The one about the weather, horses and donkeys…

2009-09-11 21:46:49.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Sunrise in black/white w/ red accents.

With the string of “nice” weather we have been receiving the last three weeks, it is odd to think that by this time last month, the summit had already received 3.05 inches of precipitation. So far this month, we haven’t even received a trace of precipitation (although there is a slight chance overnight). While most of us working here are eager for snowfall and the severe weather the summits winter brings, like Mike said yesterday, it has allowed us to do plenty of projects that were on the backburner most of the summer due to the wet weather. But, whenever we get nice weather people tend to ask two questions: “Is this global warming?” and “Is this some sort of record?”

The answer to both of these is no. I always answer “Global warming (or the correct term “climate change”) is a long term process and is not something that can be studied on a daily, monthly, or single year scale.” So to get a streak of nice days is not an indication of climate change. Nor is it a record of any sort. A lot of the northeast has seen strings of days with mostly clear days but on the summit, we have received some amount of fog for nearly every day this month. None of the days so far have broken any daily record highs or averages for the day. What is occurring is a normal area of high pressure over the northeast. I think why people start raising these questions is due to all the rain we received this summer making peoples perceptions become slightly skewed to that being normal and when we get into a pattern that is usually more common in the summer they start to question it looking for a scapegoat.

And while I can’t look to the end of this month as to what the weather will do and when this pattern might change, I can look at last month and update you as to what the weather has done. Last month we averaged 49.3F on the summit which was 1.7F above normal with a high of 65F (on the 18th) and a low of 31 (on the 26, 27, and 31st). We received 9.05 inches putting us 0.97 inches above normal with 2.40 inches being the greatest amount received in 24 hours. We received a trace of snow (in the form of hail) which puts us 0.2 inches below normal for the month and for the season starting in July. Winds averaged 25.1 mph which was only 0.5 mph above normal. We saw a peak gust of 80 mph from the west and only had one other day above hurricane force. We received 38 percent of available sunshine, had 0 clear days, 10 partly cloudy days, and 21 cloudy days. We had 31 days with fog (whether it was for 15 minutes of the whole day). We had rain on 17 days and hail (or “snow”) on one day.

Last month could be summarized as being a bit warm, very wet, with average winds, and a lot of clouds/fog. This month, so far, can be summarized as having above average temperatures, very dry (8.55 inches below normal so far), and a mix of sun and clouds with a bit of fog thrown in. So far, it has been nice which is allowing for plenty of great hiking but a few things should be remembered. Temperatures this time of year can start out nice in the valleys and become freezing on the summit. So just because you start off in mild weather does not mean you are going to summit in mild weather. Also, there is no camping above tree line and the two huts closest to us (Lakes of the Clouds and Madison) close this Saturday, 9/12/2009 (more information here). So after this, there will be no available places to lodge above tree line in the Presidential range. And lastly, similar to the first rule you learn in physics, what goes up must go down. During this time of year, the cog and auto road are still open and people hike up assuming they are entitled to a ride down. While you can pay to take these two options down, like any other business in the world, they have operating hours. If you come after they stop operating for the day, there is no other option but to hike down. But another factor isn’t just the operating times it is the weather. Just as with hiking, weather is an important factor in their operating schedule. If the weather becomes inoperable for them, they will not run and again, you must hike down. So keep in mind, if you are planning to hike up, be prepared to hike down. If you need more information on hiking responsibly and learn about various laws and regulations check out the website.

Sorry to get up on my soapbox (mostly because it makes me taller briefly) but out of my four summers here, this summer has seen the most unprepared hikers I have seen. And I am not the only one taking notice as the State Park and the auto road have both commented with similar observations. So, enjoy the nice weather like we are while it last but please be mindful and responsible and not reckless. We have a saying out west (where I grew up) that I will close with. I didn’t come up with this and I have nothing against either specie, it’s just to drive home a point. The saying is: “It is better to be a horse on a trail than a donkey (or their other three letter name). A well trained horse follows directions and knows when it is not safe to walk somewhere. A donkey on the other hand follows the trail blindly and will go wherever the trail bends oblivious to the conditions it’s getting into. So, always strive to be the horse.”


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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