Paragliding Weather Information
Visit Eagle Paragliding's Weather Page for Santa Barbara paragliding weather links.
These links will help you plan your flying day. Use the information to build a picture of the weather in your area of the Airplay schools to see when the conditions will be favorable for a safe flying day. Make sure that you find out if the conditions will be changing during the day and to plan your flying accordingly. These forecasts can sometimes be pretty general, so always look at the weather when you get to your flying site. Check how the sky looks based on your forecast. Ask the locals what they think. Use all the information you can get and have a safe flying day. You are the person that's going to be in the air, not the weather forecaster!
"It's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground!"
Aviation weather in the US can also be obtained by calling a weather briefer on 1(800)WXBRIEF Ask for a terminal forecast for the nearest airport, the winds aloft and temperatures for the surface through 12000ft.
Follow these links from top to bottom and they will lead you through the process of completing a weather picture.
General Weather Forecasts
These forecasts are useful for the general weather situation and forecast. Is it going to be sunny, hot, windy etc. The forecast discussion is full of weather technospeak, but it comes directly from the NOAA folks who are looking firsthand at the weather soundings and computer forecasts.
Visible Satellite Images
These images will give you a broader picture of the atmosphere. Are there any major storms approaching? Is the flying site completely stratus covered? Are there lots of small cumulus clouds present? (good!)
|California||Arizona||NOAA 1KM Santa Barbara||NOAA 1KM Flagstaff|
Infrared Satellite Images
These images show the temperatures of the cloud tops. The colder the cloud tops, the higher they are. Clouds that have very high tops indicate a very dynamic and unstable atmosphere and are usually indicators of rain or thunderstorms.
|NOAA 4KM Westcoast|
Water Vapor Satellite Images
These images hide some of the cloud details and just show the more large scale atmosphere dynamics. They show areas of low pressures and jet streams quite well.
|NOAA 16KM Eastern Pacific|
Looking at the surface pressure maps will tell you the direction and strength of the regional wind. Sometimes the local thermals or geography can overpower the regional wind, but always be aware of the regional winds.
|NOAA Surface Analysis|
Surface Winds and Winds Aloft
For paragliders, the winds aloft are really important, both for students and advanced cross county sky Gods. High winds aloft will tend to move downward as thermals mix up the atmosphere. Be careful of flying with light winds on the surface and high winds aloft, such as when an inversion is present : the surface winds can increase suddenly.
|Aviation Weather Center Winds Aloft||Aviation Weather Center Winds Aloft|
Jet Stream Maps
When a jet stream is close to or over your flying site, forecasting the weather can become difficult. The weather can change very quickly and unpredictably when so much energy in the atmosphere is close by. When there are high winds aloft in mountainous areas, waves can be set up that can cause very sudden and powerful wind shifts at the surface. Be careful.
|SFSU Pacific Jet Stream Map|
These images will show you where it is raining, and probably not good for flying! Very dense rainfall in a small area can be an indicator that gust fronts may be present.
|Intellicast Santa Barbara Radar (animation)||Intellicast Flagstaff Radar (animation)|
Links to sites and pages that provide weather information to general aviation pilots. These pages provide information usually targeted to pilots flying larger powered aircraft, but if you fly near an airport, the terminal area forecasts (TAFs) are useful as another source of wind data. Sometimes they can use hard to understand terms and abbreviations, so be sure to ask you instructor to expalain these if you don't understand them.
As part of the general aviation community we are required to check if we are allowed to fly in our intended airspace. The FAA issues notices to airmen (NOTAM's) to tell us of any restrictions. You can ask the weather briefer or look online.
|National Weather Service||National Weather Service|
|Santa Barbara Airport TAF||Flagstaff Airport TAF|
|FAA NOTAM's||FAA NOTAM's|
If you have time to download the movies, they will show the dynamics of the atmosphere and give an indication of the winds aloft and the direction of approach of any major weather changes for your area.
|National Weather Service Oxnard||National Weather Service Flagstaff|
|Soaring Forecast for Santa Barbara||Soaring Forecast for Flagstaff|
|Wind Streamlines||Soaring Forecast|
|MESO Report for Flagstaff|
|MESO Report for Winslow|
High desert flying conditions, like those found in the Owens Valley or Northern Arizona are best for beginners when the HIGH is directly overhead or within 200 miles. The isobar spread should be no less than 1 per 300 miles at surface measured in the 4mb range, the Weather Channel surface map is perfect for this model. The NWS should be reporting winds at 9000'msl under 15knots and 12000'msl under 20. Instability should be mild and can be determined by noting a mild to high pressure and no more than a -20 T.I. between surface and 12,000msl. Watch surface temps and be leery of puddle temp increases. Summertime in high desert areas can bring about T.I. negatives of -30 as early as 9am. For example, you may measure 115f after a 10 minute surface temp measurement at 6000'msl and then note that the NWS has reported 35f at 12,000'msl. This would give a negative thermal index of -47 WOW!!!!! Fly early and late, quit flying well before trigger temperature is met to avoid turbulence.
Advanced pilots seeking stronger XC type conditions will still want fairly light upper level winds, no more than 20knots at 9,000'msl and 25 knots at 12,000'msl. The Jet Stream should still be far away and isobars at least 200 miles apart within the same model as mentioned above. Slightly pre or post frontal can loosen the atmosphere and make thermals appear sooner and last longer, but without the intensity of mid-day High pressure type thermals. Watch for overdevelopment and land as soon as clouds begin getting taller than they are wide. Be prepared that you may easily exceed 18,000'msl in big desert thermals and proper clothing and oxygen are important.