Rapidly changing sunrise

2011-07-10 16:03:48.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Observer / Meteorologist

Some color after the sun rose this morning.

Things can change in minutes on the summit of Mount Washington. Winds can increase or decrease, temperatures can shoot up or plummet, clouds can ascend and descend on whim, and any of a number of other weather elements can change. And while these rapid changes can dramatically affect your hiking conditions and safety, they can also rapidly alter the optical effects of the sunrise and sunsets we see up here. Last night for instance, clouds were hovering just about the summit all afternoon. I was anticipating this low layer to light up as the sun set. But then a half hour before sunset, the hovering layer lowered, settling on the summit as fog (the opposite of what I was thinking they would do) and blocking our view entirely. So, we lost out on a sunset, I blew my overnight forecast, and Jackie missed out on seeing the stars she wanted.

Luckily this morning, the clouds lifted in less than five minutes leaving an overcast layer of high clouds all around us. As the sun rose, it looked like a glowing hot oven on the horizon. A little higher and the sky started to grow pink but in less than a minute, the pink faded and the color all but dropped out. To show you what I mean, I put this comparison together to show how quick the color faded in less than a minute. So, I guess the lessons to take away from this is, when it comes to Mount Washington weather, always expect the unexpected (but then that makes the unexpected expected, right?) and when it comes to our sunrises and sunsets, it’s all about being at the right place at the right time.


Ryan Knapp,  Observer / Meteorologist

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