Wx Watch

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Weather Watch: Convective coverages

Pilot Magazine | Mar 10, 2014

Whether you believe in global warming or not, here’s a hard fact: the days are getting warmer as we make our way toward summer.

Weather Watch: Trouble on top

Pilot Magazine | Feb 18, 2014

Flying in on-top conditions is always held up as some sort of Holy Grail.

Weather Watch: Wind wise

Pilot Magazine | Jan 22, 2014

Well, we’re coming out of the depths of winter, and staring March in the face. For pilots—and, well, just about everybody else—thoughts now turn to the strong winds so characteristic of the colder months, and especially the transition from winter to spring. What do we need to know to be wind wise about this time of year?

Wx Watch: Eyes in the sky

Pilot Magazine | Nov 20, 2013

It’s a hackneyed phrase, but true: A picture’s worth a thousand words.

WX watch: Ice advice, with Nexrad

Article | Oct 10, 2013

Now that so many of us now use datalinked Nexrad radar imagery, a lot of pilots have come to rely on it as gospel.

WX Watch: Look out below!

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2013

Mention inversions and most pilots will get the general idea that these represent situations where temperatures rise with altitude rather than fall.

WX Watch: Front formation

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2013

Pilots are always on the lookout for fronts. We’re always gawking at The Weather Channel or checking the prognosis and surface analysis charts to see if any are lurking around, or are predicted to occur.

Wx Watch: A slow-moving IMC-maker

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2013

I was taking an intensive flight training course earlier this year, and it ended up being a real workout. By this I mean instrument weather for much of the nine hours I flew during the weeklong course.

Wx Watch: Mesoscale discussions

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2013

Most of us are diligent about studying convective sigmets, convective outlooks, and Nexrad radar imagery before our flights in the warmer months. They’re great for a broad-brush view of any convective situations, but there is another source of information that delves into greater detail, and provides analyses of situations that could be factors in your decision making.

Wx Watch: Mixed-bag winter IMC

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2013

A low-pressure system full of surprises

Wx Watch: Snow watch

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2013

Spotting winter storms before they strike

Wx Watch: Radar revolution

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2012

Let's face it: When it comes to checking the weather, most of us immediately call up imagery from one or more of the nation's 150 WSR-88D Nexrad Doppler weather radars, especially when thunderstorms threaten.

Wx Watch: The whys of wind

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2012

The airport is quiet. No taxiing, no runups, no one in the pattern, no one on the radio. And the weather is good VFR. What's going on? Chances are, a look at the windsock will give the answer.

Wx Watch: The problem with pireps

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2012

Let's get this out right up front: Pireps are a valuable source of information that can be indispensible for safe flight planning - and can help prevent weather-related accidents and incidents.

Wx Watch: Searching for snowmageddons

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2012

Ever since the huge 2010 East Coast snowstorm dubbed "Snowmaggedon," those living in the busy northeastern coastal corridor states have been extra curious about any nearby winter lows or fronts. Every time an extended-range outlook pops up, we pay extra attention. The temptation is to look for a storm complex somewhere to the west or northwest, on the assumption that weather complexes traditionally move from west to east. That may be true in a general sense, but the worst of the northeast winter snowstorms are actually born in the south.

WxWatch: Datalink debate

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2011

The August 2011 Wx Watch ("Datalink Lowdown") in AOPA Pilot provoked comments from the two major suppliers of datalink weather. Here, Bob Baron of Baron Services—the provider behind WxWorx’s XM WX service—and Paul Devlin of WSI each explains why his service is best.

Wx Watch: Meteogram weather

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2010

Of all the products that make up a good preflight weather briefing, the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) must surely rank very near the top in importance. TAFs give us 24- or 30-hour views into the anticipated weather conditions at select airports around the world.

Wx Watch: Super Storms

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2010

Let’s say it again. Thunderstorms are must-avoid killers with air currents violent enough to cause structural failure.

Wx Watch: Outflow info

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2010

Thunderstorms are bad enough, but the surface outflows they generate can actually create more thunderstorms, low-level wind shear, gust fronts, and even tornadoes. The trouble begins, as with any convective situation, with an unstable atmosphere, a source of lift, and air moist enough to provide adequate liquid water content (LWC).

Wx Watch: Summer’s danger zones

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2010

The chart at right shows the mean number of days having thunderstorms. The prize goes to the western half of peninsular Florida, with 130 days.

Wx Watch: Nor'easter super slam

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2010

The radar map for late in the day on February 5 shows a classic mid-latitude low pressure system’s frontal signature (left). At this point the low pressure center is somewhere over South Carolina.

Wx Watch: Thundersnow!

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2010

Do you note weather conditions in your logbook entries? I do. It’s a great way to look back over the conditions that prompted memorable >weather events.

Wx Watch: Icing Intensities

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2009

Let’s get something out of the way right up front: Avoid icing conditions if at all possible, and escape them immediately should you encounter icing. It’s as simple as that.

Wx Watch: Eyes on the sky

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2009

In a lonely, one-story, concrete building some five miles from the Kansas City International Airport, a group of 40 Aviation Weather Center (AWC) meteorologists toil around the clock. Their job: create the weather forecasts, advisories, warnings, and graphics that flight service specialists and the pilot community rely upon for sound preflight information.

Wx Watch: Greeting the G-Airmet

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2009

The Aviation Digital Data Service’s Web site has been called the go-to Web site for one-stop aviation weather shopping. The variety of products covers all the bases, and the site’s cutting-edge products (such as the current and forecast icing products) make for a wealth of first-class preflight planning aids.

Wx Watch: Eyes in the Sky

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2009

WXWatch GOES satellites show more than clouds By: Thomas A. Horne Every pilot I know regularly checks out weather satellite imagery as part of his or her preflight duties, and for the most part, interpreting satellite photos is fairly intuitive.

Wx Watch: Calm up high, roaring down low

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2009

It’s a question that often pops up in the minds of high-time airline captains and beginning students alike: Why do winds increase with altitude? Are there any exceptions to this informal rule? Sometimes I get e-mails from pilots wondering about strange, weaker-than-usual winds aloft, many times with descriptions of increasing winds during the descent phase of the same flight. Yes, this sort of phenomenon happens from time to time.

Wx Watch: Rain or snow?

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2009

Will it snow tonight? Should I put the airplane in a hangar, just to be on the safe side? Will my approach and landing be affected by snow-reduced visibilities and reduced braking action? Will it be snow or rain? These are just a few of the wintertime concerns for pilots planning to operate out of airports affected by snowfall. Forecasters use computer-generated chart data to come up with a general rule (with the emphasis on general) to help them locate areas of likely snowfall at lower altitudes and at the surface.

Wx Watch: Icing facts and myths

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2008

Most of us have been around enough wintertime bull sessions to have heard some hair-raising stories of icing encounters. You know, landing with full power.

Wx Watch: Winter Rules to Live By

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2008

What if you were at some desolate airport, and had no access to weather information? Could you concoct at least a rudimentary idea of what the local weather held in store? There are ways of determining the weather in the next eight to 12 hours—under certain circumstances. And no, I’m not talking about using the “weather rock” you saw in that tourist trap at the side of the road, among the ridiculously huge cigars, the commemorative spoons, and the paperweights made of scorpions encased in plastic.

Wx Watch: Fronts on the Move

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2008

Pilots are always looking for easy answers to weather questions, most of which relate to determining forecast conditions. Unfortunately, the terms “easy” and “forecasting” seldom go together.

Wx Watch: The Scoop on Spin

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2008

Ever hear your local TV weatherpeople preface a warning of bad weather by mentioning “spin” in the atmosphere as a culprit? What they really mean is that parcels of air at high altitude are moving in such a way as to create a net upward movement of air. In other words, forces aloft are causing lift at the surface.

Wx Watch: Storm Survey

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2008

All thunderstorms are not created equal. They vary from region to region, from season to season, and rely on slightly different mechanisms to help them fire off.

Wx Watch: IFR Onslaught

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2008

Last December, the weather in the Pacific Northwest made big headlines. There were four cycles of two-day-long stretches of low IFR weather between December 2 and December 11.

Wx Watch: Icing Escape Clauses

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2008

Here’s hoping it never happens to you, but let’s look at some of the emergency measures you can take should you ever become caught in icing conditions. We’re assuming that you’ve made all the necessary preflight checks to prevent an icing encounter in the first place, received encouraging updates through Flight Watch or (if so equipped) your satellite weather provider, and made your “go” decision based on a conviction that icing conditions won’t be a factor.

Wx Watch: Internet Icing Upgrades

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2007

Just in time for icing season, the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) Web site has come up with a brand-new means for determining the probability and severity of an icing encounter. The new tool is called the Current Icing Product (CIP), and it can be found under the Icing tab on the ADDS home page.

Wx Watch: Common-Sense Separation

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2006

Does compliance with the federal aviation regulations VFR cloud separation rules guarantee safe flying? If you stick to the letter of the law, the answer is an emphatic "no way!" In dynamic weather conditions, especially when terrain and/or obstacles are factors, strict adherence to the words in FAR 91.155 ("Basic VFR Weather Minimums") can put you in deep, deep trouble. And for instrument-rated pilots, the same can be said of FAR Part 91.175 — where the rules for taking off and landing under instrument flight rules (IFR) are published.

Wx Watch: Ice Surprises

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2006

We all do the best we can when it comes to preparing for winter flying weather, right? We check with flight service, check Internet sources of weather information, and double-check any mention of icing airmets or sigmets. (Forecasts or reports of "run of the mill" clear, rime, or mixed icing conditions will generate an airmet.

Wx Watch: A Fright-Free Fall

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2006

Weather educators are forever scaring us with doomsday scenarios, and at times I've been one of them. But let's keep things in perspective.

Wx Watch: ASOS Basics

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2006

Since its introduction in the 1980s, automated weather observing stations have become standard equipment at many airports around the world. These include the federally funded ASOS (automated surface observation system) and the federal- and/or state-funded AWOS (automated weather observation system) instrument suites.

Wx Watch: FROPA Basics

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2006

You're standing on the ramp, about to climb into your airplane and take off. You notice that the wind has picked up, and your airport's latest AWOS (automated weather observation system) broadcast says that the altimeter setting has just dropped a bit.

Wx Watch: The Trouble With Zero

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2005

From the earliest days of ground school we've all learned about the temperature ranges associated with icing conditions. Clear icing — that slick, tenacious, transparent coating associated with cumulus clouds — happens most often in the zero-to-minus-10-degree-Celsius range.

Wx Watch: Ice Fighters

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2005

Pilots fortunate enough to have ice-protection systems can become blasé about icing encounters. Brother, is that a mistake! The subject of ice-protection equipment, its capabilities, and correct use is a complicated one — and one that's often neglected in conventional training materials.

Wx Watch: ADDS Upgrades

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2005

Faithful readers of "Wx Watch" will recall that I've referred to the Aviation Weather Center's (AWC) Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) Web site many times in the past. ADDS provides many valuable briefing products, and the AWC is constantly improving the site to make it more valuable and cutting edge.

Wx Watch: Bermuda Blocking

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2005

Let me tell you about one of the biggest large-scale summer weather systems that can affect the entire eastern half of the United States. It can cause huge thunderstorm complexes, make density altitudes soar to dangerous levels, and drop visibilities to instrument meteorological conditions values in haze.

Wx Watch: Radar Revolution

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2005

Datalink weather information has revolutionized the way many of us think about weather and deal with in-flight weather decisions. With datalink information such as METARs and TAFs can be called up for studied review — there's no struggling with trying to write as fast as a flight-watch briefer speaks (though flight watch is still the official source for late-breaking weather updates and the sole source of such information for the thousands of us who aren't lucky enough to have datalink service).

Wx Watch: Squall-Line Lowdown

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2005

It's challenging enough to cope with "garden variety" thunderstorms, what with all the extra preflight weather research and in-flight monitoring that safe flying demands in the convective season. To all that, factor in other brands of convective activity that require as much, or more, vigilance (see "Safety Pilot Landmark Accidents: Midlevel Mayhem," page 66).

Wx Watch: The Eyes Have It

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2005

Now that thunderstorm season is upon us, it's time to recall the prime directive for guaranteed storm-cell avoidance. It's a very important rule, and one that should be kept firmly in every general aviation pilot's mind, whether he or she is a neophyte or a grizzled high-timer with a logbook bulging with actual instrument time.

Wx Watch: Windwise

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2005

I once did a study of general aviation weather accidents for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. It had many goals, but one objective was determining which weather phenomenon caused the most accidents.