Figure 1 – Copyright W.Woods
Mount Washington as you may well know is located in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, in the state of New Hampshire in the United States.
Figure 2 – Courtesy of Bing Maps
Mount Washington (called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes) is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288 ft (1,917 m). The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather and on the afternoon of April 12, 1934 a wind gust of 201 knots (231 mph) was recorded at the summit. This stood has the world record for highest wind speed for most of the 20th century, and is still a record for a wind in an extratropical cyclone. The Mount Washington Cog Railway ascends the western slope of the mountain, and the a road climbs to the summit from the east. The mountain is popular with hikers and the Appalachian Trail crosses the summit. Thanks to the Wikipedia article for that information.
Figure 3 – Courtesy of Google Maps
There’s been an observatory on the mountain since 1932, and recently the SYNOP observation from WMO station 72613 have become more available than they have in the past, although they’re still only available for main synoptic hours. I did think of volunteering to do a stint as an observer at the observatory, but never quite managed to submit the application. Volunteering would have been akin to what Victorian meteorologists did back in November 1883 when they started to continuously man the observatory that they had built on top of Ben Nevis. Anyway here is the latest pseudo anemograph (fig 4) that I’ve put together from the last month’s climate data.
A constantly windy place, usually from the west during the last month, with a mean speed usually of force 8 or 9, with occasional periods of force 12 or more, the yellow outlined line in the top chart by the way is the 24 hour mean centred wind speed in knots. It’s a real shame that Mount Washington observatory don’t include a gust group in their SYNOP reports which I download from OGIMET. Of course it could be a very constant high wind speed in a laminar flow with few gusts, but that’s a totally illogical reason for it being omitted. Take a look at Cairngorms anemograph for the same period (fig 5), of course they are around 2,951 miles apart on opposite sides of the North Atlantic Ocean, and Mount Washington at 6,288 feet is 2,204 feet higher than Cairngorm, but it will give you an idea of the gustiness on top of Cairngorm in the last month. Cairngorm does punch well above its weight for its height, and at times the 24 hour mean wind speed was over 60 knots and higher than Mount Washington, this was in mid-December as Storm Barbara and Conor were passing to the north.
Here is a list of some of the raw SYNOPs from Mount Washington for the last month (fig 6). I’ve looked using the WMO manuals for anything resembling a supplementary group that reports the highest gust for a period, but did not find one – let me know if I’m missing something. The odd thing is that although they don’t report a maximum gust they do report a snow depth, which I find very odd given that the mountain is constantly being subjected to storm force and at times hurricane force winds. I would have thought the ground would have been scraped clean of snow, and that the only real snow would exist either in the lee of the observatory buildings or in giant cornices around the edges, which would make snow depth reporting impossible.
Mount Washington is certainly very much colder than Cairngorm is. This is mainly due to the fact that it’s a much higher mountain and even though it’s situated further south at 44° rather than the 57° of latitude Cairngorm is. The other reason it’s colder is that it’s situated on the eastern edge of the North American Continent, and the Pacific Ocean were the prevailing winds are coming from are a very long way indeed, Cairngorm in comparison is probably no more than 60 miles from a comparatively warm North Atlantic Ocean. The thermograph for Mount Washington (fig 7) shows just how exceedingly cold it can get, with Arctic air rushing directly down from Canada in the winter to produce some massive wind chill values, it’s certainly not a mountain to get lost in winter on, and that’s for sure. The other thing to notice in the SYNOPs (fig 6) is how frequently the visibility switches between either excellent (code 89=>70 km) or zero (code 00=<100 M).
If you search the Internet for images of Mount Washington, you may find like I did that they are all heavily copyrighted to protect them, maybe because the whole mountain is now owned by the Florida based CNL Financial Group, who are trying to file a trademark for the name “Mount Washington”. There are many amazing images of a snow, ice and rime covering Mount Washington (in fact if you like rime this is the place to see it), but because I can’t seem to use any of these images freely here’s a list of hyperlinks to some of the best and most interesting ones, you’ll notice that most of them come from the Mount Washington website or Facebook page.