My summer at 800 mb

2018-08-16 09:33:01.000 – Simon Wachholz, Summit Intern


In a typical year I would be excited for the end of summer. The cooler temperatures of fall and the first snowflakes of winter are something I look forward to every year. Unfortunately, the end of this summer indicates the end of my time at Mount Washington as a summer intern. Since today is my last day at the summit, I thought I’d write a quick wrap up of all the exciting events I had the opportunity to experience here. Every week seemed to bring a new adventure and unique phenomenon I wouldn’t be able to witness anywhere else.

Week 1: May 16-23

In my first higher summits forecast I predicted maximum wind gusts up to 95 mph. The actual peak wind gust was 92 mph on May 19 th. I unfortunately wasn’t outside in it since it occurred overnight, but the sustained winds in the 50s earlier in the day were still the strongest winds I ever experienced. Add rain pelting your face and 40 degree temperatures, and you end up with pretty extreme conditions for May.

Week 2: May 30 – June 6

When I first looked at the forecast for Mount Washington May 30 th, I was cautiously optimistic – MOS was showing temperatures around freezing with lots of precipitation for June 4 th and 5 th. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much; after all, it was June and I know from past experience that even in the dead of winter getting excited for model forecasts 5 days out often leads to disappointment. However, as each day passed, the forecast stayed consistent: freezing rain, sleet, and snow were indeed looking likely for the higher summits. On the morning of the 4 th temperatures dropped into the 20s with heavy freezing rain. Around ½ an inch of ice accrued on exposed surfaces making it one of the largest ice storms I’ve experienced in my life. On Tuesday June 5 th, I witnessed my first June snowfall with 0.8” of snow accumulating. I mentioned this in a previous blog, and I will continue to mention it for the rest of my life: I made a snowman in June.

Week 3: June 13-20

Week 3 was my windiest week on the summit with winds averaging 34.3 mph (about 7mph faster than average for the month of June). The 19 th featured a couple gusts of 94 mph; the strongest gusts I was outside in. It’s hard to describe how difficult it is to walk when gusts are that strong, and I can only imagine what it was like to experience the 231 mph winds observers recorded here in 1934.

Week 4: June 27- July 4

This was the week of record heat across the Northeast with highs in the 90s throughout much of New Hampshire. The higher elevations in the White Mountains had record highs too; however, temperatures only rose into the lower 70s. With all this heat I was fearful the remaining snow on Mount Jefferson and Tuckerman Ravine would melt off, but fortunately both piles survived into July. Even some news outlets were fascinated with the remaining snow. The Boston Globe published an article about the remaining snow, and my snowman from early June even got some fame on The Concord Monitor. In fact, for a little while if you googled the word “snow” and looked at the news results, the White Mountain snow were 3 of the first 5 news stories.

Snow in Tuckerman's Ravine
Last picture of snow I took in Tuckerman Ravine (July 15th)

Week 5: July 11-18

Having the “world’s worst weather” on a daily basis at Mount Washington acts like a magnet for other weather enthusiasts and meteorologists. I even had the opportunity to give Tom Niziol from the Weather Channel a tour of the observatory, and afterwards he asked me to take a picture with him. I tried, with little success, to contain my excitement, as evidenced below.

Simon and Tom Niziol

Week 6: July 25- August 1

Rainbow in the Great Gulf

Week 6 started off pretty amazing with a stunning rainbow coming up the Autoroad. I didn’t see any gold at the end of this rainbow, but being at the summit of Mount Washington is worth far more than any pot of gold. Otherwise, week 6 was a very busy week on the summit, and it felt like the week lasted forever (which fellow intern Sarah and I were happy about because neither of us wanted our internships to end).

Week 7: August 8-15

Although we’re a weather observatory, Mount Washington is a pretty good place for star gazing as well, as long as we’re in the clear. With the earliest sunsets of my internship this week, I finally got a chance to go outside and view the night sky and watch for meteor showers. Northern New Hampshire has substantially less light pollution than anywhere in Pennsylvania (where I’m from), and it’s truly amazing how well you can see stars and the Milky Way, even with the naked eye. Although I’ve seen a couple shooting stars before, this week was the first time I practiced my astrophotography. I took hundreds of pictures of the stars (which is surprisingly time consuming with long exposures), and I even got some shooting stars in a couple images.

The stars of the night sky The Milky Way with a shooting star in the lower left

Then, the sunset Saturday was probably the best sunset of the summer with plenty of mid-level clouds creating lots of contrasting colors.

Fantastic Sunset Sunset August 11th

This was definitely the most rewarding summer I’ve ever had, and I couldn’t have asked for a better internship or group of people to spend it with. Next week I’ll be starting my senior year at Penn State and will hopefully graduate with my degree in Meteorology next spring. Although today is my last day at the summit, I know I’ll be back again one way or another, but hopefully next time will feature even more snow!

Sarah Dragging Simon Away
Sarah literally dragging me off of the summit


Simon Wachholz, Summit Intern

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