The most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River is Mount Washington. Stationed with the Presidential Range in New Hampshire, it is home to some of the most extreme weather. The mountain is best known for wind, with average speeds of 32 mph. On April 12, 1934, a 231 mph gust was recorded. It was the highest recorded on Earth until 1996, when a 254 mph gust was recorded in Tropical Cyclone Olivia at Barrow Island in Australia.
It is also notorious for extreme cold and precipitation. The coldest temperature was -50°F (-46°C), recorded on January 22, 1885, and it has seen 49.3” of snow in a 24 hour period.
The reason for these extreme conditions lies both in topography and weather patterns. Mountains are always prone to higher wind speeds, but Mount Washington is flanked by ridgelines that surround relatively level ground. These ridges act as a natural funnel, compressing airflow and enhancing wind speed. When air hits the mountain, it gets further compressed by the steep incline of its western face.
The mountain also sits at one of the busiest junctions of low pressure systems on the planet. The origins of these extratropical cyclones are varied, but a majority track toward New England. The pressure differences generated by low pressure systems is what drives wind, which explains why the wind at Mountain Washington averages so high. It is hit by storm after storm, especially in the winter.
…and what does a windy day on Mount Washington look like? Take a look!