How’s the view up there?

2016-08-06 16:52:35.000 – Christopher Hohman, Summer Intern

 

One of the most common reasons people hike, or head up to the top of this mountain in the first place, really is to see if they can catch a good view. Sounds simple enough, but sadly we are at the whim of the weather to actually get these spectacular views. There is however some forecasting tools anyone can use to actually increase their chances of getting good visibility, and perhaps plan their trip around these forecasted days. Of course the first thing to look at is simply whether or not it’s going to rain, but there are other factors that can be incorporated into your “Viewing forecast.”

To start it’s always good to check the forecast to see if it’s going to rain. The summit is in the clouds 60% of the time out of the year. This is due to a number of different reasons, but typically when rain is forecast for the summit, the chance of being in the clouds is very high. Pushing of moisture at the base of the summit can makes its way up to the top and actually form clouds just due to the geography of the mountain and wind flow towards the base. We’re also tall enough in the atmosphere for clouds to not only form above the mountain, but also move right through the summit. For example our current forecast for the region calls for rain and while it may just be cloudy below, those clouds are actually gliding over us right now.

View from Wildcat Cam

Another really important part of a wonderful view is actually how far you can see. Our maximum visibility is 130 miles (pretty impressive in my eyes) but that is very rare to reach during the summer months. Typically the farthest you can see in the summer is around 110 miles, which in my brief time here I’ve only seen a handful of times. This is because certain systems normally have to move over the region just right to push dry and haze reduced air masses from the north to extend your field of vision. This typically happens right after a rain storm comes through and higher pressure begins to build over the summit region. The clockwise motion of the system depicted here illustrates this better:

Weather map of clockwise rotationImage from: Tropical Tidbits
 
A day where you’l get typically a good view but not quite as far as 110 is right after this system moves across the summit region. The clockwise motion creates a “return flow” of air from the south west. These air masses typically carry more smoke, haze, and moisture from the south. With this additional composition to the atmosphere, it can drop visibility easily to 60-70 miles. This helps illustrates what to look for: 

 
Weather map of clockwise rotationImage from: Tropical Tidbits
 
So what should you do exactly next time you decide to head up to the summit? Well the first step should always be to check the forecast. Is rain forecasted? Then probably not the best day to head up. Is rain not forecasted? Check the current 850 pressure chart and see if there’s high pressure over us, and which way it’s positioned around us. If it’s to the west, then there’s a good chance you’ll get a very far view. If it’s to the east, you’ll probably still see farther than you would in the valley, but not quite as far as a really good summer visibility day. By the way, these images of high pressure are actually forecasted for Monday and Wednesday, respectively. So head on up and enjoy the view. Have fun, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us! Thanks for reading!
 

 

Christopher Hohman, Summer Intern

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