Sunday, September 1, 2013

OD Nats 2013 Sept 1 Weather

Welcome to September. If you're reading this, it means you've made it, kind of like sending yourself a postcard in the mail on vacation welcoming you home.

What an interesting week! We've seen just about every thing except for a strong cold front this week. And I'm happy to think that we haven't left much on the table--only a few scraps here and there. For example, yesterday we likely could have launched 15 minutes earlier, which would have let early launchers the opportunity for a few more km. But in the overall scheme of XC flying, we've done our best.

The weather for today is tricky to work with. Radar already shows a line of rain/TS just south of Provo marching northwest into the area. This verifies the model forecast of  S, SE winds aloft along the Wasatch front. A SE flow aloft means pretty much one thing: go to Jupiter. However, weighing in the rest of elements of the day does not make Jupiter a favorable place to launch, or wait (I'm thinking limited shelter from the rain).

Water vapor imagery, however, does show the Northern part of the state clearing up a bit. So what do our friends at the NWS have to say?

Area forecast discussion 
National Weather Service Salt Lake City Utah 
443 am MDT sun Sep 1 2013 

Synopsis...a very moist airmass will remain across southern and 
central Utah today. Some of this moisture will work into the 
north overnight into Labor Day as a low pressure system moves 
through the area. A drying trend will follow for the middle 
portion of the upcoming week. 


Discussion...abundant moisture remains in place across southern 
Utah...where GOES derived precipitable water values are at or above 1.5 inches 
along the Utah/Arizona border...and surface dew points are running in the 
low to middle 60s. In fact...60 degree dew points have spread as far 
north as Delta...with precipitable water values at or above 1 inch as far north as 
I-80. upper low is noted in satellite imagery 
and objective analysis spinning near the Utah/AZ/NV triplepoint. 
Isolated showers continue to rotate around this low across 
southern and central Utah early this morning...however the majority 
of convective activity from Saturday afternoon/evening has 
diminished leaving extensive cloud cover across the area. 

This upper low is forecast to largely remain in place throughout 
the day before lifting northward through central and eventually 
northern Utah overnight through Monday morning. With ample moisture 
in place along with light flow aloft torrential rainfall will be 
possible with showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and 
evening across southern Utah. This activity is expected to spread 
northward into central Utah this evening as the upper low begins to 
lift northward...and eventually into northern Utah overnight into 
the day Monday. As such have expanded the going Flash Flood 
Watch northward through central Utah and extended it in time 
through the overnight hours. Also increased probability of precipitation across 
southern/central Utah through this evening...and across the north 
overnight through Monday. In the meantime marginal middle level lapse 
rates will continue to limit convective activity across northern 
Utah until this upper low approaches the area overnight. 

Interesting to see that even though water vapor imagery shows a drier air mass to the north, we still have 1 inch of precipitable water in the air along the I-80 line. SLC sits on that line.

I still love these XC Skies time height plots of parameters. Looking at RH shows a very moist air mass making its way over Provo in a S to SW wind throughout the day. With 80% + RH at the boundary layer top, there will be ample convective cloud forming with it positioned to take advantage of moisture above. This means it will tap into means to produce large TS in the region, just like yesterday.

One major concern for me today is that a thin cloud layer in the region already can HIDE towering cumulus quite well (embedded) within the lower cloud layer. This makes for a dangerous combo. 

So what do we do? What to do? ... Today looks better than tomorrow, not that this matters... Visible satellite shows plenty of TS to the south and widespread cloud coverage except for the very NE tip of the state.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

OD Nats 2013 Aug 31 Weather

Yesterday was no surprise to us when deep convection fired off in and around the area, starting early and not settling down for most of the night in some locations east. Given this trend coupled with the comments mentioned in the discussion below, we can expect a very active TS day, especially from Provo south. The north is a bit drier.

Area forecast discussion 
National Weather Service Salt Lake City Utah 
509 am MDT Sat Aug 31 2013 

Synopsis...a very moist airmass will remain in place across 
southern Utah today...while drier air remains across the far 
north. A weak weather system will bring this moisture northward 
Sunday into Labor Day. High pressure will redevelop over the 
region for the midweek period. 


Discussion...a broad middle level ridge encompasses much of the 
interior west this morning...with an embedded east-west oriented 
trough situated just south of the Utah/Arizona border. A very moist 
airmass is in place across southern Utah...with GOES derived precipitable water 
values at or above 1.25 inches...and values over 2 inches sitting 
just south of utahs Dixie along the Arizona/Nevada border. This moisture 
rich airmass combined with afternoon heating and the proximity to 
the aforementioned trough should allow for fairly widespread 
convection this afternoon and evening over southern Utah. A light 
easterly component to the flow aloft coupled with a tendency for 
storms to propagate into deeper moisture/instability should push 
this activity slowly downbasin across southern Utah...enhancing the 
flash flood threat. As such have issued a Flash Flood Watch for 
southwest and south central Utah for this afternoon and evening. 

Further north a ridge axis downstream from the aforementioned 
trough sits across northern Utah. A fairly sharp moisture gradient 
extends across northern Utah with the airmass remaining quite moist 
across areas south of I-80. Will likely see scattered convection 
this afternoon from roughly the southern oquirrhs southward into 
central Utah. Locally heavy rain will also be possible with this 
activity...although coverage will likely be more limited than 
areas further south. As such have left this area out of the watch 
for now. 

The middle level trough over northern Arizona is forecast to slowly lift 
northward across the forecast area beginning Sunday across 
southern Utah...and continuing into Monday over the north. As such 
anticipate another very active convective day over southern Utah 
Sunday afternoon...with the north becoming more active during the 
evening hours..and likely continuing overnight as this wave 
approaches. Have increased probability of precipitation over northern Utah 10-20 percent 
Sunday afternoon through Sunday night and into Monday morning. 

Thunderstorm coverage on Labor Day will be dependent on how 
quickly this wave moves northward...and the models at this point 
do not seem to have a firm grasp on this. Have maintained a chance 
of showers/thunderstorms into Monday afternoon over most areas 
with the highest probability of precipitation in the north. However...if this wave lifts 
into Idaho by early afternoon subsidence would likely inhibit 
additional convective development areawide. 

In the wake of this feature...the middle level ridge is forecast to 
strengthen across the region Tuesday into Wednesday. Sufficient 
moisture will remain to support a threat for showers and 
thunderstorms...however warming aloft will likely limit 
instability...with convective activity remaining largely confined 
to the higher terrain. An upper low which is forecast to reside 
off the Pacific coast during the first half of the week is 
forecast to move inland and through the northern rockies late in 
the upcoming week. This looks to suppress the ridge axis southward 
and allow for a drier westerly flow over northern Utah. 

Looks like a tough next 2 days ahead in terms of weather. So much moisture for being so late in the season around here!

See water vapor image here:

Winds aloft make the position of moisture a difficult prospect. Expect to see N to NW winds, albeit light, prevail across the region and strengthen as the day evolves. This makes heading north into the drier air mass very challenging, if not impossible. A quick look out the window this morning showed fairly large convection lit by the sunrise over the western deserts already. So expect to see another repeat of nuclear OD to the west. With a northerly flow, however, perhaps it will stay to the west? Hard to say.

Cloud base expected to be around 14-15k over the eastern and high wasatch terrain again. Yesterday did well with this prediction, so I suspect it will do well today.

More later.


Friday, August 30, 2013

OD Nats 2013 Aug 30 Weather

Friday forecast discussions are packed full of goodness, like a well balanced cereal.

Area forecast discussion 
National Weather Service Salt Lake City Utah 
311 am MDT Friday Aug 30 2013 

Synopsis...northern Utah will see a drying trend Friday through 
Sunday...with moisture returning to the area on Labor Day. Deep 
moisture will remain in place across the south through the Holiday 


Discussion...water vapor loop shows a ridge centered over The 
Rockies and a series of closed lows approaching the Pacific 
northwest. Several disturbances are marching westward across New 
Mexico and Arizona. Acars 400-250mb wind observations place a 
75-95kt cyclonically curved jet over the Pacific northwest. 
Rap...GOES...GPS sensors...and 00z slc radiosonde observation indicate precipitable 
water values range from 0.40"-0.70" eastern mountains to 1.10"-1.50" 
western valleys. 

Valley surface dewpoints are generally 45f-55f...closer to 60f along 
the Arizona border. Column moisture quite rich across the western 
valleys...maximized over utahs Dixie. With the ridge in 
place...believe Arizona disturbances will be kept south of the Utah 
border today and much of the convection will be significantly tied 
to the higher terrain. This is supported by the hrrr-3km simulated 
reflectivity. Storm motions are none which means if this is the case 
it will be difficult to get good coverage over adjacent valleys. But 
it also means if a storm were to develop over the adjacent will sit and produce locally heavy rainfall with a 
flash flood threat. Have added mention locally heavy rainfall to 
southern zones but no watch at this time as coverage may be limited. 

With drier conditions and the ridge in place...kept probability of precipitation out of the 
forecast for the north today. It will remain quite hot given lack of 
convection and 700mb temperatures rising toward +16c. The record for 
number of 95f days in a Summer at Salt Lake City will be broken 
today. Speaking of records...the high min record for today at Salt 
Lake City is 71 set in 2012. This record is also in jeopardy 
depending on our morning lows. 

Global models indicate a series of disturbances with origins over 
the Gulf of Mexico will round the broad central Continental U.S. Ridge and 
impact the Great Basin this weekend. The combination of moisture 
transport and these disturbances should yield better coverage for 
convection especially the south. However...both GFS and European 
indicate in 850-500mb streamlines/specific humidity fields that a 
drier northerly flow may be present across the northern zones 
Saturday and somewhat Sunday. Slow storm propagation would favor 
flash flood threat Friday through Sunday across southern Utah if 
cloud cover remains across Arizona as currently depicted in guidance. 

Moisture surge is reinforced early next week with southerly return 
flow establishing with the ridge easing back to our east. GFS has 
been trying to bust a trough/closed low into the region for many 
runs and continues to back off as time approaches. Favor the 
European with a moist flattening ridge remaining the dominating 
feature over the region through the work week. Perhaps a more 
fall-like northwesterly flow establishing during the second week of 


You don't need to read all of it or even understand it all, but note the mention of drying trend today through tomorrow. This concerns me because I don't see that in the models.So is the forecaster speaking in general or relative terms? Hard to say... If you look at the precip potential from the NAM, you'll see what I mean. Looking at CAPE and LI values also indicate a lot instability with plenty of moisture on tap. It's hard to imaging today being less dry than yesterday, in fact I think it's the other way around... BUT I have been wrong on the timing of OD in the last 2 days, so perhaps I'm not quite calibrated.

Winds... Today we're looking at a near identical direction and speed as yesterday. It might even feel light and variable, but it is SSW and will be stronger around Ogden and more westerly out east of Evanston.

Top of lift looks a little higher than yesterday, at around 11-ish on the lower slopes of the wasatch and close to 15k deeper east, which is what cloudbase will be.

More later. Looks like another similar day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

OD Nats 2013 Aug 29 Weather

Looking like another reasonable day to try for XC. Expect later afternoon and early evening TS to form like today (very impressive over Nebo at sunset!). Here's the NWS discussion.

Area forecast discussion 
National Weather Service Salt Lake City Utah 
847 PM MDT Wednesday Aug 28 2013 

Synopsis...somewhat drier air will move into the intermountain 
west tonight and Thursday as high pressure builds over the 
region. Deeper moisture is expected to move into southern Utah 
beginning Friday...then into northern Utah for the beginning of 
next week. 


Discussion...a fairly moist boundary layer remains in place 
across the forecast area this evening as evidenced by the 00z 
kslc sounding...surface dew points in the 50s across most valley 
locations...and GOES derived precipitable water values at or above 0.75 inches. 
However...much drier air aloft which is also evident in the 00z 
sounding has advected across the forecast area from the 
southwest...and this drier air greatly limited the coverage and 
intensity of convection this afternoon. Isolated showers and 
thunderstorms continue this evening...but should diminish over the 
next couple of hours with the loss of daytime heating. 

A middle level ridge extending into the central rockies is forecast 
to strengthen a bit on Thursday...which will likely continue to 
inhibit much more than diurnally driven terrain based convection. 
This ridge axis looks to extend along the Utah/Arizona border Friday 
through the weekend. Deeper moisture may work its way back into 
the southwest during this time...however convection across the 
remainder of the area will likely remain limited. This moisture is 
expected to spread back north by early next week. 

Updated earlier to trim probability of precipitation over the south...and will plan to 
update again and remove evening wording once convection 


Expect winds to be single digits up to 10,000 ft from the SW, with winds at 14k around 12-14 mph. This makes for a good XC conditions for routes into SW Wyoming. Hopefully we won't see over development in the higher terrain until late in the day.

More at the official wx brief.


OD Nats 2013 Aug 28 Weather

Looks like the overall air mass around the region is a bit drier, with precipitable water values at only .75 inches :) That's a relative joke. Here's the discussion

Area forecast discussion 
National Weather Service Salt Lake City Utah 
245 am MDT Wednesday Aug 28 2013 

Synopsis...temperatures will warm with a ridge of high pressure 
building into the region. However plenty of moisture will keep the 
threat of daily isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms. 


Discussion...water vapor loop shows a ridge over the central Continental U.S. 
And a trough off the Pacific coast. Several disturbances are 
rounding the ridge from the Gulf of Mexico and northern Mexico 
toward The Four Corners. Acars 400-250mb wind observations place a 
75-105kt southwesterly jet from central California into the northern 
rockies. Rap...GOES...GPS sensors...and 00z slc radiosonde observation indicate 
precipitable water values range from 0.70"-1.55". 

As the central Continental U.S. Ridge tries to build westward...subtle drying 
and warming will gradually take place from east to west. While the 
column dries a bit especially east...surface dewpoints are still 
well into the 50s most valleys. Enough moisture will remain in place 
to support more traditional diurnal convection during the next 
several days initiating on the higher terrain. Locally heavy 
rainfall is still a threat. 

Global models indicate a series of disturbances with origins over 
the Gulf of Mexico will round the broad central Continental U.S. Ridge and 
impact the Great Basin next weekend. The combination of moisture 
transport and these disturbances should yield better coverage for 
convection. However...both GFS and European indicate in 850-500mb 
streamlines/specific humidity fields that a drier northerly flow may 
be present near the Idaho border. So ended up increasing probability of precipitation 10% 
across southern Utah and lowering 10% near Idaho this weekend. 

GFS now on board with European maintaining another surge in moisture 
by the middle of next week as the ridge once again propagates to our 
east opening up a more southerly flow. No changes in scattered pop 
distribution yet. 

I suspect we're looking better for a chance of XC flying over the next few days, with today being more of a transition day in terms of percip and TS potential.

Expect the unexpected. We have plenty of potential for TS and the clear skies will help keep the day active with deep cumulus clouds. Some will be threatening, some will only look scary--I for one will err on the conservative side rather than roll the dice to find out, so be careful and watchful.

Winds are SSW, with light southerly flow in the valleys and maybe 12 mph around 14,000 ft, which will likely be about cloud base for the day. Temps will rebound, but bring warmer clothes for flying, as 14k is around 40 F today.

UPDATE: Models seems to disagree with winds aloft today, as do the official aloft forecast for SLC from the NWS. We could see as much as 16mph near 14,000 feet today. Real-time surface obs this morning near ridge top are showing as high as 15mph at 10,000 ft. This is compressed flow, so assume aloft is more like 10mph at 10k feet.

A MUCH drier air mass is overhead by mid day, according to the GFS, so this should help keep TS scattered over favorable locations in high terrain just as the NWS notes indicate.

Not sure what else to post. We'll brief in person on launch.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Upload your track logs!

Here's that Uinta Flight Bill Belcourt and I did last month. The GFS forecast did OK. Not perfect by any means. The NAM is what I was looking at in the morning, which likely validated better than the GFS. Eventually I'll get around to creating that feature for validation.

You can upload your tracks here:

Gavin McClung's flight is here:

-Chris Galli

OD Nats 2013 Aug 27 WX Review

Today was cancelled, so I decided to work. As I left around 5:30 pm I walked out into a sunny, nice looking sky in northern SLC. Had we completely missed and squandered the day?! Ugh! I took a peek at the radar and satellite imagery, and felt better that the day truly was cancelled. Here's what was lurking on the horizon, and by sunset it was just getting strong!

Well, golly gee! Seems like we did OK.

Satellite imagery at 3pm ish looked like this:

That blue-green spot in the center is the north tip of the Great Salt Lake. Impressive.

For tomorrow I'm extremely optimistic. Patience will be the name of the game, so get thinking along those lines. We're here to fly a comp, so if waiting several hours on launch for the perfect moment is what it takes, then that's what we'll do. Bring the rain gear and get ready for the next two days. I suspect we'll have windows reasonable enough to get something in.

Also study the maps and start thinking about what moves you want to make heading north. Note the airspace and understand where you can and can't be past SLC.

Weather update to follow early in the morning.