Meet Summer Intern Joshua Elms

By Joshua Elms

Hi! I’m Joshua Elms, an intern working on the summit for Summer 2024. I just graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Data Science from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and this fall I’ll be back for my Master’s in Atmospheric Science at the same university. Indiana wasn’t where I grew up, though; I moved around the country a fair amount, living in California, Arizona, Hawaii, and Virginia before going to Indiana for college.

I saw precious little extreme weather while growing up, but Arizona’s haboobs (dust storms) stuck with me. I remember sitting on the side of the highway with donuts and watching a mile-high wall of dust roll over the city, accompanied by violent bursts of thunder and lightning that shattered the night sky. I recall driving around the next morning and seeing electrical crews out repairing power lines knocked over by falling trees. Most of all, I remember a pervasive sense of amazement and mystery; what caused those massive thunderstorms?

It wasn’t until college that I would finally sate my curiosity with a meteorology course specifically targeted at mesoscale (2-1000km) weather events, such as thunderstorms. Coursework in Data Science provided me with the tools to tackle Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP), which is the study of forecasting weather with computers. NWP is a fairly desk-centric field, though, so I applied for this internship at the Mount Washington Observatory to gain some experience with real-world operational weather forecasting and observation.

My first trip up the summit on the Auto Road was on a sunny and clear day in May, which made for perfect (and perfectly terrifying) views of the sheer cliffs. I was certainly grateful to have our experienced Staff Meteorologist and Observer, Ryan Knapp, driving the van instead of driving up myself. After a chaotic shift change, Jacob (the other intern) and I worked with the observers to learn our duties at the summit. These include announcing the forecast on a morning radio call, giving tours, making the afternoon Higher Summits Forecast, and working on a research project.

Jacob and I find a patch of snow that has survived the spring warmth and rain long enough to provide some good sledding.

These tasks have occupied most of my days so far, but I’ve also had time for a few opportunities to relax and explore the summit. We went sledding on a small snow patch, hiked down to the lip of Tuckerman’s Ravine, visited the gym, and got to experience 45+ mph winds, all within a week of arriving at the summit. I also had the chance to connect more with the team here on the summit, from our day observers Francis and Karl to our first shift volunteers Mike and Jay. I’ve often thought that living in close proximity to others for a week at a time has a particular way of bringing people together, and working on the summit validates that. Between the memories we’ve all shared and those we’ve created together, I feel like I’ve known the crew up here far longer than a week. If my first shift was any indication, I am looking forward to a summer filled with beautiful views, good conversations, captivating hikes, and learning much more about the weather and history of the Mount Washington Observatory.

Kelly, Karl, Francis, me, Jacob, and Jay watching for thunderstorms from the tower.

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