Feeling the Force of Mount Washington’s Winds

2015-11-04 21:01:51.000 – Adam Gill, Summit Intern


The beginning of this shift was exciting wind wise up on the summit. Shortly after arriving on Oct. 24th for shift change, a warm front approached us from the south and caused some snow to start falling. By the late afternoon, the snow had switched to freezing rain and was accumulating fast. Wind speeds also ramped up to being sustained over 70 mph. After dinner, all the people on the summit went outside with a sled to be blown across the ice covered deck just by the force of the wind alone. Shortly after we all went back inside to warm up and play some board games, the first gust over 100 mph of the winter season occurred gusting to 108 mph. Thursday we had a “break” from the winds even though we still had a few gust over 75 mph. Friday we were caught off guard by how strong the winds actually got. We were expecting the winds to be sustained in the upper 80s to low 90s with a few gust over 100 mph but right after sunrise, the winds ramped up and were gusting over 120 mph consistently with winds sustained over 100 for about 15 minutes. Kyle successfully completed his century club attempt and in my attempt, I got knocked down with the first strong wind gust.

Just for fun, I calculated how much force the wind was exerting on me, if I was to be standing in the strongest gust that occurred during my century club attempt. I used the formula  

F = A * ρ * v2

Where F is force, A is area, ρ is the atmospheric density, and v is wind velocity in meters per second. To find the area, I took my height if 5’ 7” and then did an average of my width at 1’ 6” which I converted to meters. I reduced the area a bit because people are not boxes so the reduction would be more realistic and not as much of an overestimation. I found the density by using the temperature, humidity, and the atmospheric pressure at the summit at the time of the gust. The strongest wind gust during my attempt was 122 mph which converted to approximately 55 m/s. Plugging in the numbers into the formula

F = .78m2 * 1.043kg/m3 * 552m/s

Calculating to a force of 2460.96N which converts to an incredible 553.24 pounds of force exerted on me, if I was to be standing strait up facing the wind. Now, it is nearly impossible to stand strait up in winds over 100 mph so the trick is to be as low to the ground as possible to reduce the amount of area that you are exposing to the wind. Taking it slow really helps out to and wait for lulls in the gust to make forward progress into the wind. Overall it was quite the experience to feel the power of winds over 100 mph and hope that we get many more days like this during the course of this winter.


Adam Gill, Summit Intern

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