Has November been this warm?

2006-11-13 12:12:53.000 – Bryan Farr,  Summit Intern

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One has to wonder what is going on with the weather. Looking south, I amwatching a huge low pressure system off the Virginia coast; it is what wecall a cut off low. Meaning it is cut off from the main flow of weather,or for us snow lovers, it is a cold pool of air surrounded by warm airstreaming in from the Gulf of Mexico into New Hampshire. This is almostthe exact opposite of what you would find in a hurricane. Walking aroundthe summit reminds me more of late spring than late fall. The warm fog israpidly eating away at the snow pack. It is hard to gauge what the past 24hours has done to the mountain, but I am sure when the clouds lift, wewill see even more exposed rock and clearings, not what one would expectfor mid November. It may even be possible to do our shift change thisWednesday via truck and chains versus the snowcat, which has been our formof transportation since mid October.

So, has November been this warm on the summit before? That question mayperhaps be slightly more difficult to answer since the Observatory weatherrecords only go back 70 years. What we are sure of is that it had not been warmer on November 12th than yesterday throughout the Observatory’s history. 44 degrees stands as the new record high for the date.

Compared this though to some Colonial records that date back 400 years. Even if exact numbers were not given, statements such as “heavy frost destroyed crops in June” or “tree’s blossomed in early March”, can give you an idea of what the conditions were. Therewas the infamous “Year without a summer” in 1816, when the summit was likely coated in snow all year, compared to a noted warm period in the late 1870’s when fields were planted in late March and flourished across New England. Here, one could infer the summit lost its snow pack more rapidly those years as well. One could even point to the heavy October snows of the 2000’s and see an anomoly. These are all likely caused by weather patterns, which it is important to keep separate from climate discussions.

We are not fortunate to have ice core samples or tree rings directly from the summit to study. Looking at our records, November record highs have fluctuated from 41 to 52 degrees, including the record of 44 yesterday. These records range from 1934 to the present with roughly half of them occurring 50 years ago or more. Sure yesterday was a record event, but responding to some threads in the Observatory’s Forums it’s important to keep perspective.

Weather records are fascinating to examine, because sometimes we find events that recent history has forgotten. I am sure if you were to ask about the hurricanes to come through New England, a majority of responses would be, “We don’t get hurricanes in New England”. However, history shows great destruction has occurred in many New England hurricanes including 1815, 1869 and 1938. The same analogy can be applied to temperatures or conditions on the summit. Many interesting facts or even record setting events could have happened, but have since been lost or forgotten before the incorporation of the Observatory in 1932 started keeping detailed weather records. This is why it is important for the Observatory, in it’s mission, to continue keeping accurate weather records for further study of the dynamic New England climate.

For more information on New England’s historical climate, check out ‘Historic Storms of New England’ by Sydney Pearley.

 

Bryan Farr,  Summit Intern

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