Life In and Out of the Clouds
2017-06-28 06:36:20.000 – Elizabeth Perry, Summit Intern
One of the most striking things about living on the summit of Mount Washington and observing the weather has been noticing how quickly weather can change up here, and the ubiquitousness of clouds (the summit experiences fog sixty percent of the year). While writing this post, the visibility has increased from a fraction of a mile to at least 30 or 40 miles as mid-level clouds pass over and around the summit.
Some of our days revolve around a window of a few hours of clearing to head outside for a hike or to take some pictures of the Presidential views. One day, after an afternoon rainstorm, I was stopped in the middle of writing a short-term forecast to check out the rainbow that appeared facing Wildcat Mountain. As quickly as it formed, the sun disappeared behind the clouds behind us and the rainbow disappeared. Likewise, dangerous weather such as convective afternoon thunderstorms have rapidly brought thick clouds, heavy precipitation and lightning to the summit. Either way, it is always incredibly beautiful and fascinating to watch all types of clouds roll through.
On a relatively clear day with light to moderate winds, my favorite clouds to watch develop are those caused by orographic lift. As humid air rises up from the valley, it cools with the elevation change. Colder air is able to hold less water vapor, so when the parcel of air reaches its saturation point, the water vapor condenses and clouds form. These clouds can appear wispy and often move very quickly, billowing around the summit. By the same token, the conditions in North Conway could be clear and cloudless, whereas the Rockpile would be fully immersed in clouds. It is this extreme difference in conditions that makes living and working here so unique.
Elizabeth Perry, Summit Intern