Winter Weather In April
2014-04-24 21:05:56.000 – Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Meteorologist
While most locations in New England experience four seasons, the summit seems to only have three (in my opinion) and all of them deal with colors – the white season, the green season, and the brown season. The white season is that of ‘winter’ where snow/ice/rime coat everything, the green season is that of late spring/early summer when the sedge finally greens up and alpine flowers bloom, and brown season is that of late summer and early fall as everything becomes dormant again. While we have ‘three’ seasons, unlike most locations, there really isn’t a set date that any of these seasons start or end. If you look at our 80+ years of data, the summit has seen an inch or more of snow for every month of the year. Temperature-wise, record highs have been above freezing every month of the year and record lows have all been below freezing every month of the year. Moreover, 100 mph gusts have and typically do occur every month of the year. So, while some people were shocked to see a picture of rime ice and nearly 6 inches of snow this morning along with temperatures in the teens with winds as high as 106 mph, to someone like myself who has been here over eight years, it was just another April day.
To show you what I mean, let me provide you with some April stats. For April, the normal monthly average temperature is 23.9F (-4C) with average daily temperatures varying from 18F (-8C) on the first of the month and increasing to 30F (-1C) by the 30th. In fact, the record low for today is 0F (-18C) , so today’s temperatures in the teens are far from record setting. Snowfall-wise, the normal monthly average is 35.6 inches however, our record maximum monthly total has been as high as 110.9 inches for the month measured back in 1988. And before you say it is unusual to see ‘this much snow’ (our 6 inches in the past 24 hours) this late in the month, one only has to go back to April 2010 to see that 21.5 inches fell on the summit on April 27/28 of that year – a higher total than today’s and later in the month. Looking at the long range forecasts, it is likely we will see several more inches falling in the coming days. And as far as the 100+ mph winds, one only has to go back to April 23, 2009 to see that the summit received a gust of 118 mph which makes our peak gust of 106 mph (so far) not that far out of the realm of possibilities.
The main reason I am pointing all this out though is to show casual observers and hikers that this winteresque weather is closer to normal than abnormal for the summit this time of year. Yes, April can see mild days with low winds, moderate temperatures, and sunny skies but as we transition from the white season to the green season so to say, the summit can and will continue to see high winds, freezing temperatures, and fog mixing with snow. Therefore, if you are planning to hike/ski/snowboard this time of year, you should continue to check the current summit conditions, the higher summits forecast, and the Mount Washington Avalanche Centers avalanche advisories so you are well prepared and safe on any given day in the backcountry. Spring-like conditions in the morning can quickly turn to winter-like conditions in the afternoon. So, while the mountain continues to transition from one season to another, keep in mind that a bad weather day will likely transition to a ‘good’ weather day in a day or two, so just postpone your trip so that you can enjoy the mountain environment just a bit more.
Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Meteorologist