New England's Mount Everest

An investigator inspects the remains of a window shattered by a bullet that struck a family court judge in Reno, Nev. Monday, June 12, 2006. Judge Chuck Weller was standing near the window of his third floor office in the Mills B. Lane Justice Center when he was shot in the chest. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Take a trip to possibly the worst weather spot on Earth. CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman has the view from the summit of Mount Washington.

And, read his related story, a first-person account in which he explains that reporting about the weather doesn't always go as planned.
There's only one way to get to the top of New Hampshire's Mount Washington this time of year, and even that's not guaranteed. (The only way up is by Snow Cat.)

"The weather can be really violent up here," says one observer. "Sometimes, there's days when people just don't belong up here."

The eight-mile journey passes quickly from forest to frozen tundra. By the time you've reached the weather observatory at the peak, you could easily have arrived at the South Pole.

MT Washington Wildcard

Scientists from around the world come here for one reason: the weather. This is where three major storm tracks converge, creating a unique climate. Temperatures routinely reach 30 degrees below. Thick ice coats everything in minutes.

"We experience high winds, low temperatures, very bad visibility, lots of fog," says Ken Rancourt of the Mount Washington Observatory. "For that reason, this is a natural laboratory," he adds.

Colorado scientists have the Rocky Mountains in their back yard, but Mount Washington offers them something they can't find at home.

They're trying to develop a new system for the nation's airports, to accurately measure snowfall in high winds.

Roy Rasmussen of the National Center for Atmospheric Research has been testing in Boulder, Colo., where, "we don't get high winds very often," he says. "On Mount Washington, we can come out here for a couple of months and get all the information we need in a very short time."

Mount Washington is known for its weather. But what it's really known for is the wind, 70 mph one out of three days, nearly hurricane strength.

And that's just the beginning. Showing a chart from Dec. 4, 1980, Rancourt says, "We hit 187 mph....The wind was off the chart."

But it was not as far off the charts as in 1932, when winds reached a staggering 237 mph, still the highest wind speed ever recorded on Earth.

Is it the windiest spot? "There are very few places that have higher average annual wind speeds," Rancourt says. "So yeah, Mount Everest is probably windier....But no one's there."

And that's why people come to the observatory: to get a slice of Mount Everest in the heart of New England.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter