The Thinking 

Peak Winter

January 2, 2010



The summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire has some of the most extreme weather on the planet. The peak is situated in the path of dramatic clashes of air masses, as if it stood between warring gods hurling ice and blocks of frigid air. At 6,288 feet, Washington is higher than the surrounding mountains, unprotected by the sort of frictional interference that would modify conditions on a smaller peak. The other day the wind chill was – 82 Fahrenheit with winds gusting up to 100 miles per hour.

The observers on the summit, who take continuous readings of wind, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity, are envied by weather junkies everywhere. But their lives include many tedious chores. For one, they have to frequently remove rime ice from the instruments. Earlier this week, there was a seven-inch glaze of ice on the anemometer and wind vane.

Staff meteorologist Mike Carmon wrote in the daily journal on December 28:

Temperatures rose through the 20s throughout Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday, and a southeast flow fed plentiful moisture into the region. As a result, glaze ice began to form around 10 p.m. At first, the accumulation was nothing out of the ordinary-about 1-2″ per hour. Then, when I went to the tower for the midnight observation, I could not believe my eyes! There was nearly 7″ of glaze ice coating the posts that I had de-iced approximately one hour before! It was by far the fastest accrual of glaze ice I had seen in my lifetime. The pitot-static anemometer and wind vane were encased in this thick coating. It took many, many whacks of the crowbar to get rid of all of this ice.

The staff journal posted on the observatory’s website is fun to read, especially when you are sitting far below. The meteorologists manage to have their little domestic pleasures up there on one of the most majestic peaks in America. They put on a feast for New Year’s Eve. The nine-course menu included roasted tomato soup, duck breast with Port wine-shallot reduction, and Chateaubriand with Bearnaise sauce.

Share:Email this to someoneShare on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0