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6 February 2017

Mount Washington Observatory Announces ‘Arctic Wednesdays’ Educational Programme

Mount Washington Observatory        - Img: MWO
It’s been dubbed the ‘Home of the World’s Worst Weather’, and now a select group of New Hampshire educators will get the chance to experience the challenging landscape of Mount Washington first-hand, as observatory staff prepare to launch their new pilot educational programme – Arctic Wednesdays.

The Mount Washington Observatory, situated in North Conway, West Hampshire, regularly experiences temperatures far below zero; alongside heavy precipitation, snowfall and winds, this makes the weather around the Mount Washington Summit extreme to say the least, and potentially deadly for the improperly prepared. These same conditions also make it a crucial research site for meteorology and climatology, among other disciplines.

Temperatures (°F) at the Mount Washington Observatory, averaged over the period of 1981-2010 (+ extremes since 1933)   - Img: MWO
The new pilot programme will see two area science teachers, selected from different schools and grade levels, journey along with the observatory team as they make their weekly commute via snowcat up to the peak. The teachers will then stay with the team at the facility in order to gain further insight into the work carried out at the observatory. They will be expected to not only shadow the facility’s own observers but also take their own weather measurements for analysis before sharing their experience with students via videoconference.

Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Education at Mount Washington Observatory, told the Conway Daily Sun, "We have been talking with teachers in the region to identify how we can work more collaboratively and take a more active role in supporting their STEM efforts,

"Teachers and their students will have the opportunity to learn about how weather and climate is measured in one of the most unique weather stations on the planet."

During the teachers’ stay at the observatory, the facility’s own educational staff will serve as academic advisors as they delve into study of the weather and climate of Mount Washington. During their stay, the teachers will make use of a Kestrel 5000 Environmental Meter to gather data on 11 different environmental parameters, including temperature, humidity, wind speed and barometric pressure.

The programme has been made possible thanks to financial support from various sponsors and donors. These include Kestrel Weather Meters, who provided the environmental meters the teachers will use, alongside additional support from White Mountain Oil and Propane, The Kiwanis Club of Mount Washington Valley and an unnamed ‘long- time friend and member of the Observatory’.

If successful, the Observatory is hoping to extend the program in future, offering the same experience to many more local educators and, by extension, students.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.