Observing is Not Only a Job-it’s a Lifestyle

2014-01-05 18:53:42.000 – Mike Dorfman,  Weather Observer

Sunrise Yesterday Morning

Every day is part of a larger rhythm here on the summit. Wake up at 0500, do morning radio shows, perform data analysis, submit observations, and so on – much of my day is very structured. Having a routine every day is comforting and, most importantly, allows me to work at a sustainable pace. It is what allows me to work 10-12 hour days for 8 days straight. But doing the same thing every day doesn’t make every day the same. The changing weather colors my comfortable routine with new and exciting experiences every day.

Being away from my family and home for a week at a time is quite challenging and, at times frustrating. But the rewarding experiences I get on the summit by far make up for it. After a while (after I was promoted from intern to employee), I started getting into the rhythm of the summit. My major scale of time wasn’t a day, but a week. We start our day every Wednesday, then end it a week later. Thursdays are my morning, Sundays and Mondays my mid-afternoon, and Tuesday’s and Wednesdays my ready-for-the-end-of-the-day time. It is incredible how quickly a year and a half can go by when it goes by in 2-week segments. And it is amazing how much my natural cycle can be thrown off by something as little as going down a day early (think of daylight savings).

Having been here for almost a year and a half, I’ve been able to see the seasons change here on the summit. After spending a winter up here, I was expecting a frigid, unbearable, blue-lipped and shivering summer, but I got something quite different. First, temperatures were warm compared to the winter at around 40-60 degrees. But summers on the summit are not about relaxing and exploring and having fun. Summers are hiker and tourist season. More than warmth and vacations, summers mean lots and lots of people for the summit. Filled with tours and museum-goers and AT through hikers, summer is about seeing people.

Winters, however are a whole other beast. Although a large part of winters on the summit involve observatory-led trips up the auto road, there is much less of a rush of people coming in and out of the summit buildings compared to the summer. Although the cold and snow do play a large role in my view of winter, wind is definitely the first thing I think of when it comes to winter on the summit. Every time I hit a new personal record for wind speed, I think the same thing; it really is impossible to imagine conditions like this. I could describe to you the constant thunder of wind as I walk up the tower, or how great the force of a 100mph wind is when it hits your back, or the panic that you feel when bits of ice fly towards you at racecar speed, but your imagination won’t even come close.

There are times when I’m tired and just want to go home, but if I just stop to think of where I am, I realize that I am where I want to be.


Mike Dorfman,  Weather Observer

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