Days of Our Lives (On the Rockpile)

2018-02-24 10:26:33.000 – Sarah Schulte, Summit Intern


I think the Mount Washington Observatory would make a decent setting for a soap opera. It has the potential for drama: a small group of people living in an icy tower teetering atop the rugged Rockpile, their passion for science raging like the hurricane-force winds around them…

Eh, I’ve never really been into soap operas. Luckily for me, the crew I work with at the summit happens to be a reasonable, interesting and friendly group of people, and even Marty has deigned to offer me the privilege of petting him once in a while (though the very occasional treat-bribing might be involved in that).

This is my third shift at the summit, and it’s been a very busy three weeks! One of the best aspects of the job is that there’s so much variety in the tasks involved. Most of our interaction with the public revolves around forecasting and displaying the freakish, fantastic weather we experience. While these are certainly among the most interesting aspects of working as an observer (or intern), there are many, many duties involved in keeping the observatory running. Even someone with limited (but growing) experience like me has a smorgasbord of activities to fill my day.

As a winter intern, I don’t have as much interaction with the public as a summer intern might, due to the Sherman-Adams building being closed to visitors. However, with the day trips and overnight trips we schedule in the winter, I have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned as an intern so far. During trips, we guide guests around the observation deck, our living quarters, the instrument tower and the rest of the Sherman-Adams building. We eat meals with the guests, share experiences and answer questions. In addition to trips, my day-to-day life can include delivering the AMC radio forecast, performing a walk-around check of the building’s systems, writing blog posts, de-icing the tower, slinging the psychrometer during manual observations, writing the afternoon forecast, publishing the afternoon forecast, delving into my own research, assisting with Facebook Live weekend events, updating weekly weather summaries…and this doesn’t include tasks involved with shift changes, which include meetings and cleanup.

Observers have even more responsibilities. Hourly manual observations can only be delivered in their entirety by an observer who’s taken and passed the certification test. During precipitation events, the precipitation can needs to be collected. There are social media platforms to update and radio shows to give. Education Specialists Tom Padham and Mike Carmon give instructional Daily Learning videos to classes and give Live from the Rockpile events from the Weather Discovery Center (stop by if you’d like to chat with them!). The night observers change out instrument recording sheets and have the added spice of performing their hourly observations at night.

While the days of our lives aren’t as gasp- and swoon-worthy as those of your favorite soap opera stars, they’re unique and full of variety and challenge (and quite a bit less scandal). “As the World Turns, connect with us on social media or in person to learn more about the Days of Our Lives. After all, you’ve only got One Life to Live!


Sarah Schulte, Summit Intern

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