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Mt. Washington summit breaks daily record low

The temperature reading at the Mount Washington Observatory around 1:30 a.m., while frigid, was not the coldest the summit would see Thursday.Mount Washington Observatory

While Bostonians bundle up and prepare for several more days of a historic run of below-freezing temperatures, weather observers atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire are dealing with record-breaking conditions best described as “painfully cold.”

The mountain’s 6,288-foot summit, known for its brutal and fast-changing winter weather, hit a low of minus 34 degrees early Thursday morning, Mount Washington Observatory meteorologist Tom Padham said. And with winds gusting at more than 110 miles per hour at times between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Thursday, he said wind chills on the summit reached minus 89.

The early-morning mark of minus 34 degrees broke the observatory’s Dec. 28 record low temperature of minus 31 degrees, set in 1933.


Shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday, Padham said wind speeds had slowed to around 90 miles per hour, with a wind chill of minus 85 degrees.

“That’s not a surprise to us on the summit. We see a lot of extreme weather up here,” he said. “It’s still quite cold, but right now it has warmed up to negative 29.”

The cold weather was also able to creep inside the summit observatory Thursday morning, with temperatures hovering around 52 degrees. “Our heater’s having a tough time keeping up with the conditions outside,” Padham said.

In addition to the cold inside, Padham said his hourly trips outdoors to make weather observations left him feeling “generally unpleasant.”

“It’s painfully cold. And also when it’s this cold, the air is extremely dry, so it kind of hurts to breathe,” he said. “Every single inch of skin has to be covered too — you can get frostbite in about 60 seconds here.”

Padham said the mountain’s weather observers are soon in for a bit of relief though. Forecasters expect the cold air mass hovering around Mount Washington to be pushed down to nearby valleys Thursday night, “warming” the summit to around zero degrees.


Ben Thompson can be reached at