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Meteorologist at New Hampshire's Mt. Washington: Extreme Weather Studies [INTERVIEW] [EXCLUSIVE]

Nov 23, 2015 03:56 PM EST
Ice rime on Mt. Washington Observatory, New Hampshire, April 2004
A meteorologist at the site of one of the world's most extreme weather, Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire's White Mountains, recently spoke with us about weather and 231-mph wind records.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Mike Carmon is a meteorologist -- he studies the Earth's atmosphere and weather -- on a 6,289-foot mountain-top in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Mt. Washington Observatory (MWO). It is the East Coast's "most prominent" mountain and as so, the site of lots of record-breaking wild weather and research. In 1934, Mt. Washington clocked a wind of 231 mph, which stood as a record for nearly 62 years.

Two years before in 1932, the area had become an official laboratory for studying weather, extreme conditions, and science--although scientists first tried out the summit for that purpose in 1870.

Carmon is from central New Jersey and has worked at MWO since 2009. He shares his role as Co-Director of Summit Operations with Kaitlyn O'Brien, who also has a B.S. in Meteorology. Right now, Mt. Washington has an inch or two of snow and ice, says Carmon, who notes that winter has been a stop-and-start affair so far this season. Nature World News recently talked with Carmon.

1. As a meteorologist, how excited were you to begin working at the site of such extreme weather? I was ecstatic just to be up here for a temporary internship in 2009--and to get a longer-term job was that much more exciting. I did the night shift for about four years. I have learned that this is the limit for cold weather for me, but it's common for other meteorologists to go to Antarctica or Alaska after finishing up at Mt. Washington. Winter here lasts a fairly solid six months.

2. What's a big part of your work? We're up here to take weather observations -- we go outside every hour in any conditions, to make sure that all of our instrumentation works. Last night we had an issue with our wind instruments; we weren't getting correct readings for various reasons. Pretty much the whole staff was outside around 9 p.m. making sure that wires were correctly attached and that ice wasn't clogging things. You're always kind of on call here no matter what time of day or night it is; if things break, you need to fix them.

3. What tricks of weather have you seen in the last 30 days? Two or three weeks ago, we had our first major wind storm of the season. Summer's a little bit calmer. This was our first 100 mph wind gusts of the season. We peaked out at 123 mph; exciting. We were outside kind of playing around in the wind, and it was kind of a fun day to be up here.

4. What are other ways you take advantage of living in the White Mountains? I've definitely gotten into summer and winter hiking since I started here. I'd never hiked before this, but I just finished my last summit of the three 4000-footers in the White Mountains.

5. Do you have company other than humans on the summit? The cat Marty has been up here a little over eight years, I believe. We've always had cats at the observatory going back to 1932. In the past, it was for rodent control. Now, because we're up here for a week at a time and are away from friends and family, having Marty here kind of adds that homey feeling.

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-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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