The Night by the Numbers

2012-09-23 23:47:53.000 – Mike Carmon,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist


Continuing the theme from my last comment, I’ll share a little bit more about the unique experience that is the night shift. This time, let’s do it by the numbers…

12…The number of observations I perform each night. My first ob kicks the night off at 5:45 PM EST, and my last one wraps things up at 5:45 AM EST.

11…(degrees Fahrenheit) The wind chill factor when temperatures dip just below freezing, with winds sustained at hurricane force. This is a good benchmark to remember when considering how long one night observer will be venturing out for.

10…(P.M.) The time at which I must put any other projects I’m working on aside, and commence the full-swing night shift routine.

9…The pieces of gear I must assemble in order to venture outdoors for observations and instrumentation maintenance during the harsh winter nights. This includes a fleece, outer shell, snow pants, winter boots, baclava, winter hat, gloves, goggles, and of course, a headlamp.

8…(P.M.) Dinner time! Well, for me, it’s actually lunch. But that aside, family dinner is the highlight of my day, and a chance to be social for a while before the night kicks into full swing.

7…The approximate amount of hours I spend with my shift mates still awake. On average, I’ll wake up around 2 or 3 PM, and the daytime folk start heading to bed around 9 or 10 PM.

6…The approximate amount of hours of music I listen to during the night. In order to mask all of those eerie nighttime resonances, and in large part to keep me alert and awake, solid background music is a crucial part of the night shift. After all, who can work in dead silence anyway?

5…The average number of ‘midnight’ snacks I’ll consume during my shift. A guy’s gotta eat!

4…The number of legs belonging to my feline nighttime companion, Marty. You generally wouldn’t know he even has legs, however, as the bulk of his night is spent lounging and/or sleeping on one of countless weather room surfaces that suits his furry fancy.

3…The cups of coffee it takes to get me through the night. This is heavily dependent on the quality of sleep during that particular shift week, but who doesn’t like to sip coffee at 11PM? Eek.

2…The number of radio shows I prepare and record every morning. During the weekdays, that consists of a 36-hour higher summits forecast for station WBNC, and then a brief summary of the current weather coupled with a wrap-up of yesterday’s weather for station WOKQ. On the weekends, the NHPR forecast for the state of New Hampshire takes the place of the WOKQ show.

1…(A.M.) The only observation for which the precipitation can must be retrieved, with no other souls awake on the summit. Generally, this is no big deal, but on those nights when the winds are blowing in excess of 100 mph, and the blowing snow/freezing fog combination are obscuring visibility, this can be a harrowing and adrenaline-inducing experience. It’s at these times when I think to myself, ‘Yup, I’m being PAID to do this!’


Mike Carmon,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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