It’s often believed that clouds are a Chinese symbol of good luck. Due to their beauty and change in color and shape, it’s thought that they spark people’s imaginations, leading to happiness and good fortune. Here on the summit of Mount Washington, where I spent a summer interning, we are lucky enough to work, live and sleep among the clouds. So, one would think we would be sated with good luck. But quite the contrary is true. Among those in the meteorology world, there is something known as the Weatherman’s Curse, also referred to as a "Weather Hole."
A Weather Hole is a place that doesn’t receive much meteorological activity when it comes to storms. It could be a variation of approaching storms either slightly missing a specific location, or by dissipating before it reaches its destination. Some people believe that this is not by chance, but rather if someone, such as a meteorologist or weather enthusiast, is in an area forecasted to have severe weather, the storm will miss them. Many claim that meteorologists’ hometowns, or areas where a large number of meteorologists live, have significantly fewer storms than surrounding cities, and are disproportionately missed by approaching storms. Naturally, we apply this theory to the summit, where at any given time, there are multiple meteorologists about, fueling the Weatherman’s Curse.
Why does the home of the “world’s worst weather” tend to have storms dissipating and/or missing the summit before it reaches them? This can be explained by statistical behaviors of convection. Due to the topography of the White Mountain Forest, thunderstorms that approach the region tend to killed by their downdraft overcoming its own updraft. Having interned at Mount Washington during the summer of 2016, I have single-handedly witnessed this multiple times. There have been many instances in which the probability of a thunderstorm reaching us was significantly high. We would all become excited—forgetting the curse--and gather in the weather room to watch the incoming storm. We would track it on the radar--closely watching reflectivity increase--and often see the electromagnetic fields rise to levels where lightning was possible. It would seem that the summit would have a wicked thunderstorm, and then, a few moments later, it would either weaken or miss us. One day, in particular, we had spotty thunderstorms around the summit and at two different occasions, it appeared that we would become the target of a storm; and in the moments preceding the expected impact, the storm would venture too far north. As a meteorologist, eager to see severe weather, this was very frustrating.
Is it just pure coincidence that forecasted storms miss the highest peak in the Northeast containing a group of our nation's storm-hungry meteorologist or does the Weatherman’s Curse actually exist? Science has proven there are reasons why certain regions receive less severe weather, but what are the chances of this happening where meteorologists are typically stationed? Studies have been done on the topic, and have, in fact, proven that some areas are known to be weather holes. There are some notable weather hot spots where severe weather hits more frequently such as Tallahassee, FL. Interestingly enough, this has actually proven to be helpful when forecasting storms, because if meteorologists are aware of these unique areas, they can apply knowledge of past events when forecasting upcoming storms.
Given the substantial anecdotes I have just provided, it is now up to you to decide if you believe in the Weatherman’s Curse. Either eager meteorologists have the consistent misfortunate of being in areas with infrequent storms, or meteorologists do, in fact, control the weather! Perhaps if you are aware of a bad storm coming to your area, you should find yourself a meteorologist--they may just be the “bad luck” or “good fortune” you need.
Original article written for Mount Washington Observatory, found here.
Information found in this article is based off of research found here.
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©2017 Weather Forecaster Claudia Pukropski