Observing the Observers

2012-04-24 23:30:21.000 – Mark Carruthers,  Summit Volunteer


This is my first time as a volunteer at the summit observatory. Finally able to join my wife on her fourth volunteer shift, I was looking forward to helping out and personally experiencing a taste of the ever changing summit weather that she and many others have described in their comments. I was not disappointed as the conditions through day 6 of my shift have ranged from the comfortable, sunny, clear, and calm with climbers in shorts, to rain, ice, fog, gusts to 96 MPH, and below 0 deg F wind chills.

What was unexpected was being able to witness the commitment and skills of the dedicated staff at the observatory. The daily (I should say hourly) chores of collecting and transmitting weather data involve far more than reviewing gauges and networked instruments. The hourly trek outside to assess cloud formations, sling the psychrometer and lug up the 3 ft metal cylinder of whatever precipitation is coming down puts the observer in the middle of summit weather. Just keeping the instruments working and the drip collection buckets emptied in the severe conditions can be a full time job. Beyond this was the frequent video communications with groups “in the valley” that range from museum visitors to a girl scout troop sleepover that gets to see a young woman observer demonstrate her scientific knowledge and more importantly her enthusiasm for meteorology and her job at the summit. This sparked real interest from the group and i wonder how many of them will end up in a science career some day. Did I mention dedication? The night observer/meteorologist skips dinner one night and I know that he is closely monitoring data, concerned about staying on top of the approaching storm front and lightning strikes in the area. Even Marty, the summit cat earns his keep as he is the topic of questions from kids on the videocom that gets the questions rolling. He gets extra attention and play time after that.

To say that my stay on the summit as a volunteer was rewarding is an understatement. I would urge all to consider this truly unique experience.


Mark Carruthers,  Summit Volunteer

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