Sun Glory Over Undercast Cloud Tops

2011-05-22 16:07:08.000 – Rick Giard,  Educational Observer

Sun Glory Over Undercast Cloud Tops

For more than a week the daily mantra has been fog, drizzle and rain showers, with only occasional breaks as the stubborn low just off the coast continued to supply mostly moist, mild flow from the Atlantic side. Yesterday a Canadian cold front finally traversed the summits to usher in a drier air mass and produce partial clearing and good visibility. In the afternoon the summits were intermittently obscured by fog, which later dissipated to reveal widespread dense valley undercast surrounding clear summits. Late in the evening after a delicious pot roast dinner prepared by Pat and Lou, our superb volunteers this week, we ventured onto the observatory deck to see the finest night sky view imaginable. Despite a thin veil of cirrus clouds, each individual star, planet and constellation was clearly visible. Arduous life on the Rock Pile has its rewards to compensate.

This morning during weather observations shortly after sunrise we were treated to a dramatic panorama of brightly-topped undercast all around, with the northern Presidential peaks jutting above the cloud tops like islands in a bright white sea. It appeared as if one could almost walk out across the valleys atop the clouds. Venturing into the high parapet above the tower we observed tower shadows superimposed on the western cloud tops, and a distinct sun glory displayed just above the lower slopes. This optical phenomenon can only be seen when the observer (or camera) is positioned directly between the sun and a cloud of refracting uniformly-sized water droplets that backscatter the sunlight. There is never a dull day here, each moment unique and extraordinary. I have the best job in the world.

Today is the busiest day yet this season. A steady stream of visitors has populated the summit, arriving by cog train, automobile and the old fashioned way – via hiking trails using personal power. With the best of summer still ahead, there are endless opportunities to experience the many moods of Mount Washington. When you arrive please stop by for an Observatory Tour!


Rick Giard,  Educational Observer

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