when the fog is so dense that you cannot see much more then 10 or 20 feet, you can always head into the Sherman Adams Building and check out the new Extreme Mount Washington Museum

Michael Kyle – Weather Observer

07:32 Mon Aug 25th

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A Kitty's Silhouette

In a location with a reputation for extreme weather, specifically blustery winds, this shift-week has proven decidedly tame on the summit of Mount Washington.

Since our shift arrived last Wednesday, we've maxed out at a scant 34 mph, which occurred during Friday's wee hours. To add to the unusually-calm conditions, our average wind direction for the week is oddly-noteworthy as well, with most of our winds this week coming from the east-northeast. These are, generally speaking, the most uncommon wind directions at our weather station, meaning four consecutive days with these winds is a bit on the peculiar side.

To add to the uniqueness of this shift, the scenery throughout this week, when we haven't been ensconced in fog, has been dramatic. There have been several notable sunrises and sunsets throughout the previous five days, which has made for some exceptional viewings amongst our entire shift. Even Marty, our (in)famous kitty, has joined the party most nights, posing with his perpetual grandeur amongst the rocks atop the rockpile.

We're taking in the calm, clear, and relatively mild conditions, though, because as the sun rises and sets, so do the seasons, and summer is beginning its gradual set, as winter will begin to rise and reveal itself in a matter of weeks.

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

21:13 Sat Aug 23rd

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Sunset on 08-23-14

Some of the most peaceful moments I have had up here on the summit are spent watching sunset from the rocks just outside. It can be very relaxing after a long day of work to feel like you have the whole mountain to yourself, and sometimes the true king of the mountain, Marty, joins us and steps outside to gaze upon his domain. We had a very nice sunset today on the summit, with all of the summit staff (including Marty) able to take in the view shortly after dinner.

If you'd like the opportunity to take in a sunset from the top of New England, our annual fall fundraiser Sunset Soiree is only two weeks away on September 6th. The event features a wine tasting at the base of the Auto Road, a chauffeured drive to the summit, champagne toast at sunset on the observation deck, a sumptuous dinner at the Thompson House Eatery in Jackson, and finishes up with dessert and a silent auction featuring beautiful photography and getaways. All proceeds benefit the Mount Washington Observatory, helping to support our work in weather observation, research, and education atop the summit. Hope to see you there!

Tom Padham – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

14:54 Thu Aug 21st

Well I had been away from the summit for a month and I can't even put into words how excited I am to be back up here. I had taken a vacation from the internship for a family reunion down in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. Unfortunately the way it works with the two crews switching weeks on and off, if you take a week off, you are off of the mountain for three weeks. Then when you add an additional week to switch shifts it's a long 4 week vacation.

Speaking of switching shifts, I have spent the summer on Ryan Knapp, Mike Dorfman and Kaitlyn O' Brien's shift but now I will be with Mike Carmon, Mike Kyle and Tom Padham. I was lucky enough to have been allowed to stay on the summit for the fall internship which will run until December. I have seen some pretty incredible weather this summer, but with the winter approaching, the extremes that I have seen thus far will only be getting more extreme.

This internship has been such a tremendous experience and I can't wait to continue it with my new shift. This is obviously a major learning opportunity for me, as I acquired this internship to gain experience and knowledge in all facets of meteorology. I learned a lot from my previous shift, and now I look forward to continue learning more with my new shift.

Caleb Meute – Summit Intern

18:10 Wed Aug 20th

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Amazing! Unforgettable! Unique! Incredible! These words do not begin to describe what we have experienced during our volunteer week at the Mount Washington Observatory. Our week began with zero visibility, rain, low 40 degree temperatures and 80 mph wind gusts. We depart with clear skies, a beautiful sunrise and no wind. If hiking the Presidentials, viewing beautiful sunrises, sunsets and experiencing extreme weather sound appealing you should consider volunteering a week of you time! We became a part of the MWO and MWO Museum family. Gil and Carol prepared meals, cleaned, and performed tasks as needed to make the staff feel like they are at home. Dawn greeted visitors in the Museum, answered questions, led Observatory tours, and helped spread the word about how important MWO Memberships are to the success of the organization.

We encourage you to visit the MWO website to donate by becoming either a volunteer or a member of the Mount Washington Observatory.

Gil, Carol & Dawn – Summit Volunteers

23:18 Tue Aug 19th

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Representatives from Eaton at the Summit
I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome Eaton as our newest sponsor. Eaton is a power management company providing energy-efficient solutions that help their customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power more efficiently in more than 175 countries.

Since 2008 the Mount Washington Observatory has been using an Eaton UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) as a buffer to protect our valuable computer systems and instruments from power surges due to lightning strikes and to bridge the gap between a loss of grid power (supplied along the Cog Railway), and the time it takes for the generators to kick on, which is usually under a minute. Here at the Summit of Mount Washington, without a robust UPS system we wouldn't be able to collect, store, and disseminate the weather data we're so famous for.

As part of this new relationship, representatives from Eaton came to the Summit yesterday to scout out locations to film some promotional material. Today two Eaton techs did a complete check of our UPS and replaced the batteries which were overdue to be replaced. While the techs worked diligently on our UPS, Cyrena and I worked with a video crew from Eaton to explain why we chose their product and how it helps us keep collecting weather data 24/7/365 without interruption due to power failures.

Representatives from Eaton will be staying with us for the night at the Summit and tomorrow morning we're looking forward to enjoying a beautiful sunrise with them. There are also a few videos and still shots the crew wants to get just to round out what they're doing and to capture the full flavor of the Home of the World's Worst Weather.

Since part of the Eaton crew was staying the night they couldn't resist getting some very nice night shots, photo by Jim Colman.

Roger Pushor – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

21:05 Mon Aug 18th

It's been a busy week at Extreme Mount Washington! Although the weather hasn't been the greatest, we have seen scores of hardy visitors arriving each day to experience the mountain. We have had events this week that brought in guests to enjoy the information that our museum has to offer. The Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb brought several visitors from all around the world to enjoy the experience. The museum was filled with great athletes that completed an enormous feat of climbing to the top of the mountain on their bicycles. It was great seeing the look of such an awesome accomplishment on the riders' faces.

If you haven't visited us yet, come up on the Cog Railway, Auto Road, or hike to the summit and be sure to stop by and pay a visit to the Extreme Mount Washington Exhibit. We'll see you here!

Observer Footnote: Have you ever wondered about bird migrations in the White Mountains? Join us this Wednesday evening, August 20, at 7PM at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway for our final Science in the Mountains presentation titled, 'Fall Migration in the White Mountains'. We'll see you there!

Andrew Tucker & AJ Grimes – Summit Museum Attendants

11:48 Sun Aug 17th

One of the current trends you may see happening is the Ice Bucket Challenge. People are posting videos where they pour a bucket of ice water over their heads and nominate their friends to do the same. But why are they doing this? It seems a little silly to just pour ice water on your head. But the Ice Bucket challenge isn't just a trend - it's a tool people are using to spread awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease". You can learn more about ALS on the ALS Association's website.

The way the challenge works is someone challenges you to pour a bucket of ice water over your head. If you accept the challenge, you do so and then nominate others for the challenge. If you decline the challenge, you are encouraged to donate $100 to an ALS charity. The main goal of the challenge, however, is to raise awareness for ALS.

Earlier this morning, Observer Mike Dorfman, this week's Museum Docent Dawn, and I completed the Ice Bucket Challenge. Dawn nominated a few of her friends, Mike nominated his sister and girlfriend, and I nominated the other summit shift (Mike Carmon, Mike Kyle, Tom Padham, and their Museum Attendants, Jan and Christine). I look forward to watching everyone's Ice Bucket Challenge videos and continuing to spread the awareness for ALS. #strikeoutALS

Observer Footnote: Have you ever wondered about bird migrations in the White Mountains? Join us this Wednesday evening, August 20, at 7PM at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway for our final Science in the Mountains presentation titled, "Fall Migration in the White Mountains". We'll see you there!

Arielle Ahrens – Summit Intern

18:33 Sat Aug 16th

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First Place at todays MWAR Bicycle Hillclimb

The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb took place this morning. As the competitors arrived on the summit, they were greeted with temperatures in the upper 30s (F or around 4C) and winds around 30 mph (around 48 Km/hr) which meant on bare skin, it felt more like 25-30F (or 0 to 4C below zero). I'm sure the competitors felt this a bit but with muscles straining and adrenaline up, it probably wasn't nearly as noticeable as it was to the spectators waiting around the summit. In addition to the cool weather, summit fog and some light drizzle made for limited visibilities and a moist race day. It was far from ideal but in my years working here, it was far from the worst race day I have seen. Despite the less than superb conditions though, finishers and parties at the top typically all seemed in good spirits. So, congratulations to all those that competed this year. Lastly, if you are interested in the 2014 results, they are now available HERE.

Ryan Knapp – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:41 Fri Aug 15th

Our shift change on Wednesday was a bit exciting. With torrential downpours in the forecast and winds gusting into the 80 mph range, the drive up was a bit exciting. We received a total of 2.80 inches of rain during the 13th, which totals to over a quarter of our precipitation for the month of August! Towards the tail-end of the storm, we received a strong thunderstorm with several direct strikes to the summit. With the windows cracked to hear the thunder, the summit staff waited with baited breath as the storm moved closer. Suddenly, with a flash of blue-purple, we saw a direct strike to the summit, recognizable by the not-so-thunder-like sound made as the summit was struck. Direct strikes to the summit don't sound like a deep rumble, but instead a loud crackle, resembling the sound of a rattling metal trashcan, amplified to extreme levels. We received 5 direct strikes in total, with some of the strangest thunderstorm sounds I have ever heard. Between two strikes to the summit, I could even hear a crackling and sparking sound, indicating the charge in the railings along the deck was just about ready to jump through the air to the clouds above.

Along the same line, have you ever wondered why lightning occurs? There are several mechanisms which allow clouds to become either positively or negatively charged. The ground is also full of both negative and positive charges. Opposite charges tend to pull towards each other, so as the charged cloud travels above the ground, the opposite charge in the ground is pulled to the surface of the ground (which is called an induced charge). When the force between the positive and negative charges becomes strong enough, the charge will jump through the air in the form of lightning. If you ever see your hair stand up in a lightning storm, you are in serious trouble since this effect is caused by an intense charge building up in your body, actively pulling your hair towards the opposite-charged cloud!

Lightning rods help to lessen the chance that this dangerous lightning will hit a person or a building, and they achieve this in a couple different ways. First, they act as the most efficient pathway to ground. Since electricity would rather travel through a conductor (such as the lightning rod and the wire to the ground attached to it) than an insulator (such as your wood roof), lightning would be more likely to hit the rod. In addition, pointy objects tend to discharge more easily than blunt objects, a phenomena called Corona Discharge. This allows the air around the rod to be ionized (the air molecules become charged). This allows the charge to disperse into the atmosphere, which in turn may be pulled up into the cloud, partially neutralizing the charge in the cloud. Here is a video of this effect in action. The ionized air surrounding the rod also allows the lightning to travel through an easier path to ground via the rod since the lightning is attracted to the opposite-charged ions cloud.

While it would be interesting to investigate these effects while a thunderstorm passes overhead, always remember that lightning is extremely dangerous and very unpredictable. Whenever a storm is in your area, be sure to lessen your chances of getting struck by seeking shelter inside a building or inside a metal vehicle if there is no building nearby. As the National Weather Service says, 'When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.'

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

23:13 Thu Aug 14th

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Annual service honoring the 10th Mountain Division

Today was a special day on the summit. This afternoon, several veterans of the 10th Mountain Division along with their family members, as well as those currently serving, gathered in the rotunda of the NH State Parks Sherman Adams building to commemorate all of the fallen members of the Division. If you are not familiar with the 10th Mountain Division, it is a division of the United States Army headquartered at Fort Drum, NY and currently operates as Light Infantry. Historically, during World War II, it was the 10th Mountain Division that entered combat in 1945 in Italy's most treacherous, mountainous terrain, and caught the German troops off guard during the night after a steep ascent up the infamous Riva Ridge.

The event atop Mount Washington is an annual occurrence and commemorates all of the veterans of the Division, in addition to those currently serving. Aside from riding up the Cog railway and driving up the Auto Road, some of the attendees lived out the motto of the 10th Mountain Division: Climb to Glory, and hiked to the summit to attend the ceremony. It was certainly a special moment for many. To all of our veterans, and all of those currently serving far and wide, thank you for your service!

Kaitlyn O`Brien – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

16:08 Wed Aug 13th

Well, it has been a good week up here. The weather has been fairly quiet, which allowed for some hiking and I got to see the Alpine Garden. This is a great place to hike from if you want to see other areas around Mount Washington. Also, it really befuddles other hikers when I say my hike is 'down and up' for a day trip, instead of up & down the mountain. We had some really sunny weather on Saturday and Sunday, and it was busy up here. It amazes me how many people come to this summit on a weekend day. When you add up the hikers, the drivers, and the Cog Railway passengers, it feels like it can be well over a thousand people. It feels like the busiest place in the Northeast.

We got to see the mountaintop in moonlight, too. It was a full moon a couple of nights ago, and we were lucky enough to have a clear night. It was neat, and slightly spooky, to walk around without a flashlight at 10 pm, and still be able to see everything. The moon was so bright, and there were no other lights to distract from the effect. This is a great place to visit, if you want experiences that you can't readily get elsewhere. While we don't usually get weather extremes during the summer, we did have a 15 minute hailstorm on Sunday which was really neat. I have always been a weather watcher and this is certainly the ideal place for it, especially with Observers who can explain what is going on and why. Everyone here is great, and I got to work with another volunteer that I had not previously met. I will definitely be coming up again, perhaps during the winter months to see the rime ice again and the snowstorms.

Sue Barnes – Summit Volunteer

16:56 Tue Aug 12th

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Sunrise at Morning Observation

Well my summer internship is coming to an end tomorrow. It's hard to believe that it is already mid-May and time for another semester of school. The trip back to North Carolina will be bittersweet as I think about all of the experiences of the summer here at the Observatory. My summit family will be dearly missed but I know that they will enjoy the company of intern Caleb Meute, who is switching to this shift next week.

I could not ask for a better last week at the summit. On Sunday we experienced thunderstorms which gave a spectacular lightning show over the surrounding mountains. It was nice to watch the frequent strikes from the safe quarters of the weather room. After the storms moved from overhead, the skies cleared and we were able to watch them from a distance as they continued their march southward. This exiting display was followed by a cookout of hotdogs and hamburgers with delicious s'mores for dessert.

I've tried to make it a point to see every sunrise and sunset possible this shift. I awoke this morning to a beautiful sky of deep orange and violet shades. The weather is not expected to be favorable for a sunset tonight or a sunrise tomorrow, so I was glad to be able to take in the view this morning. I will be back to the White Mountains sometime in the future but for now I have to say goodbye to the observers and staff who made this summer such a memorable experience.

Ethan Wright – Summit Intern

12:31 Mon Aug 11th

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The Four S's

Yesterday was a very exciting day here on the summit of Mount Washington. The day started off with a beautiful sunrise, and only got better from there. During the afternoon, thunderstorms began to develop along the Northern New Hampshire/Maine boarder and travel south towards the White Mountains. By the end of my shift the thunderstorms were quickly approaching the Presidential Range. Contrary to the norm, the summit refrained from going into the clouds, giving us great views of the approaching thunderstorm and its associated phenomena. When the thunderstorm finally reached the summit, the show continued with frequent flashes of lightning, claps of thunder, and showers of hail. After the thunderstorms passed, the day's excitement continued. When the threat of lightning ended, the summit crew went outside to watch the sunset. While we were outside, not only did we have a great view of the setting sun but, we also were able to watching distant thunderstorms passing by to our Northwest. The day came to a conclusion by watching all this natural beauty, while we enjoyed our dessert of s'more in honor of national s'mores day. Put all this together and it makes for a day of the four S's: Sunrise, Severe Weather, Sunset, and S'mores.

Observer footnote: Join us, Wednesday August 13th, as we continue our free summer lecture series Science in the Mountains! Tomorrow night's presentation will focus on Severe Weather in the White Mountains, and will start at 7PM at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. We'll see you there!

Michael Kyle – Weather Observer

18:06 Sat Aug 9th

It's hard to believe that August is here, and has been here for nearly ten days.

For those of us who are summer-lovers (myself included), the warm season seems to pass by all too quickly every year. Meteorologically, our summer at 6,288 feet lasts from late May/early June through August, making our effective summer season lasting another three weeks after today.

Our normal daily average temperature remains at 49F for another week or so, which is the maximum normal daily average we experience throughout the year, until it begins its grand decline towards the winter months.

Although September may not be conventionally thought of as the dog days of summer in New England, particularly on Mount Washington, record highs in September still reach well up into the 60sF on the summit, with our all-time record high for the month of September standing at 69F, just three degrees shy of the highest temperature we've ever experienced (72F).

So, while winter may be coming, summer is not done yet!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

00:05 Sat Aug 9th

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Deicing in 80mph winds last winter

With the past few days being on the chilly side in the 40s and upper 30s, I'm reminded that the all-too short summer is almost over already, and in only a few months it will be full blown winter across the higher summits. I have mixed feelings about this, since I do enjoy winter and all the extreme winter weather Mount Washington has to offer, but on the other hand doing weather observations in shorts and a t-shirt is quite the luxury. In addition summertime thunderstorms can be very exciting on the summit, with a storm even a few days ago dropping some small hail and plenty of lightning.

Winter on the summit is much different than the summer, with the building closed to public and the thousands of visitors seen in summer reduced to just a handful of summit staff and the occasional winter hiker. Dressing in layers becomes a necessity, and goggles are a must have due to nearly constant blowing snow and pieces of rime ice moving past the summit at high speed. Luckily all of the weather observers are equipped with plenty of gear and boots from Eastern Mountain Sports and Vasque, and we have seen the mountain's weather at its worst and don't take even a short jaunt to the precipitation can lightly. This past winter had many personal extremes for me, with temperatures reaching as low as -27 degrees Fahrenheit and winds up to 126 mph. I hope this coming winter will push those personal limits a bit further, and give me an opportunity to attempt the Century Club!

Tom Padham – Weather Observer/Meteorologist

19:18 Thu Aug 7th

The day started with a quiet morning on the summit, but gave way to a busy start to the afternoon. A couple thunderstorms rolled through the summits, yielding some pea sized hail showers. Our shift leader, Mike Carmon posted some great pictures of the hail on our Facebook page! For meteorologists, this is what makes us jump out of our seats. Thunderstorms are truly a treat up here, but also very dangerous. Though the chances of getting struck by lightning are slim; standing on the summit completely exposed becomes exponentially more dangerous.

Imagine a large thunderstorm with very high cloud tops. Meteorologists like to call these clouds cumulus congestus or even cumulonimbus. Essentially when ice particles collide with very tiny water droplets in the cloud, electrons are being shaved off of the water and descend with these heavier ice particles. A strong positive charge develops at the top of the clouds with a strong negative charge at the base of the cloud. Eventually the electrons and protons are effectively separated between the bottom and top of the cloud respectively. In school we are always taught to never stand next to a tree in the vicinity of a thunderstorm. Not only is a positive charge building up in the top of the cloud, but also along the ground as well! The positive charge will surge to the highest point it may achieve which is where "cloud-to-ground" lightning occurs. When you are on the summit of Mount Washington, you are above tree-line and therefore become a high point for these protons. Electrons then descend toward the ground and reach for the highest point of contact with the protons to "balance" everything out. Once this is achieved, we see lightning. This is why being outside on the mountain can be extremely dangerous during a thunderstorm!

Brett Rossio – Summit Intern

17:07 Wed Aug 6th

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Washington from Mt. Isolation

Working as an observer on the summit of Mount Washington, life is far from any semblance of what most would consider 'normal.' There's the unique living environment, the not-so-typical commute, and then there's that crazy weather that we like to harp on.

One of the more interesting facets to summit life is the week-on/week-off work schedule--something that is necessitated by the extreme environment we find ourselves in.

As one can imagine, keeping such a schedule does have its advantages, and some drawbacks as well. Being atop the summit for a week at a time keeps you isolated from your friends and family in the valleys below. However, it does allow you to grow close with your co-workers, which very often develops into a 'summit family' of sorts.

Of course, the pros to having 6 consecutive days off are fairly implicit, but one that really came to the forefront for me last week was vacation time. A week off from work is always a nice rest, but in week-on/week-off territory, taking one shift off gives you three consecutive weeks (21 days!) removed from the hustle and bustle of the job.

Having just returned from such a vacation stint, I can say this amount of time away is an awfully nice battery recharge, and gave me the opportunity to travel quite a bit, hike even more, and just rest when desired! But it also made me personally look forward to delving back into work after being absent for so long!

Mike Carmon – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

18:32 Tue Aug 5th

From July 30th through August 6th Tom Henell and I spent a fantastic week atop the Northeast's highest peak, volunteering for the Mount Washington Observatory. Having your temporary home at the summit of a mountain is an adventure. In some ways there's isolation from one's everyday existence. In my case, I felt removed from the routine of living in Beacon Hill and working on the Boston campus of Tufts University. In other ways there's bonding with your fellow summit inhabitants; a fun, humorous, intelligent, and motivated group of observers, interns, and guests. Our conversations at the dinner table ranged from detailed discussions of dew points and the battle between the GFS and EURO models - full disclosure: I'm a weather buff - to the telling of hilarious (war) stories about living up high in thin air. Some stories are better left unmentioned as a public comment. Others can be retold, albeit anonymously. To illustrate, a few of the museum visitors really do forget that once they venture up the Mt. Washington Auto Road their urban or suburban lives are briefly suspended. One naive museum customer asked: 'Where's the IMAX theater?'

Volunteering at the Observatory provides you with an opportunity to brush up on any cooking skills you may or may not have. Despite an incredibly well-stocked kitchen with army-sized pots, pans, skillets, and baking sheets, creativity and improvisation are required. There's no Whole Foods or 7-11 around the corner to get that missing ingredient. If there's no whipped cream, make it. No mayonnaise, ditto. In the end, our motto was the sign hanging next to the stove: 'Many people have eaten my cooking and gone on to lead normal lives.'

Weather-wise, aside from the odd lightning strike and delicious rainbow, it was a rather uneventful 7 days. Knowing the mountain as well as I do, I came prepared for wild temperature swings and gusty winds. This is Mt. Washington after all, a place known for 'the world's worst weather.' Alas, the mountain did not oblige. We experienced a steady diet of 'in and out of the clouds,' mid 40s to mid 50s, and wind that whimpered instead of howled.

The summit is a great base for treks around the Presidential Range. If you start out hiking in the fog and can only see 50 feet ahead, just descend 500 feet or so and the Alps of New England may unfold before your eyes. Walk across the Alpine Garden or Davis Path and pretend you're Maria or Baron von Trapp from the Sound of Music. When you get back to 'camp', take in the ever-changing, spectacular views from the Observatory deck. If you're not in the mood for hiking these grand piles of rocks, you can enjoy the tranquility of the Observatory's living room. Its library offers a truly eclectic mix of literature, DVDs, and CDs: From Monty Python to horror movies to textbooks on meteorology to Anais Nin's diaries - whatever strikes your fancy.

In brief, this was an unforgettable experience. Thank you, OBS.

Observer footnote: Join us tomorrow, Wednesday August 6th, as we continue our free summer lecture series Science in the Mountains! Tomorrow night's presentation will focus on the seasonal variations of temperature inversions along the Mount Washington Auto Road, and will start at 7PM at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. We'll see you there!

Joshua P. Cohen – Summit Volunteer

22:17 Mon Aug 4th

It's been a very busy day on the summit! In between radio calls, giving tours, connecting with the Weather Discovery Center for Live from the Rockpile segments, taking hourly observations, performing daily data quality checks, and hosting our Vasque syndicate thru-hiker, I still found time to visit with family today when they came up on the Mount Washington Cog Railway. Everyone enjoyed their time on the summit, and it was so great to take a break from the normal daily routine and visit with them!

If you are looking to vacation to the summit of Mount Washington, there are a few different ways to get here. You can hike, take the cog railway, or drive yourself via the Mount Washington Auto Road. While you're up here, don't forget to check out the Extreme Mount Washington museum, which features all new interactive exhibits for everyone in the family. We'll see you up here!

Kaitlyn O`Brien – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

13:31 Sun Aug 3rd

The lack of weather awareness among hikers is surprising to me. Not to say that all hikers are not weather aware, but a good chunk of them are. On Thursday, we received thunderstorms up here on the summit, which included frequent cloud-to-cloud lightning and several cloud-to-ground bolts. Even the summit received a direct strike. This is not uncommon because the summit is often enveloped by the cloud that contains the thunderstorm as it passes through the peaks. Lightning Safety Awareness Week occurred in June and Ryan wrote two comments (first second) describing and demonstrating lightning safety. It is important to know what to do if you get into that type of situation, but it is also important to know whether or not you will be in that situation in the first place. During the storms on Thursday, the summits briefly cleared and we were able to see three hikers near where the Great Gulf Trail crosses the Cog Railway, and they were heading up the summit. Almost simultaneously, we saw a cloud-to-cloud bolt travel across the sky above them. None of them were assuming the 'lightning position' (reference Ryan's second comment linked above for a demonstration of this position), but rather they continued climbing the mountain. Fortunately, these hikers made it through this event alive, but they had found themselves in a very precarious position where their lives were at stake.

Thunderstorms are only one form of dangerous weather phenomena we receive up here on the summit, and often seemingly unthreatening weather can hold just as much potential to be deadly. As you can see in this list, 30 people have died of hypothermia up here on the summit. Many of these deaths have occurred during summer months! The weather up on the summit is often much different than that in the valley and it can change quickly. The best way to be prepared is to be weather aware. Always check the forecast before leaving for a hike! Several reliable places you can receive forecasts are the National Weather Service, and for Mount Washington/higher summits-specific forecasts, the Observatory provides Summit Forecasts and Morning and Evening Summit Reports on our website, here. Furthermore, the Weather Forecast Office in Gray, ME provides a forecast for summits above 4,000 feet in New Hampshire and western Maine.

On a more personal note, a childhood friend went on a hike in the Tetons several months back and found himself in a particularly scary situation. He had planned a 12-mile hike to summit the Middle and South Teton. Within 400 feet of reaching the summit, a thick fog set in and a thunderstorm quickly came upon him. He pressed on trying to beat the storm to the summit, but ended up making the type of decision that most hikers close to the summit wouldn't make, to turn around and go back down; however conditions associated with storms, such as rain creating runoff and damp rocks, turned his descent into a near-death experience. You can read more about his experience on his blog, Paddle Faster.

Arielle Ahrens – Summit Intern

23:16 Sat Aug 2nd

photo - see caption below
Taking a Nighttime Observation

With the famous Mount Washington Observatory meteorologist Ryan Knapp on vacation, I am working nights in his lieu. As a night owl, I love working nights! My shift starts at 8:30 PM and lasting until 8:30 AM, and I take hourly observations, work on data quality checks, change charts, and create a higher summits forecast, among other things. I have to keep my eyes adjusted to the dark, so I change the color of my computer screen to red and use the red fluorescent lights in the weather room. It is amazing the difference it makes-even on hazy days the Milky Way is easily visible to the dark-adjusted eye. If you want to come up and have the chance at seeing the night sky for yourself, we have overnight edutrips and guided climbing trips that spend the night on the summit in the winter.

Observer footnote: Join us next Wednesday, August 6 as we continue our free summer lecture series Science in the Mountains! Next week's presentation will focus on the seasonal variations of temperature inversions along the Mount Washington Auto Road, and will start at 7PM at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. We'll see you there!

Mike Dorfman – Weather Observer/IT Specialist

00:45 Sat Aug 2nd

photo - see caption below
A Birthday Celebration

Happy Friday everyone! We hope everyone had a wonderful first day of August! Can you believe it's August already!? Today turned out to be extremely hazy, but the haze sure did provide some nice color this evening as the sunset was briefly visible when we momentarily broke out of the clouds.

Life on the summit is really no different from life in the valley, especially when it comes to birthdays! Today, we celebrated observer Mike Dorfman's birthday in style with party hats, festive leis, and other birthday decorations. It also just so happened that our volunteers Tom and Josh made Mike's favorite meal for dinner by coincidence; how perfect! We finished the night off with a delicious birthday cake, thanks again to our wonderful volunteers. It was a fantastic way to start off the month of August!

Observer footnote: Join us next Wednesday, August 6 as we continue our free summer lecture series Science in the Mountains! Next week's presentation will focus on the seasonal variations of temperature inversions along the Mount Washington Auto Road, and will start at 7PM at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway. We'll see you there!

Kaitlyn O`Brien – Weather Observer/Education Specialist

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