What’s It Like Being A Night Observer?
2018-08-20 05:31:34.000 – Christopher Hohman, Staff Meteorologist/Observer
One of the most common questions I’ve been asked since taking this job is, “What’s it like working nights?” The answer to that question is rather multi-layered. There’s tons of stuff the night observer is responsible for while they’re on shift, that the day observers don’t normally do, if ever! There’s also a lot of social aspects that are different about it too. I talk about all of it below.
(My typical view walking out of the tower to do an observation)
To start out, I’ll discuss some of the actual procedures I get to do that the day shift doesn’t. One of our most famous graphs here on the summits is our Hays Chart. We change this chart out once every 24-hours. The exact time we switch them is 12:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, so the night observer is the lucky one who gets to swap out the chart. We then have to fill out additional information on it — averages wind speeds/directions every hour, and the peak wind information. Here’s a picture of a blank graph, and a completed one:
Night observers get the pleasure of taking all 12 observations during their 12 hour shift (Day observes split them and take 6 each). This means we get to do 2 synoptic observations. We have to go outside and collect the precipitation can (pictured below) during the Ob as well as record the Maximum/Minimum Temp, Pressure, 10-min/2-min Wind speed/direction, present weather, etc. This is a typical sight for me as I’m walking out to collect the can. Well… normally with a lot more fog around it:
One of the biggest difference is the amount of people in the building. During the day we have a bustling Sherman Adams building full of hikers and/or people who drove up the auto road. We’re giving tours, going out to take Obs with people on the deck, and communicating with the public. During the night though, it’s kind of just me alone in the Observatory (of course unless an intern decides to do a night with me from time to time). So it’s a lot quieter, and I’d say much more peaceful during the night. I get to play music, and do my work in solidarity. It can be tons of fun and allow me to focus better.
Another question I get is how I adjust from day to night when I start my shift. I don’t keep the night time schedule on my off week, so it takes some time to get myself back into nights when I come up. I’d say I’m completely readjusted by around Friday night. I actually haven’t had a single cup of coffee since I’ve started working, and I hope to keep it that way into the winter! Strange enough though, I also feel more rested when I’m working nights. My body is on a strict schedule of going to bed at 6:30 a.m. and waking up at 3:15 p.m. everyday. Our bodies love having schedules, so I honestly don’t feel tired at all for the rest of my time on the summit. When I’m back home though, I don’t quite follow a strict schedule, so I normally feel more tired at home than when I’m on the summit!
Seeing all the sunrises and sunsets is a joy as well. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job. I’ve loved being the night observer up even more than I thought I would. If you have anymore questions about what I do, or what it’s like up here, please don’t hesitate to message the observatory! I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, see you guys in a few weeks with another one!
Christopher Hohman, Staff Meteorologist/Observer