Final Week on the Summit
2019-12-27 08:40:19.000 – Adam Gill, Weather Observer/IT Specialist
This week is my last week here at the Summit of Mount Washington. I have been here for almost 4 and a half years and have experienced many storms as well as learned many new skills. My fascination with the Mount Washington Observatory actually began many years ago when I was still in grade school and we had to watch the Voyage of the Mimi, which was a kids show that was aimed at teaching science. One of the episodes came up to the summit of Mount Washington and got to do an overnight with the crew up here in the early 80’s. I was already obsessed with weather at a young age and being able to work at a place that saw bad weather all the time was a dream. My favorite type of weather growing up was thunderstorms and big snow storms.
Ironically growing up in the front range of Colorado, we lived in a dry spot where we missed out on most snow and would only get a good snow storm once or twice a year. I decided to end up going to school at the University of North Dakota for Atmospheric Science after finishing high school because I wanted to learn more about snow storms and blizzards. The winters in North Dakota made the winters in Colorado feel like a tropical paradise, with temperatures rarely getting above freezing between Thanksgiving and the spring equinox.
I had been keeping an eye on the weather occurring on the summit. I would usually check it out whenever there was a big east coast storm to see what the winds were getting up to. After graduation, I finally applied for the fall internship because I had originally wanted to take a year off of school before going to graduate school for Atmospheric Science. I ended up getting the internship and starting in August of 2015. Below is a picture of the first sunrise I got to see from the summit.
Part way through the fall internship, one of my co-workers got a new job and was leaving and that gave me the opportunity to apply for a full time position. I did get the position and started full time in the February of 2016. This was also when I experienced my coldest ambient air temperatures in my life, even colder then North Dakota. I was working nights and got to record a low temperature on February 13th, 2016 of -40°F. The winds were only around 40 mph during the coldest temperatures so the wind chill was -83°F, which was the coldest up to that point but ended up experiencing colder wind chills multiple times in 2017 and 2018.
March 14th, 2017 was my favorite snow storm that I got to experience while working here. I unfortunately was not up for the 171 mph event last year which I am still to this day really bummed about. The PI day blizzard had it all, with heavy snow and high winds from the east which is unusual. The winds started off almost calm in the morning and then ramped up to sustained over 100 with gusts into the 130’s then falling back to near calm. During the peak of the storm, it was so gusty that my ears would pop between the gusts and the lulls as the pressure fluctuated in the building. The snow was blowing through every single nook and cranny and we ended up getting several feet of snow inside that we had to shovel out by hand into 5 gallon buckets to bring outside. The peak wind ended up being only 138 mph which is now my second highest wind speed I have been up here for but it was the most exciting high wind event I was up for.
The coldest wind chill that I experienced here coincided with the second coldest air temperature I was up here for, which was January 6th, 2018. Winds were sustained around 100 mph with temperatures down to -38°F. The coldest 1 minute wind chill for that day was -97°F, so close to seeing -100°F! My camera was broken during this time period so I did not have any pictures from this event. We did upload a few videos of freezing objects and boiling water on our youtube page.
Lastly I have the highest winds I saw in my time here, which was 142 mph on April 16th, 2019. This storm was the 3rd and final 140 mph even of 2019. It is possible that winds got even higher during this storm because it was the worst icing that I have ever seen here. Ice was growing at about 9 to 12 inches per hour and the night observer Jay and I were going up to deice every 10 to 15 minutes to try and keep the instruments clear. In the hays chart below, you can see the times when we deiced with the winds suddenly jumping up, but almost as soon as it was reading correctly, the winds started to lower again as ice built back up on the pitot tube. I was also able to be on the tower deicing during a wind gust to 137 mph.
I will remember the experiences over the last 4 years for the rest of my life. I will miss this place when I leave in a few days but at the same time I look forward to moving on to something new. I will be headed to Binghamton NY to work at the National Weather Service office after the first of the year. I will be helping forecast for an area much larger then what we forecast fore here. Eventually I will be able to help out with issuing weather warnings like a winter storm warning or a severe thunderstorm warning. Another aspect I am excited for is being able to go home every day. Living on the summit for a week at a time was fun at first and the commute to work was easy, just going up a flight of stairs. After a while of putting some of my hobbies on hold, I look forward to being able to grow plants again and have a garden that I can have time to take care of again.
I plan on visiting the area and still helping out at big observatory events like Seek the Peak. I will also have to come back for the skiing in the area since there is not too much skiing in Southern New York. I have really gotten into backcountry skiing and want to continue to do that whenever I can.
Until next time, Mount Washington.
Adam Gill, Weather Observer/IT Specialist