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Peter Sinks, UT Climate


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Peter Sinks are a series of three "sinks" or depressions without an outlet (referred to as dolines geologically) located in the Bear River Range of northern Utah between Logan and Bear Lake. They are known as one of the coldest spots in the lower 48 with a record low of -69 recorded in Feb 1985 (one degree shy of Lower 48 US record). The area has a reverse-treeline (lower portion of sinks have no trees due to cold temperatures rather than lack of moisture).

Campbell Scientific has partnered with Utah State University's Utah Climate Center since 2010 in a project to monitor conditions at the sinks. Here it is my aim to explore the data we have received since 2010 as well as the prior records from broken periods of observation dating back to the 1980s.

All-time record lows at Peter Sinks (since 1985), temperatures recorded at "Peter Sink" (north sink) unless otherwise noted:

Jan: -66 on 1/31/1985
Feb: -69 on 2/1/1985
Mar: -52 in 2002 (early month) at Middle Sink
Apr: -41 on 4/1/2008 at Middle Sink
May: -19 in 1983

Jun: 3 in 2001
Jul: 15 in 1984
Aug: 7 in 2005
Sep: -10 in 2000 (late Sept 2000 cold wave)
Oct: -32 in 2002 (probably Oct 31st)
Nov: -47 in 2003 at Middle Sink
Dec: -57 on 12/23/1990

Coldest lows since Campbell Scientific instrumentation installed in 2010. Note that none of the records from pre-Campbell era have been broken yet  (edit: New record low for July was set in 2015), however the period of record is only 2010-2016 thus far.

Jan: -46 on 1/13/2013 and 1/14/2013
Feb: -46 on 2/22/2010
Mar: -40 on 3/25/2013
Apr: -26 on 4/7/2010
May: -13 on 5/7/2010
Jun: 10 on 6/17/2011
Jul: 13 on 7/29/2015
Aug: 14 on 8/4/2016
Sep: 9 on 9/12/2012
Oct: -21 on 10/28/2010
Nov: -44 on 11/16/2014
Dec: -51 on 12/31/2014

Monthly mean High/Low temperatures based on Jan 2010-Feb 2015 data

Jan: 28.7 | -4.1
Feb: 29.1 | -6.2
Mar: 37.5 | 3.3
Apr: 41.9 | 9.9
May: 50.5 | 21.7
Jun: 62.6 | 28.4
Jul: 73.8 | 35.9
Aug: 71.7 | 34.8
Sep: 63.9 | 26.9
Oct: 49.5 | 19.7
Nov: 34.4 | 5.8
Dec: 27.0 | -3.9
Annual: 47.6 | 14.4

Let's also look at some other interesting stats, first the WARMEST low temperature recorded each month (2010-Feb 2015) at Peter Sinks:

Jan: 28
Feb: 34
Mar: 35
Apr: 35
May: 40
Jun: 44
Jul: 55
Aug: 51
Sep: 50
Oct: 37
Nov: 34
Dec: 31

There have been relatively few occurrences of lows at or above 50 degrees:

55 on Jul 16, 2013
52 on Jul 10, 2014

51 on Aug 23, 2013

51 on Jul 19, 2011

50 on Aug 4, 2014
50 on Jul 29, 2014

50 on Sep 11, 2013

50 on Aug 26, 2013

50 on Jul 31, 2011

50 on Jul 28, 2010

Warmest high temperatures each month (2010-Feb 2015):

Jan: 49
Feb: 46
Mar: 54
Apr: 66
May: 70
Jun: 83
Jul: 83
Aug: 82
Sep: 77

Oct: 75
Nov: 62
Dec: 45

Like many high elevation locations the temperature at Peter Sinks in wintertime is modulated by subsidence inversions with the warmest temperatures in winter months experienced during periods of strong upper level ridging. Overnight lows however are modulated by wind...to achieve decoupling the wind must go calm at the sink floor, any wind (even 5 mph) will result in too much mixing and keep temperatures from falling much lower than on the rim. The temperature profile can easily decouple during periods of upper level ridging however, which results in some staggering diurnal temperature ranges, the largest of which was 74 degrees on Feb 22, 2010 (high of 28, low of -46).

I will continue this thread by adding brief monthly summaries for Peter Sinks (mean high/low, warmest high/low and other interesting statistics as they happen).
 

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I was keeping my own sort of half-assed handwritten weather records before any of you were sperm yet    

Thanks Chris; that's the conclusion I have as well.   The 10C/18F temperature change for similar altitudes in New England vs. Mt Rainier just wouldn't be enough to compensate for the altitude.  That w

Just jumping in here real quick. But the summit of Mt. Rainier is about 2.5 km heigher than Mt. Washington (1900 to 4400m). If there were an identical atmosphere over the two mountains, using the stan

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Let's compare locations with mean minimum temperatures below zero in January for stations in the western US and see which are as cold or colder than Peter Sinks. I seem to recall a few in Colorado that are slightly colder on average (although absolute minima are likely warmer than Peter Sinks at those locations). I'll use 1981-2010 normals where available and POR normals for areas with less than 30 years of data. Italics indicate value estimated using 1981-2010 PRISM dataset, not official NCDC values.

 

 

-11.0 Embarrass, MN (for comparison), coldest in lower 48.

-10.3 Creede WTP, CO

-7.6 Crested Butte, CO

-7.5 Taylor Park, CO

-7.1 Darwin Ranch, WY

-7.0 Boulder Rearing Stn, WY

-6.9 Gunnison 3SW, CO
-5.6 Antero Rsvr, CO

-5.2 Rio Grande Rsvr, CO

-5.2 Mt Rainier Summit, WA

-4.5 Daniel Fish Hatchery, WY

-4.3 Silverton, CO
-4.1 Peter Sinks, UT

-4.0 Big Piney, WY

-3.7 Pikes Peak Summit, CO

-3.5 Hermit 7ESE, CO

-3.1 Bondurant, WY

-2.7 Alamosa 2S, CO

-2.7 Cochetopa Creek, CO

-2.5 Westby, MT

-2.5 La Barge, WY

-2.3 Copper Basin, ID (RAWS 1986-2010)

-2.2 Waverly 1W, CO

-1.9 Medicine Lake 3SE, MT

-1.8 Fraser, CO

-1.7 Stanley, ID

-1.7 Alamosa Bergman Fld, CO

-1.7 Lake George 8SW, CO

-1.7 Monte Vista 2W, CO

-1.7 Sage 4NNW, WY

-1.5 Opheim 12SSE, MT

-1.5 Shirley Basin, WY

-1.3 Kremmling, CO

-1.3 Harbison Meadow, CO

-1.1 Blue Mesa Lake, CO

-1.1 Williams Fork Dam, CO

-1.0 Grand Teton Summit, WY

-0.7 Scobey 4NW, MT

-0.4 Snake River, WY

-0.3 Wolf Point Intl Ap, MT

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Just found this chart which breaks down the absolute minimums recorded at Peter Sinks with records for the lower 48...Peter Sinks has beaten several and challenges several others.

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Very interesting Chris.   I am a mountain weather buff (I spend most of my free times in the mountains) and have long been interested in Peters Sink.

 

There are other cold air basins (Peters Sink in unique since it has no outlet) in the Rocky Mountains that can be found either by intention or accident.  I've stumbled upon many and have recorded some really cold (especially in summer temperatures) in them.   For example, I have recorded a 10F in August in Quinnabaugh Meadows in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana and a 15F at Amethyst Lake in July in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, which matches the 15F record at Peters Sink.  For the event at Quinnabaugh Meadows, it actually froze my 2 liter waterbottle close to solid.

 

Sometimes in winter you can walk through these cold air sinks and valleys and notice the changes in temperatures and see the trees much more frosted with ice fog, though I've never recorded any temperatures in winter close to the ones in Peters Sink.

 

Anyway, I would be really interested in hearing where you got the 1981-2010 PRISM dataset data for Mount Rainier, Pikes Peak, and Grand Teton.  I am also interested in mountain top temperatures and have created the following webpage:

 

http://www.summitpost.org/interesting-weather-statistics-for-us-mountain-summits/171585

I would like to get some more complete information for Rainier and Pikes Peak as well as any data for the Grand Teton or any other mountain summits.  

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Scott you can get the PRISM values here: http://prismmap.nacse.org/nn/

 

Just enter coordinates in decimal format and select either time series (enter start and end years) or normals. The resolution is 2.5 minutes of Lat/Lon. For time series the elevation of the grid point is noted. While this isn't as good as having an actual station it provides a decent estimate for remote areas.

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This is one of the more popular "found by Google" pages on the forums. It would be nice to trek out there and set up some cheap temp sensors and record the inversion from the rim to the basin.

 

 

Already being monitored: http://twdef.usu.edu/Peter_Sinks/Sinks.html

 

 

 

 

 

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Peter Sinks Climate Data - 2016 (so far)

Monthly average high/low...extreme high/extreme low for 2016

....................Jan....Feb.....Mar....Apr....May....Jun....Jul.....Aug

Avg High......24.6...32.1...34.1...42.6...50.0...70.0...74.9...74.4

Avg Low.......-7.5...-1.6....5.7.....14.6....21.6...30.4...30.4...25.7

Max High......36.....45......46......56......62.....81.....83......79

Min Low.......-41....-28.....-29.....-9.......6......17......17......14

Coldest low: -41 on Jan 1st.

Warmest low: 46 on Jul 31st

 

Nights above freezing (32):

Jan: 0 (warmest 20)
Feb: 0 (warmest 29)
Mar: 0 (warmest 22)
Apr: 0 (warmest 30)
May: 2 (warmest 33)
Jun: 9 (warmest 44)
Jul: 11 (warmest 46)
Aug: 4 (warmest 37)
Total: 26 (through Aug)

Nights below zero:

Jan: 20
Feb: 14
Mar: 10
Apr: 3
May: 0

Jun: 0

Jul: 0

Aug: 0
Total: 47

Noteworthy records:

* 2016 so far has fewest number of above-freezing lows of any year on record (2010-present)
* Coldest low recorded in Aug since 2010: 14 on Aug 4, 2016 (previous record 18)

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Let's compare locations with mean minimum temperatures below zero in January for stations in the western US and see which are as cold or colder than Peter Sinks. I seem to recall a few in Colorado that are slightly colder on average (although absolute minima are likely warmer than Peter Sinks at those locations). I'll use 1981-2010 normals where available and POR normals for areas with less than 30 years of data. Italics indicate value estimated using 1981-2010 PRISM dataset, not official NCDC values.

 

 

-11.0 Embarrass, MN (for comparison), coldest in lower 48.

-10.3 Creede WTP, CO

-7.6 Crested Butte, CO

-7.5 Taylor Park, CO

-7.1 Darwin Ranch, WY

-7.0 Boulder Rearing Stn, WY

-6.9 Gunnison 3SW, CO

-5.6 Antero Rsvr, CO

-5.2 Rio Grande Rsvr, CO

-5.2 Mt Rainier Summit, WA

-4.7 Peter Sinks, UT (2010-2016 data)

-4.5 Daniel Fish Hatchery, WY

-4.3 Silverton, CO

-4.0 Big Piney, WY

-3.7 Pikes Peak Summit, CO

-3.5 Hermit 7ESE, CO

-3.1 Bondurant, WY

-2.7 Alamosa 2S, CO

-2.7 Cochetopa Creek, CO

-2.5 Westby, MT

-2.5 La Barge, WY

-2.3 Copper Basin, ID (RAWS 1986-2010)

-2.2 Waverly 1W, CO

-1.9 Medicine Lake 3SE, MT

-1.8 Fraser, CO

-1.7 Stanley, ID

-1.7 Alamosa Bergman Fld, CO

-1.7 Lake George 8SW, CO

-1.7 Monte Vista 2W, CO

-1.7 Sage 4NNW, WY

-1.5 Opheim 12SSE, MT

-1.5 Shirley Basin, WY

-1.3 Kremmling, CO

-1.3 Harbison Meadow, CO

-1.1 Blue Mesa Lake, CO

-1.1 Williams Fork Dam, CO

-1.0 Grand Teton Summit, WY

-0.7 Scobey 4NW, MT

-0.4 Snake River, WY

-0.3 Wolf Point Intl Ap, MT

Updated Peter Sinks mean January low (2010-2016 data)

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Updated Peter Sinks mean January low (2010-2016 data)

 

Interesting, but if you compare the data for the same years for those other stations (2010-2016) Embarrass has dropped way down the list.   The past few years 2010-2016 have had some warm winters (if it weren't for 2014, Embarrass would just barely beat Peters Sink).

 

Using the NOW Data from NOAA for 2010-2016 for those stations (the same years chosen for Peters Sink), here are some differences (with the example of Embarrass shown):

 

http://www.summitpost.org/images/medium/982247.JPG

 

The order changes somewhat when just 2010-2016 is looked at and Peter Sinks moves up the list:

 

Taylor Park = -9.4

Crested Butte = -8.2

Gunnison = -7.9

Embarrass, MN = -7.8

Peter Sinks = -4.7

Antero Reservoir = -4.5

Boulder Rearing Station = -4.2

 

In addition to Minnesota, the Wyoming stations for 2010-2016 haven't been nearly as cold as the 1981-2010 averages.

 

Big Piney for example, has only averaged -0.5, much warmer than the 1981-2010 average of -4.0.

 

http://www.summitpost.org/images/medium/982253.JPG

 

Had their been a 1981-2010 average for Peter Sinks, it is possible that it also could have been colder than the 2010-2016 average. 

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The problem is, 2010-2016 is merely 7 years. That's not nearly long enough for averaging purposes. A few historically warm winters in there, too, for Embarass, MN (2012 and 2016 were both in the top-4 warmest on record).

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It would certainly appear they are in the same boat as the NW for lack of record cold this century. 

 

Nice to see a station in WA makes the list for coldest mean minimum in the US.  I've always figured Rainier kicks Mt Washington's arse.  I wasn't aware they had an official sensor at the top.

Death To Warm Anomalies!

 

Winter 2019-20 stats

 

Total Snowfall = 3.7"

Day with 1" or more snow depth = 3

Total Hail = T

Coldest Low = 20

Lows 32 or below = 60

Highs 32 or below = 0

Lows 20 or below = 1

Highs 40 or below = 10

 

 

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6.8F this morning at Peters Sink:

 

https://climate.usurf.usu.edu/PeterSinks/index.php

 

Chilly for early September.

 

Let's hope that is the trend this season!

Death To Warm Anomalies!

 

Winter 2019-20 stats

 

Total Snowfall = 3.7"

Day with 1" or more snow depth = 3

Total Hail = T

Coldest Low = 20

Lows 32 or below = 60

Highs 32 or below = 0

Lows 20 or below = 1

Highs 40 or below = 10

 

 

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I've always figured Rainier kicks Mt Washington's arse. I wasn't aware they had an official sensor at the top.

This is a misconception that a lot of westerners cling to, for whatever reason. ;)

 

Mount Rainier averages much more snowfall than Mount Washington, however, the summit of Mount Washington is both verifiably colder and windier than the summit of Mount Rainier. It's not even close, actually.

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This is a misconception that a lot of westerners cling to, for whatever reason. ;)

 

Mount Rainier averages much more snowfall than Mount Washington, however, the summit of Mount Washington is both verifiably colder and windier than the summit of Mount Rainier. It's not even close, actually.

 

:lol:

 

I don't know about the windy part, but the summit of Mt. Rainier is definitely colder. 

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:lol:

 

I don't know about the windy part, but the summit of Mt. Rainier is definitely colder.

Uh, no it's not.

 

Edit: I'm referring to winter temperatures, not annual temperatures. Just to clear that up.

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Uh, no it's not.

 

Edit: I'm referring to winter temperatures, not annual temperatures. Just to clear that up.

 

http://www.summitpost.org/interesting-weather-statistics-for-us-mountain-summits/171585#chapter_5

 

I'm not sure when exactly they compiled this data for Mt. Rainier, but it indicates that its summit is likely colder in DJF by a reasonably significant margin. Which should come as no surprise, 14,411' is pretty D**n high up.

 

"Not even close" might apply, just not how you seem to think.

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Right now, sustained winds on Mt. Washington are 83mph gusting to 92mph. That's basically a typical day there.

 

Some general info:

 

http://climbing.about.com/od/usstatehighpoints/a/MtWashingtonFacts.htm

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http://www.summitpost.org/interesting-weather-statistics-for-us-mountain-summits/171585#chapter_5

 

I'm not sure when exactly they compiled this data for Mt. Rainier, but it indicates that its summit is likely colder in DJF by a reasonably significant margin. Which should come as no surprise, 14,411' is pretty D**n high up.

 

"Not even close" might apply, just not how you seem to think.

LOL.."period of record, unknown; 1970s". So, no data on when (or where) these conditions were measured? :lol:

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Mount Rainier is colder both during the winter and on an annual basis. And why wouldn't it? You're comparing 14,000 feet to 6,000 feet.

LOL, do you honestly think 700-800mb temperatures are uniform between these two locations?

 

Newsflash, upper level temperatures and antecedent humidity levels are verifiably higher @ Mt. Rainier's altitude and location versus Mt. Washington's during the winter. Hence more latent heat release during condensation/orographic lifting, etc.

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And what data are you basing your "Mt. Washington is verifiably colder" statement on?

Absolute temperatures @ the altitude of each mountain's summit.

 

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/composites/printpage.pl

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LOL, do you honestly think 700-800mb temperatures are uniform between these two locations?

 

Newsflash, upper level temperatures and antecedent humidity levels are verifiably higher @ Mt. Rainier's altitude and location versus Mt. Washington's during the winter. Hence more latent heat release during condensation/orographic lifting, etc.

 

Not only are you wrong, but you're being a d*ck about it. Come on dude.

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https://www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/current-summit-conditions.aspx

 

Mount Washington has colder temperatures, higher winds, and lower wind chill values than the summit of Mount Rainier, which is 8,000 feet higher.

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Wow, seems legit.

Science aims for legitimacy. Pacific airmasses keep Mt. Rainier warmer during the winter season relative to Mt. Washington, even with the elevation differential.

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Not only are you wrong, but you're being a d*ck about it. Come on dude.

I'm being a d**k because you're intentionally ignoring quantitatively derivable data in favor of some fairytale.

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I'm being a d**k because you're intentionally ignoring quantitatively derivable data in favor of some fairytale.

 

"however, the summit of Mount Washington is both verifiably colder and windier than the summit of Mount Rainier. It's not even close, actually."

 

You were wrong with that statement, even without the hyperbole you added at the end. 

 

Then you tried to backtrack and say you were talking about winter temps. Even if we're talking about winter temps, Mount Washington would not be so much colder than Mt. Rainier to the extent that "its not even close, actually."

 

You're wrong. And you're being a d*ck. 

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"however, the summit of Mount Washington is both verifiably colder and windier than the summit of Mount Rainier. It's not even close, actually."

 

You were wrong with that statement, even without the hyperbole you added at the end.

 

Then you tried to backtrack and say you were talking about winter temps. Even if we're talking about winter temps, Mount Washington would not be so much colder than Mt. Rainier to the extent that "its not even close, actually."

 

You're wrong. And you're being a d*ck.

I didn't backtrack on anything. I clarified my statement, since we were discussing cold season low temperatures. Nice try. ;)

 

Hyperbole aside, everything I said is accurate.

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You may want to take that up with the National Park Service.

I can't find any history on this station's existence, let alone its location and period of record.

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I didn't backtrack on anything. I clarified my statement, since we were discussing cold season low temperatures. Nice try. ;)

 

Hyperbole aside, everything I said is accurate.

 

You're all over the place.

 

-5.2F average January low on Mt. Rainier summit according to 1981-2010 PRISM data.

-2.7F average January low on Mt. Washington summit according to 1981-2010 data @ WRCC.

 

What was your point again?

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You're all over the place.

 

-5.2F average January low on Mt. Rainier summit according to 1981-2010 PRISM data.

-2.7F average January low on Mt. Washington summit according to 1981-2010 data @ WRCC.

 

What was your point again?

Can you link me to this? Sounds a lot like an interpolative algorithm considering there are no stations on the summit of Mt. Rainier.

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I found the paper on it. As I suspected, it's an interpolative model, not an observational network. Will read the paper anyway, though. http://www.prism.oregonstate.edu/documents/Daly2008_PhysiographicMapping_IntJnlClim.pdf

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Doesn't jive with the 30yr averages compiled @ the Mt. Washington observatory either.

 

https://www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/mount-washington-weather-archives/normals-means-and-extremes.aspx

 

I just crunched the raw data for 1981-2010 @ Mt. Washington. The actual average minimum was -3.1 degrees. 

 

Mount Washington is capable of colder extremes, for instance I don't think the summit of Mt. Rainier has seen -50F (the all-time record low on Mt. Washington). But if you're talking about averages its at best a wash, with a likely advantage to Mt. Rainier on a long term basis.

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IbrChris provided the data for Rainier earlier in this thread.

 

http://www.prism.oregonstate.edu/explorer/

 

You can play around with that site if you'd like.

Okay, so this is useless, unfortunately. Here's why.

 

The highest resolution I can obtain on this model is 4km, and due to the orientation of the grid cells, none are directly situated over Mt. Washington.

 

Hence, highest grid-cell elevation I can is 4,913ft. The summit of mount Washington is ~6500ft. So, really not helpful at all. Plus we have measured data on the summit.

 

Here's a visual example:

 

http://i724.photobucket.com/albums/ww243/phillywillie/Mobile%20Uploads/0E683C12-BF31-424C-867C-E92FC255E74E_zpspvwud1sw.png

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There's probably a reason why no long term station exists above 5400', less than halfway up the mountain. It's extremely inhospitable and the cold is part of that.

Yeah, there is a reason there is no visitor center reached by a paved road on top of Rainier. :lol:

 

You and Dmitri covered it pretty well, but yeah, the argument that the top of Mount Washington is colder than Rainier is laughable. The fact that it has over double the elevation of Mount Washington (and sits at a higher latitude) more than makes up for generally warmer wintertime airmasses PNW vs New England.

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Yeah, let's deny scientifically derived measurements and thermodynamic principles in favor of fairytales and non existent stations.

 

You westerners get super defensive about your mountains for whatever reason. Maybe because they're all you have to hold onto. ;)

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