Why the Worst Weather on Earth Is in New Hampshire (Ross Pomeroy, December 7, 2023, Big Think)

Standing 6,288 feet above sea level, Mount Washington is positively short compared to the rampant “fourteeners” of the West’s Rocky Mountains. It is, however, the tallest mountain for about a thousand miles, looming large over the surrounding terrain. And its horrid weather firmly trounces that of any grander peak.

Kenneth Jones, a longtime board member for the Mount Washington Observatory, which sits atop the mountain, ardently defends the area’s claim to the worst weather on Earth. It combines rain, cold, and wind as no other place does, he says. Sure, there are places like Antarctica’s Vostok Station, which the Russians claim is the “coldest and most inhospitable place in the world,” that are chillier. But Vostok gets almost no precipitation and has winds that blow at a pitiful average of just 11 mph (18 kph). And many other locations are wetter, but they aren’t nearly as cold or windy.

Mount Washington, on the other hand, has it all. The annual average temperature there is 27°F (–2.8°C), with a winter average of 7°F (–13.9°C), and a record low of –47°F (–43.9°C). This frigid air combines with gusty winds to chill visitors’ bones. The average annual wind speed is 35 mph (56 kph), and winds are at or above hurricane force (at least 74 mph, or 119 kph) every other day on average in winter. Then there’s the copious precipitation: about 100 inches (254 cm) of rain and 281 inches (714 cm) of snow each year, with fog cover about 60 percent of the time.

For nearly 62 years, Mount Washington held the record for the fastest measured wind gust over the surface of the Earth: 231 mph (372 kph). It was dethroned in 1996 by winds from Typhoon Ophelia at Barrow Island, Australia, which clocked in at an astounding 253 mph (407 kph). Mount Washington also has the record for the lowest recorded wind chill in the US, –109°F (–78°C), set earlier this year when the ambient temperature was –47°F (–43.9°C) and the winds howled at 122 mph (196 kph). Such conditions would cause exposed skin and the underlying tissues to freeze in a couple of minutes.