Forecasting the Weather? Just Follow the Arrows

9:35 PM

If I could have picked another vocations I’d like to have taken on a career besides my current one as aviation ad agency owner, TV weathercaster would have been high on my list. I know I would have been able to nail it, because weather just isn’t as complicated as many people seem to make it.

As a pilot, I’ve become a student of WX, learning something new all the time. But when you boil WX forecasting down to nuts and bolts, it really just is a matter of…streams.

Let me ‘splain, Lucy…

Storms flow across North America in precisely the same manner that a stream of water would flow across the kitchen floor if I – being inept as a Carpenter – had built the house. My carpentry skills border on dangerous, and in that floor would be high and low points. In WXspeak, these are ridges and lows. Storms are then pushed across this uneven landscape by the Jet Stream, which flows West to East, generally.
So visualize the jet stream being poured into the United States. Like water, it will flow easily around the high points (ridges) to the low points. Look at three things and you will know what your WX will do soon:

(1) Look at either the GOES West or GOES East infrared satellite image to see what storms are in the area, especially to the WEST of your route,

(2) Check the barometric pressures at your home field and compare that to other areas nearby and along your route of flight. A great and easy way to look at all the METARS in any state is to go here and put @NY, @CA, etc. in the "text observations" box in the upper right corner.

(3) Look at the Unisys 300 mb streamlines plot and see how the jet stream is flowing. The jets will be pushing the weather in the direction of the arrows on the chart, towards areas of lowest barometric pressure.

Another way we aviators beat the TV guys every time are Pilot Reports. Check it out. Pilots know…and the PIREPS tell us what is really going on NOW. This was proven way back in the day when I lived in Central California and listened to KMJ AM 580. They had a WX guy named Sean Boyd who was the only guy in that market who used PIREPs to augment his NWS and NOAA data. When the competition was getting it wrong, Boyd could see by the PIREPs and other aviation data what was really happening. It was brilliant, and I never have been able to understand why all TV and radio WX people don't use the WX tools available to us aviators.

It is really just that simple. Weather forecasting 101, except on a blustery Oregon spring night like tonight...when it can't decide to blow hail, clear out, or rain buses and taxicabs. Tonight, any GA pilot report might just be...

"Seattle Center, Cessna 12345, Holy sh*t, we're upside down, engine's been ripped off by turbulence, lightning has fried the electricals, hail the size of volleyballs has blown out the windscreen...we're ALL going to DIE!!!!!...over"

You Might Also Like