New webcam shows view from Camp Muir
Contact: Stefan Lofgren, 360-569-6642
Mount Rainier National Park is excited to announce that a new webcam at Camp Muir is now fully operational and available online to the public. This is a unique location for a webcam as it is certainly the highest webcam in Washington State and one of the most remote in the United States. This project was a cooperative effort between the National Park Service, 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. 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.
The images from Camp Muir are expected to be very popular and broadly used by a wide array of interested groups. Climbers and hikers into Mount Rainier alpine zones, of course, will be able to use the webcam to see where the tops of the clouds are and will discover that often when it is rainy at Paradise or lower down in the valley, it may be sunny and warm at Muir!
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.
As extraordinary as the images are, there are limits to how often we will see clear images. It will be common when there are clouds and/or blowing snow that the camera will rime and the images will show only white. 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. As this is a newly developed application of existing technology, we may encounter more unanticipated challenges. Please be patient as you notice interruptions in service or problems with the images. We will also be immediately aware and try to fix it as soon as practicable.
Currently, the image is set to a resolution of 1024 x 786 and it is slightly pixelated. We endeavor to increase the resolution so that greater detail can be shown. The camera is fixed and cannot be moved remotely, so we must actually physically move the camera to change its view. Another item on the wish list would be to install a remotely moveable camera.