The Mount Washington Observatory Regional Mesonet: A Technical Overview of a Mountain-Based Mesonet

Brian J. Fitzgerald aMount Washington Observatory, North Conway, New Hampshire

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J. Broccolo aMount Washington Observatory, North Conway, New Hampshire

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K. Garrett aMount Washington Observatory, North Conway, New Hampshire

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Abstract

The Mount Washington Observatory Regional Mesonet (MWRM) is a network of 18 remote meteorological monitoring stations (as of 2022), including the Auto Road Vertical Profile (ARVP), located across the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire. Each station measures temperature and relative humidity, with additional variables at many locations. All stations need to withstand the frequent combination of intense cold, high precipitation amounts, icing, and hurricane-force winds in a mountain environment. Due to these challenges, the MWRM employs rugged instrumentation, an innovative radio-communications relay approach, and carefully selected sites that balance ideal measuring environments with station survivability. Data collected from the MWRM are used operationally by forecasters (including Mount Washington Observatory and National Weather Service staff) to validate model guidance, by alpine and climate scientists, by recreationalists accessing conditions in the backcountry, by groups operating on the mountain (Cog Railway, toll Auto Road), and by search and rescue organizations. This paper provides a detailed description of the network, with emphasis on how the challenging climate and terrain of this mountain region impacts sensor selection, site maintenance, and overall operation.

Significance Statement

The mountain environment is a heterogeneous landscape, and interactions between the atmosphere and terrain can cause a wide variety of conditions across time and space. Our network of remote stations at different elevations across the White Mountains allows data users to understand how the weather varies spatially across the mountain range where conditions on higher peaks can be drastically, and dangerously, different. Sharing information about the MWRM can help other groups establish networks in similar challenging environments, and broaden our understanding of weather and climate in mountainous regions.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Brian J. Fitzgerald, bfitzgerald@mountwashington.org

Abstract

The Mount Washington Observatory Regional Mesonet (MWRM) is a network of 18 remote meteorological monitoring stations (as of 2022), including the Auto Road Vertical Profile (ARVP), located across the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire. Each station measures temperature and relative humidity, with additional variables at many locations. All stations need to withstand the frequent combination of intense cold, high precipitation amounts, icing, and hurricane-force winds in a mountain environment. Due to these challenges, the MWRM employs rugged instrumentation, an innovative radio-communications relay approach, and carefully selected sites that balance ideal measuring environments with station survivability. Data collected from the MWRM are used operationally by forecasters (including Mount Washington Observatory and National Weather Service staff) to validate model guidance, by alpine and climate scientists, by recreationalists accessing conditions in the backcountry, by groups operating on the mountain (Cog Railway, toll Auto Road), and by search and rescue organizations. This paper provides a detailed description of the network, with emphasis on how the challenging climate and terrain of this mountain region impacts sensor selection, site maintenance, and overall operation.

Significance Statement

The mountain environment is a heterogeneous landscape, and interactions between the atmosphere and terrain can cause a wide variety of conditions across time and space. Our network of remote stations at different elevations across the White Mountains allows data users to understand how the weather varies spatially across the mountain range where conditions on higher peaks can be drastically, and dangerously, different. Sharing information about the MWRM can help other groups establish networks in similar challenging environments, and broaden our understanding of weather and climate in mountainous regions.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Brian J. Fitzgerald, bfitzgerald@mountwashington.org
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