Instrumentation by the Decade

2019-06-07 15:38:09.000 – Charlie Peachey, IT Intern


The 1940’s ushered in a new era of research for Mount Washington. It was the beginning of research around rime icing at the summit. The project was first brought to the summit by David L. Arenberg of the Blue Hill Observatory. He picked the Observatory because of its perfect conditions during the winter to study rime icing. The typical high winds and dense fogs of winter set up the perfect conditions to study. Soon after, the basic factors to study were set and the research began. It quickly grew apparent to observers at the summit that this was a project they were highly interested in and is what began frenzied research that spanned most of the 1940s. Pictured below is an article in the Mount Washington Observatory News Bulletin from March 1940.

Research on rime icing kicked into high gear with the onset of WWII. Their research became even more important because it now was being used to better prepare planes for icing conditions during the war. Fred Milan and Staff Sargent George Hanson were added to the Observatory staff in order to better fill the need for more intensive work. Staff Sargent Hanson was sent to the observatory to represent the Army’s interest in the reports specifically concerning rime icing. Additional staff wasn’t the only addition to the observatory spurred on by the riming research. Renovations to the observatory took place to build a tower for the weather instrumentation to sit on, so it could better record the conditions on the summit.


After several years of research on riming, it grew apparent that the meteorological instruments needed to change too. Specifically, the originally heated anemometer and its predecessor the cup anemometer. Both of these instruments proved to be useless in icing conditions, so a new instrument was needed. In 1945, Adam J. Eckert began working on reconfiguring a pitot-static tube meant for airplanes into a weather instrument meant to face some of the worst weather in the world. With the much needed assistance and encouragement of Vincent Schaefer (who worked for General Electric at the time), the first pitot anemometer was built and in operation on April 1st, 1946. It looked a lot like instruments today, but with a lot less power. It used a total of 350 watts to run where today’s prototype General Electric pitot tube uses about 3,800 watts of electricity to remain ice free during the harshest Mount Washington weather . Pictured below is the first weather report using pitot tube data for its observations and the front page of the Mount Washington News Bulletin from November 1944.


Information from this post has been sourced from Mount Washington Observatory: The first 45 years, 1932-1977

I am excited to show more Mount Washington history over these next few weeks of my internship with the IT department. I spent hours digging through the Mount Washington archives to find some of the original documentation and instrumentation of the 1940’s! All the photos in this post were taken and edited by myself.


Charlie Peachey, IT Intern

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