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Windswept Online

Bulletin of the Mount Washington Observatory

Windswept is published three times a year, featuring updates about the Observatory’s work and stories about the mountain’s weather, personalities, news, and special events. Find a selection of recent articles and past editions below. You can receive Windswept in print by becoming a member of Mount Washington Observatory.

Record Gust, Human Grit: 90 Years of Big Wind

Record Gust, Human Grit: 90 Years of Big Wind By Ellen Estabrook | April 10, 2024 “’Will they believe it?’ Was our first thought. I felt then the full responsibility of that startling measurement…” Salvatore Pagliuca, Weather Observer and electrical engineer, wrote those words in the observer logbook on April 12, 1934, upon noting a record wind velocity on the summit of Mount Washington of 231 miles per hour. This record, confirmed by the National Weather Bureau, still stands as the fastest wind speed ever recorded at a staffed, non-automated station. It is here that we turn our attention

Excerpt of “Will They Believe It?”

Excerpt of “Will They Believe It?” By Rachel Slade | April 4, 2024 Editor’s Note: This excerpt is from Rachel Slade’s visit to Mount Washington Observatory last April on the 89th anniversary of the famous “highest wind ever recorded.” The entire feature will appear in the September/October 2024 issue of Yankee Magazine. The excerpt appears here with Yankee’s permission. Mount Washington’s famously changeable climate makes the summit an ideal location to study the wonders of our restless atmosphere, and 90 years ago this April, three men stationed there experienced some of the most extreme conditions ever recorded while doing

Remembering Marty

Remembering Marty By Ken Rancourt | January 25, 2024 Known throughout New England as "Marty on the Mountain," Marty Engstrom passed away on Jan. 4 at his home in Fryeburg, ME, according to his family. He was 86 years old. Engstrom worked for 38 years on Mount Washington as an engineer at the WMTW transmission station; he wrote about his experiences in his 2003 book titled “Marty on the Mountain: 38 Years on Mount Washington.” Marty was already on the Mountain for over ten years when I met him in the fall of 1979. Guy Gosselin's (Obs Director) assistant,

The Shared History of AMC and the Mount Washington Observatory

The Shared History of AMC and the Mount Washington Observatory By Matt Morris | December 13, 2023 Courtesy of the Mount Washington Observatory Library. April 11, 1934: It was relatively warm on the summit of Mount Washington. Below freezing, but not by much. But more comfortable temperatures were not a reason for relief for the staff of the Mount Washington Observatory. Two walls of the Observatory building were caked in ice nearly a foot deep and the wind was picking up. The observers decided to stay up in shifts that night, taking measurements with a radio to

The Mount Washington Club

The Mount Washington Club By Peter Crane | October 1, 2023 The Observatory recently received a thoughtful gift from the family of the late James E. Welsh Sr. of Limerick, Maine. The donation was of a corkscrew which had an attached medallion from the “Mt. Washington Club”. What, the family wondered, was this Club, and what was its relationship to the northeast’s highest peak? The item’s medallion also featured an image of the Summit House on Mount Washington, which was built in 1915, and which pointed the way to the significance of the “Club,” and to its founder, Henry

A Night in the Life of a Weather Observer

A Night in the Life of a Weather Observer By Charlie Buterbaugh | March 15, 2022 Staff Meteorologist Ryan Knapp sets an anemometer on the observation tower. Well over a mile above the valley of Mount Washington, in a weather station built into boulders deposited tens of thousands of years ago, a night observer keeps track of data through the night, maintaining one of North America’s longest continuous alpine climate records. He is mainly focused on the minutes, completing observations between 00:49 and 00:59 past every hour. Routine and process rule the night, but no two nights make the

New Normals Reveal Valley and Summit Temperature Increases, Among Other Climate Trends

New Normals Reveal Valley and Summit Temperature Increases, Among Other Climate Trends By Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Science & Education | November 15, 2021 Chances are, you’ve heard a meteorologist refer to weather conditions as near, above, or below “normal.” But just what is normal for where you live? Who gets to say? How is it even determined? Every 10 years, the National Centers for Environmental Information [(NCEI) formerly known as the National Climatic Data Center] are charged with generating climate statistics known as U.S. Climate Normals, based on requirements from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and National

Partnerships Key to Continuous Mesonet Operation

Partnerships Key to Continuous Mesonet Operation By Peter Gagne, Technology & Operations Manager | November 15, 2021 An AMC helicopter airlifts 150-pound batteries plus other heavy items to Mizpah Spring and Lakes of the Clouds huts on Sept. 13. Ringo Starr was mostly the silent, steady figure in the Greatest Band of all Time, but one line from a Beatles’ song that featured his vocals is particularly pertinent to our topic: “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.” During my time at the Observatory, we have partnered with many businesses, organizations, and universities to

Weather 101: Tropical Storms

Weather 101: Tropical Storms By Nicole Tallman, Past Weather Observer & Education Specialist | November 15, 2021 An example of a hurricane’s eye and surrounding eye wall, where the most ferocious winds of the storm occur. NOAA photo.  Come late summer and early fall, we begin to hear more about activity in the tropics. The threat of hurricanes becomes more prominent and you may find yourself thinking about how and why these storms are forming. One of the strongest storms known to people, a hurricane begins its life cycle as a cluster of thunderstorms in the tropical or

The Science Behind Nor’Easters

The Science Behind Nor'Easters The Science Behind Nor'Easters Extra-Tropical Cyclones and the Extreme Weather they Make on Mount Washington The Feb. 25, 2019 Hays Chart shows a 171 mph wind gust, caused by the passage of an ETC and the development of a secondary area of low pressure, which is characteristic of a nor’easter. Unique beasts known for punishing weather, nor’easters serve an important purpose for our globe despite their infamous reputation. A type of extra-tropical cyclone (ETC), nor’easters get their colloquial name from unique localized characteristics, mainly the coastal northeast flow that occurs before the onset of

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