Technology (sadly, perhaps) means you no longer need to climb Mount Rainier to get a good view from near the roof of Mount Rainier National Park.
The other day they flipped the switch in the park and a webcam came to life at Camp Muir on the mountain's flanks. Park officials say that not only is the webcam the highest to be found in Washington state, but also one of the most remote in the United States.
Helping the Park Service make this possible were the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center and Dan Howlett of NoHow, Inc.
"The design and installation of this webcam involved some difficult technical challenges, for which Dan “Howie” Howlett created a solution on the backbone of the park’s existing weather telemetry equipment," a park release says.
"Think of the webcam image as another weather parameter like temperature or wind speed. The image is transmitted down in the same data bursts as the weather information. After the initial installation by climbing ranger Stefan Lofgren in mid-May, several unanticipated issues were hammered out. Mark Moore of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center helped troubleshoot some of these problems, coordinate the new data acquisition, and dissemination."
Along with the curious, park officials expect the webcam shots to be viewed by climbers and hikers with plans to head up the mountain, as the shots will let them know where the clouds are, and whether, when it's raining or snowing down below at Paradise, it's sunny higher up on the mountain.
Weather forecasting centers such as the National Weather Service will also be able to use the images and data for forecasting purposes both for the public and for pilots. There are scientific opportunities associated with the images as well regarding snowmelt, glacier mass-balance, and air quality, to name a few.
How crisp will the webcam's images be? That, of course, depends on the weather.
"It will be common when there are clouds and/or blowing snow that the camera will rime and the images will show only white," park officials say. "This is expected to be the case for much of the winter. There is not enough power at Camp Muir to operate any heating elements that could keep the camera shedding rime ice."
Currently, the image is set to a resolution of 1024 x 786 and it is slightly pixelated. Park officials hope to be able to increase the resolution so greater detail can be shown. However, don't expect constantly changing views from the camera as it's fixed in position and can't be moved remotely.