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Interesting Weather Statistics for US Mountain Summits

 
Interesting Weather Statistics for US Mountain Summits

Page Type: Fact Sheet

Location: California/Colorado/Maine/North Carolina/Utah/Vermont, United States, North America

Object Title: Interesting Weather Statistics for US Mountain Summits

 

Page By: Scott

Created/Edited: Feb 13, 2006 / Oct 12, 2017

Object ID: 171585

Hits: 24509 

Page Score: 86.25%  - 22 Votes 

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Introduction

I thought these statistics could be interesting for climbers. Here are some climate statistics for several mountains in the United States (arranged from coldest to warmest for lack of any better way to do it).

There are only a few mountain tops with weather statistics and most of them are located in the Eastern USA. There have been at one time several peaks in the Western US with weather data, but few of the weather stations below are currently operating, though the data is still available if you dig hard enough for it.

Temperatures

Denali is not surprisingly by far the coldest of all the mountain tops in the United States. In fact, during summer Denali is still colder than any location in the lower 48 is during winter. It is also the coldest place in the world outside Antarctica.

Obviously Mount Rainier is by far the coldest of all these mountain tops in the lower 48. Interestingly though, Mount Rainier is about the same temperature in winter as Pikes Peak or Mount Washington. It is however, much colder in summer.

Mount Evans and Pikes Peak are much farther south than Mount Rainier, but I assume that the Pacific air on Mount Rainier keeps the mountain “milder”, temperature wise in winter than it would otherwise be. Mount Rainier is by far a much wetter and stormier mountain (precipitation wise) than Pikes Peak. Average annual precipitation at the summit is around 85 inches, which is significantly lower than the average of 117 inches of precipitation at Paradise Ranger Station at 5500 feet. Mount Washington averages near 99 inches, but the summers are too “warm” for glaciers to form.   Locations such as White Mountain Peak (California), White Mountain 2 (California), Pikes Peak (Colorado), and Climax/Fremont Pass (Colorado) sit in rain shadows, and are thus very dry considering the altitude.  The mountains around Alta and Snowbird (such as Mount Baldy with an estimated average annual snowfall of 732 inches) Utah are probably the snowiest locations in the Rocky Mountains and snowfall compares well to the snowiest locations in the Cascades, though water content is much lower, and permanent snow and glaciers are almost non-existent, with only a few small remnants remaining.

White Mountain Peak in California is colder than Mt Washington on average, but is a little warmer than Mount Washington in winter. It is still warmer than one might expect, but part of that may be attributed to the fact that temperatures in the area have been on the hot side since data has been available. White Mountain 2 at a lower elevation is almost as cold as Mount Washington. However, it is also “warmer” in winter and cooler in the summer than Mount Washington.

Mount Mitchell is much warmer than these other peaks, but interestingly the all time record low (-34) is almost as cold as the other locations (except Denali). Mount Washington has recorded temperatures down to -47, Mount Evans down to -40, Pikes Peak down to -39, Mount Mansfield down to -39, Mount Rainier down to -36, and White Mountain 2 down to -35. All these mountains only have a span of 13 degrees between their all time record lows.  

As far as extremes on Denali go, an old minimum gauge thermometer left on the summit of plunged to -95. Since the thermometer sat on the ground, it isn't official, but temperatures have been thought to drop at least to -77. Another thermometer was placed at 15,000 feet by the U.S. Army Natick Laboratory, and was there from 1950 to 1969. The coldest temperature recorded during that period was −100. In the summer, it is likely that the summit never reaches freezing.

Records for Mount Mitchell, Mount Washington, and Mount Mansfield span many decades, while the other mountains have record for much less time. The longest period for a Western US mountain belongs to White Mountain 2 where data was collected for 25 years.   Some of the mountain passes in Colorado have records for longer than this.  If you count Western Texas as part of the Western US, Mount Locke has a very long period of record, but it isn't as high as many other mountains in the Western US.  It is about as high as the highest mountains in the Eastern US though and makes an interesting comparison.  

Annual Temperatures:

PEAKSTATE ANNUALELEVATION
DenaliAK-28.0 20,320
Mount RainierWA11.9 14,411
Mount EvansCO18.0 14,148
Pikes PeakCO18.8 14,115
Uinta MountainsUT20.0 13,123
White Mountain PeakCA23.3 14,252
Camp MuirWA26.4 10,110
Mount WashingtonNH27.2 6288
White Mountain 2CA27.5 12,470
Berthoud PassCO29.1 11,310
Climax (Fremont Pass) 
CO30.1 11,360
Mount BaldyUT30.5 11,068
Mount MansfieldVT34.3 4393
Blowhard MountainUT34.6 10,700
Mount FannyOR35.8 7020
Mauna KeaHI36.3 13,796
Mount SpokaneWA36.6 5890
Mount La ConteTN42.7 6593
Mount MitchellNC44.6 6634
Mauna Loa SlopeHI44.7 11,140
Grandfather Mountain NC46.3 5945
HaleakalaHI46.7 9960
Mount Locke TX58.0 6790

Wind Speed

Unfortunately, wind speed data is hard to obtain for most of these mountains. Of all these mountains, Mount Washington is the only one with long term wind data.

Other than wind data for Mount Washington, I could also find it for Pikes Peak, Mount Evans, and Longs Peak in Colorado, plus Camp Muir in Washington. Longs Peak and Mount Washington are about the same in wind speed and both are significantly windier than Pikes Peak. Mount Evans compares fairly well with Longs Peak and Mount Washington, but the extreme wind speeds are much lower.  Mount Rainier might be the windiest place in the lower 48, but average wind speeds come from an interpolation, rather than measured data.

Mount Washington had a record wind gust of 231 mph in April 1934. Longs Peak had a record wind gust of 201 mph in 1981, but the station only lasted a short time. During the period of record, Pikes Peak had an estimated maximum wind gust of 150 mph, but the anemometer blew away 112 mph.  Mount Evans has recorded wind speeds of  123 mph (some sources report a gust of 150+ mph, but I can't find when this was recorded), which is significantly less than that of Mount Washington or Longs Peak, but the period of record for the maximum wind gust was only 1994-1996.   Had the period of record  been longer, the maximum wind gust would likely be higher.   2000 feet lower than Longs Peak, Trail Ridge, north of Longs Peak has recorded gusts of 157 mph, also in 1981. Hidden Peak (Utah) next to Mount Baldy has recorded wind speeds of 124 mph, but wind readings are only taken sporadically.  Supposedly Grandfather Mountain recorded a 200 mph wind gust in January 2006, but this is not an official figure since the roof of the building on which the gauge was placed was suspected to have an amplifying effect.  The highest official wind speed on Grandfather Mountain was 121 mph in December 2012. Computer models have predicted that maximum wind gust on Denali have exceeded 300 mph (such as during the storm that wiped out the Wilcox Expedition), but of course such a figure is a calculated estimate rather than an actual measurement.

Unfortunately, Long Peak doesn’t have any temperature data compiled; only wind, so wind chills are hard to compare. More than likely, Long Peak is similar in temperatures to Pikes Peak, but a few degrees colder. 

The Camp Muir data comes from actual data from the weather station at Camp Muir, but no period of record is given.     The Mount Rainier wind data is an interpolation of the Camp Muir data.

Grandfather Mountain must have data for average wind speed somewhere, but I have been unable to find it. 

It seems no wind data is available for the other summits listed below. It would be interesting to see how windy the other high peaks in the Cascades or California are compared with the Rockies or Appalachians. 
 
PeakAverage Wind Speed
Mount Rainier36.3
Mount Washington35.3
Longs Peak34.3
Mount Evans31.5
Pikes Peak21.2
Camp Muir20.5

Denali, Alaska (20,320 feet)

MonthAve High Ave LowRec HighRec Low
JAN-33-43?-77
JUL-3-1330-23

Source: Statistics are from the book Skywatch West by Richard A Keen, page 247 and are based on weather balloon data. Unfortunately only January and July info is available. The -23F figure for July comes from the Weather Station located at 19,000 feet.

Mount Rainier, Washington (14,411 feet)

MonthHigh LowPrecip (in)
JAN7-313.08
FEB9-28.54
MAR11-29.83
APR1726.97
MAY2264.04
JUN26103.20
JUL33151.35
AUG32141.28
SEP28123.18
OCT2076.63
NOV14213.53
DEC8-213.29

Source: National Park Service, courtesy of University of Washington.

Period of Record: Various studies from 1960 to present.  The most current study ended in 2016. Precipitation estimates are from Prism Data.

Mount Evans, Colorado (14,148 feet)

AnnualRec High Rec Low
18.065-40

Source: Meyer-Womble Observatory, University of Denver Observatories. Unfortunately, only annual temperature and records are given.

Period of Record: 1991 to present.

Pikes Peak, Colorado (14,115 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowAverage Days of PrecipitationPrecip (in) 
Jan8-430-379 days of snow 1.56
Feb11-329-379-10 days of snow 1.39
Mar14-143-2910 days of snow 2.11
Apr20539-2112-13 days of snow 3.78
May281447-817 days of snow; some rain 3.68
Jun39256329 days of snow; 9 days of hail 1.77
Jul483464187 days of snow; 15 days of hail or rain 4.46
Aug483362159 days of snow; 19 days of hail or rain 3.92
Sep392455610 days of snow; 5 days of hail or rain 1.77
Oct281447-178-9 days of snow 1.41
Nov16436-369-10 days of snow 1.84
Dec11-330-3910-11 days of snow 1.49

Other info: Pikes Peak averages 29.7 inches of precipitation and 553 inches of snow per year.

Source: United States Army Signal Corps; courtesy of Larry Dunn. Annual "other info" stats above are from the book Skywatch West by Richard A Keen, page 248. Extremes came from the Bulletin, Part 3 from the United States Weather Bureau.

Period of Record: 1873-1888 and sporadically in recent years. Daily highs and lows are currently being taken again on the site below:

Pikes Peak Summit Weather

Uinta Mountains, Utah (13,123 feet)

MonthHighHighPrecip (in)
JAN 11-43.03
FEB 13-23.15
MAR 1613.88
APR 2483.95
MAY 32153.95
JUN 42222.73
JUL 52292.70
AUG 50283.29
SEP 42213.36
OCT 31123.70
NOV 1953.15
DEC 1402.82

Source: Interpolation from Mesowest Data, Chepeta Station (CHPU1).

Period of Record: 1998-Present

White Mountain Peak, California (14,252 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec Low
Jan14438-27
Feb17743-18
Mar19845-14
Apr23942-16
May311753-8
Jun4227620
Jul50356223
Aug48336114
Sep422758-1
Oct321957-9
Nov211042-17
Dec17636-21

Source: White Mountain Research Center, University of California.

Period of Record: 2003 to 2016.

Camp Muir, Washington (10,110 feet)

MONTHAve Temp Precip (in) Av Wind Speed (mph)
JAN 15
 17.7922.0
FEB 16 11.4921.5
MAR 15 14.2724.9
APR 19 10.0220.6
MAY 29 5.4317.4
JUN 34 4.1316.8
JUL 44 1.6917.1
AUG 41 1.8218.5
SEP 39 4.5813.4
OCT 29 9.4917.5
NOV 21 19.1928.1
DEC 14 19.2328.1

Source: Northwest Avalanche Center.   Precipitation estimates are from Prism Data.

Period of Record not given.

Note: This is an average of the daily average readings from the weather station. Some January readings were too high for the 12-24 dates, so that part of the data was eliminated from the averages.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire (6288 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan14-447-478.5250.4
Feb15-243-467.3348.2
Mar21654-389.4251
Apr291660-208.4340.8
May423066-28.2111.3
Jun50397288.361.2
Jul544371248.020
Aug534272208.080.3
Sep46356998.552.2
Oct362459-57.6614
Nov281452-2010.4940.4
Dec19247-468.8455.0

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1870-1892 and 1932-Present

White Mountain 2, California (12,470 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan23747-252.0020.2
Feb23752-211.7019.5
Mar24746-352.1719.5
Apr281050-301.8820.8
May361959-151.9821.5
Jun46296620.827.0
Jul543672121.091.3
Aug533573131.111.0
Sep483061-50.873.5
Oct402369-201.0210.9
Nov311550-281.2213.1
Dec251048-302.6020.3

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1955-1980

Berthoud Pass, Colorado (11,315 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan21142-333.4949.8
Feb24247-342.9042.4
Mar29650-244.1157.9
Apr361457-124.4354.6
May452362-33.8537.2
Jun543270112.2311.8
Jul623976262.450
Aug603875212.630.3
Sep53317342.058.7
Oct422163-52.3628.0
Nov301054-283.3649.1
Dec23347-303.6351.4

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1954-Present

Mount Baldy, Utah (11,068 feet)

MonthHigh LowPrecip (in)
Snowfall (in)
JAN 21 87.99110.9
FEB 23 97.52103.7
MAR 28 128.13117.6
APR 34 176.9284.4
MAY 42 264.6238.9
JUN 52 362.058.1
JUL 59 442.150.2
AUG 59 432.580.3
SEP 49 343.3412.0
OCT 38 254.6237.8
NOV 27 147.1098.1
DEC 22 97.99120.0

Source: Remote sensor 1998-present(?).  May not be operating currently-I can't find it online anymore? The nearby weather station at the top of the Collins Lift at 10,443 (625 lower than Mount Baldy) is still operating and has wind speed data too. Next to Mount Baldy and only 75 feet lower, Hidden Peak also has a weather station that records current temperatures, at least during ski season.  Snowfall statistics are estimates for Hidden Peak at Snowbird Ski Resort.   See also pg. 19 of Utah's Weather and Climate (1996).  Pg 19 November through April snowfall for Snowbird Summit (Hidden Peak, ~11,000 feet) = 634 inches.

Climax/Fremont Pass, Colorado (11,360 feet)

MONTHAVE HIGHAVE LOWREC HIGHREC LOWAVE PRECIP (in)AVE SNOW (in)
JAN23150-332.1439.9
FEB26253-321.8135.1
MAR30657-242.2639.9
APR371359-202.4839.6
MAY462471-101.8819.4
JUN573375101.314.9
JUL643979122.240.1
AUG623776182.220.2
SEP55317461.565.7
OCT452169-91.3717.8
NOV321060-271.9033.2
DEC25352-331.9937.3

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1953-Present.

Mount Mansfield, Vermont (4393 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan17150-395.9443.1
Feb19351-364.4931.7
Mar271264-295.8535.3
Apr392474-136.2821.5
May53377956.163.8
Jun624684206.880.2
Jul655182247.470.0
Aug645079258.020.0
Sep564279167.550.4
Oct453071-56.397.6
Nov331963-157.4032.4
Dec22760-406.3743.1

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1950-1985

Blowhard Mountain, Utah (10,700 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan281355-20 2.99 35.6
Feb281351-18 3.17 35.0
Mar301553-13 4.51 48.3
Apr372158-4 3.10 30.3
May453068-1 1.82 13.9
Jun56407316 0.83 2.3
Jul62477529 2.16 0
Aug60457223 2.84 0.1
Sep54396713 1.45 2.0
Oct442963-3 1.73 11.4
Nov341857-11 2.43 27.3
Dec281354-23 2.74 34.5

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1964 to 1996.

Mount Fanny, Oregon (7020 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan251354-96.64 48.2
Feb291748-54.36 28.9
Mar321856-14.78 42.1
Apr36205753.20 28.8
May483171122.71 13.2
Jun563877182.59 3.9
Jul674684260.56 0
Aug694885290.80 0.2
Sep573981192.50 6.2
Oct45307202.60 13.0
Nov34235934.84 33.0 
Dec251545-146.93 50.8

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1965-1975

Mauna Kea, Hawaii (13,796 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)
Jan372555151.4
Feb392556161.4
Mar412554181.7
Apr422755181.4
May482959211.1
Jun503058230.8
Jul513161221.1
Aug523057 221.3
Sep433260230.9
Oct503159201.2
Nov402854201.5
Dec382655171.7

Source: Both the Western Regional Climate Center and the Hawaii Atlas have weather data for Mauna Kea. Unfortunately, the data averages from either source does not match well. The data from the atlas was here used because it is the most complete. Aveage precip values are higher and low temperatures lower than the WRCC averages, which only includes data from a short time span. The all time records were taken from the WRCC, but several values in the database have been deemed inaccurate (such as the oft report record low of 12F in May 17 1979) and were thus purged from the above report.

Period of Record: 1972-1982; sporadic

Mount Spokane, Washington (5890 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan231351-235.83 39.1
Feb281850-174.61 20.5
Mar301954-204.94 25.9
Apr382572103.49 10.9
May493577152.78 5.0
Jun574183212.71 0.6
Jul674989251.30 0.2
Aug664989281.54 0
Sep564181182.75 1.9
Oct43316843.71 8.1
Nov332259-176.24 18.2
Dec261754-286.25 32.2

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1953-1972

Mount La Conte, Tennessee (6643 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan361760-18 7.03 15.6
Feb371958-23 6.69 20.9
Mar432466-11 6.78 15.8
Apr5231711 6.95 6.3
May58397912 7.71 1.0
Jun64478128 8.66 0
Jul67508230 9.31 0
Aug67497930 7.41 0
Sep62447719 6.87 0
Oct55357410 4.85 2.1
Nov452768-2 6.82 6.2
Dec392261-15 6.78 15.4

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1988-Present

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina (6634 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan341761-34 7.00 18.2
Feb361962-23 5.41 21.6
Mar432565-15 7.93 17.5
Apr513373-1 5.34 8.4
May58427811 5.93 1.5
Jun65497827 5.57 0 
Jul68538038 6.70 0
Aug68528134 7.39 0
Sep63477824 4.87 0
Oct5638725 5.10 1.1
Nov472966-21 6.36 3.9
Dec392160-22 6.90 15.2

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1953-1965; 1985 and 1988-Present

Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii (11,140 feet)

MONTHAVE HIGHAVE LOWREC HIGHREC LOWAVE PRECIP (in)
JAN503367192.48
FEB503364181.51
MAR503365201.75
APR523567241.33
MAY543768271.00
JUN573971280.51
JUL563970261.16
AUG563968281.50
SEP563867291.36
OCT553866271.16
NOV533665251.78
DEC513467222.01

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of record: 1955-Present

Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina (5945 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan362063-32 4.30 14.4
Feb382264-19 4.63 13.2
Mar452972-9 5.62 9.6
Apr5437805 5.07 4.0
May61467817 5.04 0.2
Jun67538331 6.30 0
Jul70568341 5.61 0
Aug68529136 5.79 0
Sep64517924 6.18 0
Oct55417512 4.85 0.3
Nov473269-12 6.63 2.7
Dec402463-21 6.90 8.5

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1955-Present

Haleakala, Hawaii (9960 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)
Jan513669207.32
Feb503469154.13
Mar513667204.21
Apr533768214.11
May553968312.37
Jun594272300.45
Jul584166280.95
Aug594270302.07
Sep584268251.45
Oct574168261.21
Nov543965294.70
Dec513769225.92

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1957 to 1975.

Mount Locke, Texas (6790 feet)

MonthAve HighAve LowRec HighRec LowPrecip (in)Snowfall (in)
Jan533280-100.71 1.9
Feb573481-60.47 0.8
Mar64388840.41 0.2
Apr714594110.51 0.1
May795296241.62 0
Jun8558104342.50 0
Jul8359100403.77 0
Aug8158104403.70 0
Sep775496292.93 0
Oct714894141.64 0.1
Nov61398280.63 0.4
Dec553480-20.60 1.4

Source: National Weather Service database (National Climatic Data Center).

Period of Record: 1935-Present

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