Obs Life Off-Summit, Part 4: Dream One Size Too Big

2017-10-24 15:37:39.000 – Nicole Tallman, Summit Intern


I have always dreamed of the weather. My safe place was curled up in a blanket, watching lightning illuminate the sky. I was not like most other people who shy away from the extremes; but rather I would be drawn closer to them, peering out the window at their beauty. Pursuing meteorology is what felt right. I learned more and more about the dynamics of how storms are formed, what conditions are favorable for what. However, my 4 years in school drew me further from what I fell in love with. I was merely reading about the weather, not experiencing it myself. I started to question my decision: did I really make the right choice by studying meteorology? I finished out my degree and came out of college an official meteorologist, but I had never felt more distant with the weather. I could tell you all about the physics and math that went into determining how a thunderstorm could form, but this degree didn’t excite me the way being outdoors within the storm would.

 Figure 1: Graduation day! The day I became an official meteorologist. 

Leaving college is one of the most intimidating steps I have taken in my life so far. The comfort of a regimented schedule and knowing what came next was something I had in my life up until this point. Now what? Where do I go from here? Do I get a job? Do I go back to school? Instead, I looked into internships to test out different areas of meteorology and see where I wanted my path to lead me. That path led me here, on top of a mountain, in a state I had never been before: Home of the World’s Worst Weather.

I was excited to be back immersed in what made me fall in love with this field, but also terrified that I was not doing enough after college. My friends and classmates were obtaining careers, paying off student loans and propelling themselves forward in the world. I felt that I was taking an easy route by doing an internship and not committing myself to a full time job straight after graduation. Fear kicked in and I doubted myself for not following the path that was “expected” of me. However, after spending 5 months here, learning more than I could ever imagine, I do not feel that sense of doubt anymore. I know this is where I was meant to be.

 Figure 2: Taking in the views of the mountains during a drive down Mount Washington. 

Entering this internship I was naive, thinking that I knew all there was to know about being a meteorologist. I had just graduated, I was the smartest I would ever be, right? Wrong. I quickly caught on that there was much to gain from this experience, not only in the realm of meteorology. I opened myself up to gaining knowledge and growth from all aspects. I would shadow observations to learn more about how to determine distinct cloud layers and code information to the National Weather Service. I would watch each observer while they forecasted to pick up each of their tips. But most of all I would open my eyes to how I was growing as a person. Every time I would give a tour I would be challenged with questions about myself and about the weather. I was finding that this experience was much more than just a growing opportunity for my career, but also for me.

 Figure 3: Braving the wind on top of the tower. Giving a thumbs up for the 98 mph wind gust I had just felt. 

I now take what I’ve learned from summit life and incorporate that into my off summit life. One very important lesson I’ve learned is to never compare your progress to someone else’s. You are your own person and everyone grows at different rates. I may not be in a well-established career, but I have found my passion and have gained so many life-changing experiences. The quote “do something you love and you will never work a day in your life” applies so perfectly to how I feel about my time on Mount Washington. This internship has re-inspired me to follow my path in meteorology and has confirmed my passion for extreme weather. I take with me the knowledge that I have learned about forecasting and use it even in my off weeks to keep the practice going. I go outdoors and immediately look to the sky to analyze cloud layers and sky coverage. Every day, even off summit days, I use my newly learned skills to learn more about the weather around me.

Figure 4: Happily assisting during an observation. This gives me the chance to use my learned skills of taking cloud and visibility  readings along with using the sling psychrometer (shown here).  

I also have to acknowledge the changes that have been made emotionally since interning at the Obs. Taking an internship in a state that I had never even visited before was very intimidating, but there’s something about New Hampshire that I just can’t explain. The mountains, the people, the trails, they all feel like home here. Being from central New Jersey, I don’t see many mountains on an average day, and now to call one of them my home is something I cherish. I now have a new connection to a whole different environment. I have also realized through this internship that there is no limit to how far I will go to pursue my love for extreme weather. I proved to myself exactly that by commuting every week, 8 hours to and from the summit back home to New Jersey. During my drives two things became very clear to me: I may be slightly insane for doing this, but I am very passionate about what I do and will go to great lengths to keep doing it.

So what have I taken from life on the summit and translated to my off summit life? Growth in confidence, knowledge in meteorology, a new appreciation for the mountains. and of course many new friends. I realized that extreme weather may not be for everyone, but it is everything to me. I will continue to follow my passions and explore the different opportunities that meteorology will present to me. I was once told “Dream one size too big so you can grow into it”. This internship was a dream, and in December I will be moving on to my next dream.


Nicole Tallman, Summit Intern

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