2014-01-31 17:59:05.000 – Pete Gagne, Information Technology Manager
Our regional Mesonet consists of 19 stations in the White Mountain National Forest. Wikipedia defines a mesonet as ‘a network of automated weather stations designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena.’ Further, the distinguishing features of a mesonet are station density and temporal resolution. What does all that mean? It means that the stations have a spatial spacing of 1.2-25 miles and report conditions every 1-15 minutes.
We have mesonet stations at most of the major ski resorts, AMC backcountry huts, and other various strategic locations. The ARVP (Auto Road Vertical Profile) has five stations located at 1,000 foot elevations (however, you may notice that there is an ‘extra’ station at 4,000 feet; that was added to provide a radio link from the station at 5,300 feet to the summit of Wildcat, then to the summit) and paints an extremely useful and detailed picture of how the weather behaves on Mount Washington. One might assume that it is always warmer at the Auto Road Base and colder at the summit, but that is not always the case. Temperature inversions commonly occur and the reverse may happen. We’ve also seen where the temperature is substantially warmer at the 4,000 foot and 4,300 foot stations than both the summit and the base.
The weather on Mount Washington is in a constant state of flux, and our hearty meteorologists living and working for eight-day shifts on the summit are constantly observing and studying the rapidly changing conditions. Additionally we provide that data to the National Weather Service, the AMC, the Auto Road and the Cog Railway, as well as the thousands of outdoor enthusiasts who visit the mountain via our website. If you’ve never seen the mesonet page, click on the ‘weather’ tab along the top of the main page and click on the Mesonet tab at the bottom of the dropdown list. There are 3 individual maps to tab between, and the user can select whether they want to see temp, humidity or wind. Also, click on a purple triangle and you can use the graph function to see the general weather trends of the site versus any other site. If you’ve been around Mount Washington and enjoyed the many activities it has to offer, you will find it fun and informative to see not only what the weather is doing currently, but what it has done in the recent past.
As the IT Manager, it is my job to maintain the regional Mesonet. And yes, I get to hike, drive, and travel by train, tram and chairlift to our stations. Wintertime is a challenging time for me as I have to work in some extreme conditions, and the cold, snow and wind are hard on the equipment, especially the solar-powered stations. And we haven’t been able to find a cold-weather webcam that is happy in sub-zero weather (we don’t have the power to utilize the built-in heaters on solar-powered systems). The Ravines cam is our second most popular webpage other than the main page, but the cold, wind and icing at that site rivals the summit. When the camera was in the old gondola building (since demolished), it was housed in a small enclosure with all the other components, and the minimal heat generated by the electronics was enough to warm the camera. Since we relocated it to the Ski Patrol shack, the camera had to be mounted outside on a Rhon 25′ tower; so, unfortunately during these cold stretches, it sometimes freezes up. The Wildcat staff is instrumental in keeping an eye on our gear and really help by cleaning our solar panels and alerting us when there are problems. The cooperation we get from the resorts, as well as the AMC, NH State Parks, Mount Washington Auto Road and the Cog is beyond exemplary, and it is truly a pleasure to work with them.
So if you haven’t already done so, please check out all of the wonderful tools on our website for your use. And remember, if you become a member of the Observatory, you can see added ‘premium’ content such as additional camera views, time-lapse movies, downloadable wallpapers, and more.
Pete Gagne, Information Technology Manager