The wind chill at the summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington dropped to minus-108 degrees on Friday, marking what meteorologists and climate scientists say is probably the lowest recorded in the history of the United States at a time when the Northeast is getting battered with dangerously cold air.
Mount Washington wind chill: Minus-108 at New Hampshire mountain lowest reported in US history
The wind chill at Mount Washington, a 6,228-foot peak known for its erratic weather, surpassed the record of minus-102.7 degrees set in 2004. The observatory forecast winds to blow as high as more than 100 mph sustained on Friday night, with gusts around 128 mph.
INSANE conditions on Mt Washington, NH. 120mph+ winds and -95°F wind chill. It is above the tropopause, meaning that these are stratospheric winds.
Footage from the summit live stream 2:30-2:40pm. #nhwx pic.twitter.com/OgDakbNn97
— Peter Forister ❄️💨❄️ (@forecaster25) February 3, 2023
The Mount Washington Observatory tweeted on Friday afternoon how the daily record temperature set in 1963 had already been broken and that temperatures were “expected to plunge even lower overnight.” And it did just that, dropping to minus-108, according to the National Weather Service. (The Mount Washington Observatory clocked the wind chill at minus-109 degrees.)
“The 96 mph winds (gusts to 127 mph) are producing a wind chill of -108 F,” the agency wrote Friday night.
At 8 pm the temperature on the summit of Mount Washington NH was down to -46 F. The coldest temperature ever recorded at this station (-47 on January 29, 1934). Records at @MWObs go back to 1933. The 96 mph winds (gusts to 127 mph) are producing a wind chill of -108 F. pic.twitter.com/1IRsDufZkN
— NWS Eastern Region (@NWSEastern) February 4, 2023
A spokesperson with the Mount Washington Observatory did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday morning.
Francis Tarasiewicz, a meteorologist with the Mount Washington Observatory, told WMUR in Manchester, N.H., that the record-breaking wind chill capped off “an amazing day, an awe-inspiring day and actually a bit of a frightening moment.” Tarasiewicz noted how the strong wind, which he described as “a topsy-turvy whiplash,” blew the hinge off a door at the observatory.
‘Historic Arctic outbreak’ crushes records in New England
The meteorologist, who pleaded with hikers to stay off the trails on Saturday, warned that such extreme wind chills would result in frostbite on exposed skin in less than a minute.
“On some of my observations, there have been tiny little gaps in my mittens and the spot that was uncovered to the wind felt like a bee stinging my arm continuously,” Tarasiewicz said.
The National Weather Service said the temperature at Mount Washington dropped as low as minus-46 degrees on Friday night.
“Right now Mount Washington is living up to the reputation of having the worse weather in the world,” the National Weather Service wrote.
The record-breaking wind chill at Mount Washington is part of the dangerous cold air invading the Northeast that has nearly 50 million Americans in 15 states under wind chill alerts into Saturday. Parts of Maine are going through their most extreme wind chills in at least a generation, while New England cities like Boston, Providence and Bridgeport, Conn., all set record daily lows in temperature, according to the National Weather Service.
The punishing, historic cold invading the Northeast in five maps
Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist based in Alaska, tweeted how the last time the wind chill could have hit at least minus-108 in Mount Washington would have been 138 years ago. Using old climate forms showing the temperature and 24-hour average wind speed, Brettschneider estimated that Mount Washington would have seen a minus-108 wind chill on Jan. 22, 1885.
Today, the Mt. Washington wind chill dropped to -108F. Looking at some old climate forms, on Jan 22, 1885, their temperature dropped to -50F. On that day, their 24-hour average wind speed was 89 mph. An 89 mph wind with a temp of -48F or colder produces a wind chill below -108F.
— Brian Brettschneider (@Climatologist49) February 4, 2023
Meteorologists and weather experts from across the country were blown away by the record-breaking wind chill.
“Mount Washington, New Hampshire, has experienced the most extreme weather on planet Earth today,” wrote Colin McCarthy, a storm watcher based in California.
“Mind-blowing observations from Mount Washington,” said Lee Goldberg, a meteorologist with WABC in New York.
“Woah!” exclaimed Brandon Orr, a meteorologist with WPLG in Miami.
Others on social media noted grappled with the extreme weather they were witnessing at Mount Washington.
“[The] Mount Washington summit looks like another planet,” one observer tweeted.
As weather experts pointed out, Mount Washington found itself in the stratosphere Friday night as the result of a lobe of the polar vortex that barreled south. The atmosphere becomes more compressed as it cools, meaning that the boundary dividing its two lowest layers, the troposphere and the stratosphere, known as the tropopause, will sink in altitude.
That’s what happened on Friday night — said Terry Eliasen, a meteorologist with WBZ in Boston, who noted on Twitter that the atmospheric heights were so low on Friday that anyone above 4,000 feet, such as the summit of Mount Washington — would be in a different atmospheric layer.
“This layer is typically 4-12 miles up, but tonight it will be less than a mile!” he tweeted on Friday alongside a graphic projecting how far the stratosphere would dip.
NERD ALERT…the atmospheric heights will be SO LOW tonight, anyone living above 4,000 ft or so (hello top of Mount Washington) will be in a different atmospheric layer entirely, the stratosphere! This layer is typically 4-12 miles up, but tonight it will be less than a mile! pic.twitter.com/6l6BjE05ZW
— Terry Eliasen (@TerryWBZ) February 3, 2023
By Saturday morning, there was good news and bad news for Mount Washington, according to the observatory.
The good news? The wind chill was no longer minus-108 degrees at the summit.
The bad news? The wind chill was a balmy minus-77 degrees.
Source: Washington Post
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