This is going to be the type of entry that I feel the need to preface with a disclaimer. The opinions that I state here are my opinions, and mine alone. They do not represent the opinions of AccuWeather, Inc., AccuWeather.com, or my employer, the non-profit Mount Washington Observatory.
With that out of the way, I wanted to talk about a topic that I've been thinking a lot about lately, mostly because of Hurricane Irene. I've always been a fan of 'keeping things in perspective', a phrase that I find myself using quite a bit. By that, I mean not making a big deal about something unless it warrants having a big deal made about it. Although I apply this concept to a lot of areas of my life, it is especially applicable to my career (weather) as well as in the place I work (Mount Washington) and the position I hold here (weather observer and education specialist).
The 'education specialist' part of my position means that I work hard to fulfill the educational component of our mission as a non-profit organization. This means giving tours to members, school groups, and other large groups. It also means interacting with classrooms of children from grades 4-12 through our Distance Learning Program. Lastly, it means being the point person on my respective shift for communicating with media requests that we receive. We often get a lot of these media requests during or after a notable weather event, or something that the media perceives as a notable weather event.
See, it's particularly important to keep things in proper perspective when you work and live in a place where things that occur on a nearly day-to-day basis are things that most people in this world would consider unusual, extreme, or even incredible. No doubt about it, Mount Washington is all of those things, but that doesn't mean that just because a particular weather event is extreme and incredible automatically makes it unusual, out of the ordinary, or unprecedented. This is especially true when it comes to Mount Washington. When I interact with the public and with classrooms, and talk about current conditions on the mountain, I always make sure to relate it to what we would consider average. For example, lets say that I am talking to a classroom, it's late September, and the temperature is 28 degrees, winds are blowing 70 mph, and it's sleeting. Chances are, the kids in that classroom are going to have an initial reaction of something like, 'wow, that's crazy!'. They're right, it is crazy. It's not unusual though. This is when I would tell them about how an average day that time of year sees temperatures in the mid 30's with winds around 30-40 mph. We also typically see our first measurable snowfall late in the month of September. On top of all that, the temperature would have to drop all the way down to the lower teens in order for us to start challenging records. At the same time, I try to never take away from how incredible and unique of place Mount Washington is, and how truly extreme the weather can get. However I feel that it is very important for people to understand what is normal. Also, a big pet peeve of mine is making a deal out of something that isn't a big deal.
That's where Hurricane Irene comes in. On Mount Washington, it wasn't a big deal. Yes, it was windy. The peak gust for the storm was 120 mph which is certainly significant. However, consider that during the last 4+ years that I have spent living and working on Mount Washington, I have experienced a wind speed of that magnitude at least 8 to 10 times, none of which were associated with a hurricane or other tropical system. Yes, it rained a lot, and this is actually one aspect of Irene that will leave somewhat of a legacy on the mountain. A total of 6.66 inches of rain was measured for the 24 hour period of August 28th, breaking the 24 hour liquid precipitation record for the month of August. The previous record was 6.63 inches set back in 1991.
Although Irene wasn't really a big deal in our little piece of the world here on the tallest peak in the Northeastern United States, it was undeniably a big deal for certain portions of the east coast and interior New England. Some of those interior New England locations will be feeling the effects of the incredible flash flooding that occurred with Irene for years to come as roads are repaired, bridges are replaced, and homes are rebuilt. My heart goes out to those people, and I feel very lucky to have made it through the storm without so much as losing power.
This is starting to get to be a pretty long entry, and I'm sure of you are thinking, 'ok, what's your point?'. Simply stated, I think as meteorologists who forecast the weather and interact with the public, that we have a responsibility to keep things in perspective. Warn people, prepare people, save lives, but don't make them think it's the end of the world if it isn't. Because, in the end, a bigger problem is created when people are made to think that every storm that affects them is going to devastate them; they won't be paying attention when a storm that truly will have a profound affect on their lives actually does come along.
After 250 entries in this blog (including this one), this will be may last.
As I prepare to leave the Observatory in a few days, this is the sixth and final part in a series of posts the will showcase my favorite pictures that have taken on Mount Washington over the last 5+ years I have lived and worked there. Today I will show a number of pictures that didn't fit into any of the previously presented categories.
As I prepare to leave the Observatory in a few days, this is the first part in a series of posts the will showcase my favorite pictures that have taken on Mount Washington over the last 5+ years I have lived and worked there. Today's post is about the cats that have called Mount Washington their home while I worked there.
As I prepare to leave the Observatory in a few days, this is the fourth in a series of posts the will showcase my favorite pictures that have taken on Mount Washington over the last 5+ years I have lived and worked there. Today I will share some pictures from my backcountry skiing adventures during the time I have lived on the mountain.
As I prepare to leave the Observatory in a few days, this is the third part in a series of posts the will showcase my favorite pictures that have taken on Mount Washington over the last 5+ years I have lived and worked there. Today's post will share some photos that were taken during some particularly memorable storms.
As I prepare to leave the Observatory in a few days, this is the second in a series of posts the will showcase my favorite pictures that have taken on Mount Washington over the last 5+ years I have lived and worked there. Today's topic is clouds and optical phenomena.