Mount Washington, NH Saw -73º Windchill and 131-MPH Gust Yesterday

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At -23F, a wind chill of -73F, and winds gusting to 108 mph, with a peak gust earlier of 131 mph, I would say with some confidence that Mt. Washington is still in the throws of winter.

In the heart of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, conditions on Mount Washington on 2nd March, 2021, cemented the mountain’s status as having some of the gnarliest weather in the world. A wind chill of -73ºF and gusts up to 131-mph were recorded yesterday.

At -23F, a wind chill of -73F, and winds gusting to 108 mph, with a peak gust earlier of 131 mph, I would say with some confidence that Mt. Washington is still in the throws of winter.

– Meteorologist Tom Niziol

Many people may wonder how its weather could rival places like Antarctica, Mount Everest, or the Sahara Desert. Mount Washington has the second-fastest wind speed ever recorded on Earth and the fastest wind speed ever recorded by a human at 231 mph (372 kph). It may seem odd that ,there could be a place that is so harsh in the heart of New England, but there are several factors that make for a perfect storm.

mount washington, New Hampshire, weather, windstorm, hurricane,
Mt. Washington, NH. Credit: ime-usa.com

Mount Washington’s Averages and Extremes

  • Fastest Wind Speed: 231 mph (372 kph)
  • Avg. Annual Temperature: 27.3˚F (-2.6˚C)
  • Record High Temperature: 72˚F (22.2˚C)
  • Record Low Temperature: -47˚F (-43.9˚C)
  • Average Precipitation: 96.87 in (246.05 cm)
  • Record Precipitation: 130.14 in (330.6 cm)
  • Average Snowfall: 281.2 in (514.25 cm)
  • Record Snowfall: 566.4 in (1,438.66 cm)

Why is the weather there so extreme? North America has three major wind patterns that flow west to east. These three patterns all happen to converge over the White Mountains. Also, wind travels unimpeded for more than one thousand miles before it reaches the peak of Mount Washington at 6,288 ft (1,916.6 m). This extremely long fetch means that high winds are quite typical as the mountain is significantly taller than any surrounding peaks.

The second factor for wind also has to do with how tall the mountain is compared to its surroundings. The Presidential Range, of which Mount Washington is the highest peak, runs north/south. With Washington in the center of the range, all of the weather gets funneled up and over the summit. As the air flows over the summit,, it gets pinched between the peak and the tropopause, which is the troposphere’s upper boundary. This is known as the Venturi effect. The simplest way of visualizing this effect is to think of it as putting your finger over the end of a garden hose and having the water speed up as it exits the hose.

Living at the summit, observers from the Mount Washington Observatory keep track of the extreme environment. They take hourly weather readings 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With hourly data starting in 1932, the Observatory has some of the best weather records in the world. This data is crucial in understanding our changing climate and what we can expect in the future.

Mount Washington observatory, New Hampshire
Mount Washington observatory, NH

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