5 years and counting…

2010-12-28 22:07:09.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Todays sunset as seen through rime on window.

Five years ago to this day, (December 28, 2005) I started working at the Mount Washington Observatory. I started as an intern the same season as Brian but a month or so after arriving as an intern; I was hired on as a temporary-full time observer. What this title meant was I was hired as an observer but I had until the end of my internship for the Observatory and I to decide whether or not I should continue as a full time observer. Well, since I am writing this comment now, I guess you could say we both agreed that a full time position would be mutually beneficial.

This past week leading up to this date, I started to think of how many things have changed in my five years here. We have touched upon many of these in past comments but just in case you missed them, here is what’s changed in my five years here:

-Our Bombardier snow tractor went from the unheated, bench seated, yellow “short bus” to the heated, captain-seated, white “snow leopard”.

-A limited water storage capacity meant the rule of “if it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush in down” was etched in our minds. We were limited to one military shower per week but most of us opted not to take one at all. In short, water in was fine but water out should be as limited as possible. There were times where buckets were looked at for an option even. But now with the new year-round septic system, water restrictions are a complete mystery to new volunteer and interns since water out is no longer an issue.

-The hum and smell of the power generators was like a smelly white noise machine. The “switch over” between the two generators was a regular occurrence. And lights were on everywhere to make them run more efficiently. Now with a buried power line, nights smell crisp and are only noisy when we lose valley power or the winds are howling. And all unnecessary lights are turned off to cut down on power costs.

-Our logo went from a blue and magenta 80s/90s look to the red and white modernized one that plasters the very website you are on.

-Time sheets were due Wednesday and now they are due Mondays.

-Work weeks could mean just that, back to back weeks. There was one time I was up here three weeks in a row. The only ones with the week on week off scheduling back then were the interns. Now and days, we all are on the week on week off scheduling with little to no exceptions (except if we take extra time off).

-Crews were two observers and one intern. And with the staggering schedules, no two weeks would have the same crew. This meant there was no good weather/bad weather shifts and we got to work with and know everyone. Now, there are three observers and one to two interns on each shift and we are on the same crew for long periods of time with very little interactions going on except on Wednesday and the occasional visits during off weeks.

-Volunteers were hard to come by. I remember several weeks of not having volunteers up here. Now there is a waiting list that stretches into next year from what I’ve heard and when we don’t have a volunteer up here, people freak out.

-Computer screens were CRT and now are LCD.

-The server room was a lot more spacious then it is today.

-Every single room up here looks different. Some are subtle differences but some are big. There are too many changes to list.

-The cog still was running all coal and now is mainly powered by all diesel.

-Various structures and buildings have been torn down and removed.

-With the exception of one or two valley staffers and operators, both summit and valley crews are completely different than when I started.

-Distance learning didn’t exist. So the whole command center that Stacey and Brian use didn’t exist except for a lonely polycom for a few connections with the Weather Discovery Center from time to time.

-Specific job titles and specific qualifications didn’t exist. We were all just weather observers. Now we have a staff meteorologist/observer, distance learning observer and IT observer on each shift.

-Partnerships with companies like Subaru have stayed strong but others have changed or have come on board over the years.

-Our website is completely different. Some elements are the same but the look and experience is nothing like it once was. The website when I started can be outdone by most teenagers now and days. Obscast, forums, and pdf copies of Windswept among other features didn’t even exist when I started.

-Seek the Peak has expanded exponentially. I remember a time when we had left over goodie bags believe it or not. Now we have to put a cap on the number of participants.

-“Automated” equipment we have owned and were testing are no longer around due to our destructive winds and ice. And even some instruments we currently have have been on the list for repairing since before I got here (and if aren’t repaired soon, may be on the list after I’m gone).

-Intern tasks like Airmap, COSMO, and other projects and requirements no longer exist.

-Where once VHS’s and Playstation 2 were the only things being watched on our TV’s, today we have DVD’s, Blue Ray, Netflix (thanks for that Christmas gift those of you in the forums that contributed to this), and even limited cable TV (it came up with the power line).

-The ARVP was started but now we have started expanding into our Mesonet sites around the Whites.

I’m sure I could go on and on but I think I have touched upon the big changes I have seen. Hopefully you can see how much has changed in just five year’s time. Since I have been working on cataloging our pictures (with Mike C), I look at pictures from the 1930s and 1940s and really see how much has changed since then. And who knows how much more will change in the next year or five. But while crews, living quarters, quality of life, job titles, technology, etc are continuously evolving and changing up here one thing has remained and will remain constant up here even after this crew departs: the recording and reporting of the weather. And hopefully that’ll never change.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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