Wind Speed on Mount Washington

2013-05-16 16:17:01.000 – Mike Dorfman,  Weather Observer

Our Pitot Static Anemometer

You may have heard about our extreme weather here on the summit, including our previous world record wind speed of 231 miles per hour recorded in April of 1934. Many other observatories in less extreme environments use propeller anemometers or other spinning anemometers to determine wind speed, but this does not work on Mt Washington, thanks to a weather phenomenon called rime ice. Rime ice builds on every exposed surface on the summit when we are in the clouds and below freezing, forming feathers of opaque ice. This would quickly build on the moving parts of traditional anemometers and easily make them inaccurate and break them.

In order to successfully record extremely strong winds in harsh environments like Mt Washington, the observatory turned to a device commonly used to record airspeed on airplanes, called a Pitot Tube. This device determines wind speed by directly measuring the force exerted by the wind in a small tube. With no moving parts and surfaces that can be easily heated, this piece of technology works very well on the summit.

If you’re driving through the area, you should visit the spectacular summit! If you’re a member, you can get a tour of the observatory and get up close and personal with our Pitot Static anemometer. You can even be the highest person standing on solid ground in the northeast during the tour (our tower is slightly higher than the geographic summit). I hope to see you this summer!


Mike Dorfman,  Weather Observer

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