Nights On The Mountain

2019-10-25 17:01:13.000 – Ben Charles, Summit Intern


During my time here as an intern for the Observatory, I have performed many different tasks throughout the day. Typically in a normal day in the life of an intern, I wake up to read the forecast on the morning AMC radio, continue to work on my research project, write the daily evening higher summits forecast, and one of the most exciting parts is getting to shadow observers during their observations. Shadowing day observers for a few shifts has really fueled my curiosity and interest in the observation process. When making hourly observations with the observers I am trying to grow accustomed to judging cloud heights, cloud cover, and visibility. But I couldn’t help but wonder how these observations are done at night, as well as other duties of a night observer. So I decided to stay up with our night observer Jay Broccolo, to shadow him for the first half of the night.

I learned a lot in the short amount of time I spent shadowing Jay. To begin the night, he showed me something he has to do every night which is something called weekly and daily checks. Weekly and daily check is done to assure that our observations were written down and submitted error-free. It is a very important process that can be difficult at times due to the immense amount of observations being double and triple checked. Although the checks seem to be tedious at times it was also very interesting to watch as this is when the daily averages, total precipitation, and peak winds are all calculated and submitted.

When we weren’t looking over past observations, we would continue to go out every hour where I shadowed Jay doing night observations. Doing observations at night it a whole new beast. Determining visibility is completely different than during the day, typically during the day looking for different mountains on the horizon is how we gauge our visibility however at night the night observers look for lights from different cities in the area as well as different windmill farms that have red blinking lights. Night observations are usually a bit more difficult to determine cloud height and cover especially when there is little moon or city lights to reflect off the clouds. Night observations may seem difficult at first however our night observers have grown accustomed to these conditions and continue or ever-growing database by making accurate observations every hour.

Another really cool thing that the night observer gets to do is change the Hay’s chart every night at midnight(EST). Just as a reminder this is our circular paper chart that records the pressure of the wind on top of the tower for a 24 hour period. Jay showed me the important process he goes through every night on how to properly change the chart quickly and precisely. This ensures the chart being taken down is not damaged and that the new chart being put up is being replaced in a timely manner so little to no data is missed in the replacement process. After the charts are changed the Hay’s chart that was taken down is marked with hourly wind speeds, wind directions, and the daily peak gust eventually being added to our database.

By this time I had been up for a very long time and could barely keep my eyes open so I decided to hit the hay. Now being the next morning and reflecting on my experience I truly learned a lot about night observations and what our night observers do on a daily bases, and can’t wait to shadow Jay again. Our night observers do a lot of behind the scenes work on top of the observations that help keep the observatory running like a well-oiled machine and deserve a well-needed round of applause.


Ben Charles, Summit Intern

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