Kicking Off Summer

2015-05-17 14:29:13.000 – Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern


Today is Sunday which means I have now been at the summit of Mount Washington for a total of three whole days. It is hard to quantify how much I have learned, and the awesome in the hours I’ve been here. I have been a student of meteorology for three years now which has certainly helped me learn the ins and outs of weather forecasting, but putting it to practice atop the Northeast’s highest peak, is already proving to be an experience of tremendous value.

                My name is Nathan Flinchbaugh, and I have been fortunate enough to be selected to spend a large portion of my summer working as an intern at the Mount Washington Observatory. As a native of Pennsylvania, I got bit by the weather bug at a very young age. As I grew older, my interest in weather patterns grew to the point that I enrolled in the meteorology program at Penn State University, where I am still currently a student. While I consider myself a PA guy through and through, Keystone State weather always left me desiring a little more. Sure, I grew up with snow in the winter, but not 200+ inches. And yes, we got our fair share of thunderstorms in the summer, but never to the strength of a Mount Washington storm. And Pennsylvania does have charming rolling hills and ridges, but nothing that could possibly compare to the beauty, danger, and enchantment of the Whites.


                When I saw that there was an internship position open at the observatory, I immediately knew it was an opportunity I could not pass up. And in March, when it was time to come up for my interview, not only would it be my first trip up the Auto Road in a Snow cat, but actually my first time ever to the state of New Hampshire period. The trip did not disappoint. Visibility was over 100 miles that day with virtually no wind, which is rare for Mount Washington.

                The trip up this past Wednesday, which happened to be my first day on the job, was just as invigorating, but in a different way. A potent cold front had just passed through New England the night before, and Mount Washington was returning to its wintry roots. About a mile or two on our trip up the Auto Road we were forced to pull over and put chains on the tires to negate the heavy icing taking place in the miles ahead. As we made our cautious crawl to the top, winds became unforgiving, and the fog became dense and heavy. The first task I helped with when I arrived at the top was de-icing the tower, which had become encased in rime. Winds had diminished to the 50-60 mph range, but nevertheless, standing on the tower while getting pelted with freezing rain and wind, I knew I had arrived at the home of the world’s worst weather.


                Luckily, conditions improved quickly, and Thursday and Friday turned out to be beautiful spring days. These were the days I got to really learn the basics of taking observations and coding them in by shadowing the full-time observers, as well as several mountain forecasting techniques.  I am very much looking forward to what the rest of the summer brings, and what I will learn.

At the end of the day, I always take time to explore around the summit. This is when I’m able to really focus on the breathtaking views that the summit offers in the fleeting moments that it’s no longer hiding in the clouds. And whether it’s watching the sunset over the Green Mountains of Vermont, staring up at the planetarium-like night sky, or watching the dim glow of Montreal’s city lights off to the distant north, it’s in those moments I discover there’s no place I’d rather spend my summer.


Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern

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