Why Are We Up Here?

2013-03-22 17:35:08.000 – Mike Dorfman,  Summit Intern

Rime Ice Buildup on the Summit

One of the many questions that we get up here on the summit is ‘Why do you need to hire people to live on the summit when you can have automated stations do the same work?’ Yes, automated stations are quickly replacing the few manual stations that remain however the weather instruments on the summit require constant supervision to assure that they are working properly. Whenever the summit is below freezing and in the fog, something called ‘rime ice’ builds up on everything on the summit. Without the supervision of the summit observers, this ice would quickly entomb all of our instruments, making them extremely inaccurate or even worse, breaking them.

So why have a weather observatory on the summit in the first place? Our hourly observations, when sent to the National Weather Service, help improve weather models and in turn help improve the forecasts many of you look at every day. At 6,288 feet, the conditions on the summit represent a level in the atmosphere that cannot be determined anywhere else in the northeast without the use of weather balloons. In addition, due to the unique topography and location of the Presidential Mountain Range, the summit is a prime location for many different types of atmospheric research studies.

I’ve been guilty of it myself, getting to the summit after a long hike and being disappointed that there are well established buildings. However the benefits that the Observatory offers through atmospheric research and modeling greatly outweigh the view of a man-made building on top of a naturally beautiful summit.

Observer footnote: Thinking about going out for a hike above treeline in New Hampshire? Don’t expect melting snow and spring conditions on the higher summits quite yet! Warm and sunny conditions in the valley can turn quickly into extremely strong wind and bitter cold above treeline. Be sure to make smart decisions and check the Observatory’s Higher Summits Outlook if you’re heading above tree line and the Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s daily avalanche report if you’re heading into avalanche terrain.


Mike Dorfman,  Summit Intern

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