Rye NH man at the top of Mount Washington records the world’s worst weather

Living on top of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States, feels like a college dorm, complete with group dinners and evenings around a Nintendo Switch.

That’s according to Charlie Peachey, a Rye man who works as a weather observer and research and IT specialist at the Mount Washington Observatory. Since August 2023, Peachey has alternated weeks living at his family’s home at the foot of the Pulpit Rock Tower in Rye and with his colleagues at the observatory, giving him a front-row seat to extreme weather on 6,000-foot Mount Washington.

Back at sea level, Peachey reminds his friends that he has the longest commute in all of New England for a job unlike any other in New Hampshire. On any given day, the 24-year-old and his colleagues can be hit by triple-digit winds, intense snow and rainfall, and have a front row seat to the Northern Lights – a lifestyle that’s the opposite of lazy days on the beach in Rye. .

“I have come to love each season and how it is different in each location I live,” Peachey said.

Peachey is a graduate of Plymouth State University with a bachelor’s degree in meteorology and a master’s degree in applied meteorology. Within two weeks of completing his senior thesis, he started his job at the observatory last summer, where he had previously interned as part of a grant-funded research program.

Peachey’s family has owned their Rye home for about 80 years, using it as a summer home before he moved in and became a full-time renter. During his weeks in Rye, where he has been visiting and living since he was two months old, he enjoys the waves at Wallis Sands, paddle boarding, fishing and playing ultimate frisbee at the Seacoast, and serves as a volunteer referee for Portsmouth Little League .

What it’s like to work on Mount Washington

Peachey will spend a week at the top of Mount Washington with the other observers and staff, starting and ending on Wednesday. Peachey and his fellow daytime weather observers generally work at the summit from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, filing an hourly weather report with the National Weather Service, making forecasts and performing quality checks on data from the day before. Peachey also speaks to local and regional media when they call for weather updates on the mountain, forming relationships with other meteorologists and journalists.

As the top information technology guru, Peachey is often tasked with troubleshooting any instrument malfunctions, ranging from simply plugging in devices to releasing a foot of water from the observatory’s WiFi box during bad weather.

“It’s a whole series of strange situations that we encounter here that can disrupt the day,” he said.

Peachey is also conducting a research project on summit rain on snow events, studying their frequency, long-term changes, subsequent flooding that may occur and the impact on the environment. The weather observer hopes to have his research published soon.

During the fair-weather break, Peachey and his team hike around the summit and ski in the backcountry, sometimes meeting the Appalachian Mountain Club staff at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. When things turn sour again, the observatory staff spend time with Nimbus, the observatory cat, have “heated” Mario Kart tournaments and share dinner together before retreating to their respective rooms.

Drew Bush, director of the observatory, noted that there are two day weather observers and one night weather observer almost every week, interns and two top volunteers almost every week who cook for the staff and work the top museum in the summer. During the summer, staff size peaks at about eight employees at the summit.

“There’s a lot going on that Charlie’s team has been dealing with, and it’s certainly not easy. We’re a small nonprofit, so I’m really proud of all the work that goes into that,” Bush said.

The goal is to make the Mount Washington Observatory more accessible

Bush was named director of the observatory, which is headquartered in North Conway, in September 2022. Under his watch, the observatory has begun offering more educational programs, attended more than 1,000 students, and conducted research with multiple universities. and could collaborate with the Air Force and Army Corps of Engineers on other research opportunities.

This spring, the observatory will also begin hosting public tours of the weather station at the top of Mount Washington.

“We’re trying to make this unique place and this unique institution that we represent really accessible and available to everyone from young students to faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and the public,” Bush said.

Now almost a year old, alternating between life on the often icy summit and the shores of Rye, Peachey has made many lifelong memories on the mountain.

In May, Peachey was working among the Northern Lights and captured the dazzling Aurora Borealis with his camera. During one shift, he was the only observer when large gusts of wind reached speeds of 140 miles per hour, which he recorded outside while trying to keep his balance. A few weeks later, lightning struck the summit, creating a sound similar to a muffled explosion, causing a temporary panic among the staff.

“It was quite distressing. That was definitely fun when we realized afterwards how close we all were,” Peachey said.

Last February, prior to Peachey’s arrival, Mount Washington broke a record-low air temperature of -46.7 degrees Fahrenheit during a widespread Arctic freeze. Then the mountain experienced heavy precipitation last summer, which Bush said was one of the wettest summers in Mount Washington’s history.

So it goes with what the Mount Washington Observatory labels as home to the world’s worst weather.

“It’s kind of the best of both worlds,” Peachey said.

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