Major upgrade next year to the Global Forecast System (GFS)

NOAA/NWS selected the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) finite­ volume cubed-sphere (FV3) dynamical core as the NWS Next Generation Global Prediction System (NGGPS).  The current operational GFS, which has a spectral dynamical core, will be replaced by the proposed GFS with FV3 dynamical core and improved physics parameterizations in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2019.

The proposed GFS version maintains a horizontal resolution of 13 km and has 64 levels in the vertical extending up to 0.2 mb.  It uses the same physics package as the current operational GFS except for:

-Replacing Zhao-Carr microphysics with the more advanced GFDL microphysics

-Updating parameterization of ozone photochemistry with additional production and loss terms

-Introducing parameterization of middle atmospheric water vapor photochemistry

-Revising bare soil evaporation scheme

The data assimilation system will be updated to include:

  • Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) moisture channels

  • Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) all-sky radiances

  • Fix for an issue with the Near Sea Surface Temperature (NSST) in the Florida Strait

  • Upgrade to the use of Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) radiances

  • NOAA-20 CrIS and ATMS data

  • Megha-Tropiques SAPHIR data

  • Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) data from MetOp-B

 

Introducing our WeatherSpork member referral program

Are you a fan of WeatherSpork?  If so, we have a way for you to earn our gratitude!  With each new member you refer, we will extend your annual member by one month.  Twelve referrals means you’ll get an entire year free.  It’s that simple.  You could become a Sporkie for life if you referred at least one new member each and every month.  So what are you waiting for…let’s get Sporking!

To receive credit be sure that when your friend joins by visiting WeatherSpork.com they include your first and last name in the “How did you hear about WeatherSpork and/or AvWxWorkshops.com?” field during the registration process.  Then within the next 5-7 business days (or less) you will see your expiration date pushed into the future by a month.  If you’ve already referred a friend or two since we released the app on March 1, then your membership has already been adjusted.  Thanks for your contribution!

We know that WeatherSpork can’t grow unless our customers stand behind the product.  We hope that you can help us grow to remain the gold standard for aviation weather in the coming months and years.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Spork meets Droid, Android, that is!

We are excited to let you know that we’ve just released our new app to Google Play for those that use an Android device.  With very few exceptions, the WeatherSpork app will have the same look and feel and has all the same features as our popular iOS and web-based versions of WeatherSpork.  So when you are an “exSporkt” on one device, you are an exSporkt on all WeatherSpork platforms.  U.S. Droid users, don’t delay, go right now and visit Google Play. You won’t be disappointed.

At this time, WeatherSpork is only available to U.S. customers for Google Play.

 

 

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Rain showers should get your attention

Too many pilots see the word “showers” and think it’s just some harmless light rain event.  When, in fact, a forecast for showery precipitation should get your attention since rain showers are a result of a convective process.  In many cases, forecasters often use showery precipitation (SHRA or VCSH) when they have a fair amount of uncertainly about a future convective event.  Forecasters won’t include TSRA or VCTS in a TAF unless they feel certain thunderstorms will impact the airport’s terminal area.

Here’s an example.  Consider you are making a short flight from Cedar Rapids (KCID) in Iowa to Chicago Executive (KPWK) around 12Z on the morning of May 11th.  The previous evening you fire up WeatherSpork and go to the Imagery view and take a look at the new HREF Model graphics.  You notice an area of convection with echo top heights greater than 30,000 feet is forecast to be poised just to the west and northwest of your route by 08Z as shown below. With such a high probability of tops above 30,000 feet MSL, this area of weather is likely to contain dangerous convective turbulence at 08Z.

However, as you forward the loop to 12Z (below) you notice that the high probability of 30,000 ft echo top heights has diminished, indicating this area of convective weather is expected to weaken with time.  Therefore, forecasters also will likely treat this weather system as a weakening area of weather.

So the next morning you take a look at the radar depiction and notice that at 11Z, the pattern to the weather looks remarkably like the echo tops height forecast from the HREF Model you saw the previous evening.

You go to the WeatherSpork Airports view and find the latest TAF issued for Cedar Rapids.  The TAF doesn’t mention any possibility thunderstorms during the morning.  However, you do notice that there’s a forecast for light rain showers (-SHRA) beginning at 15Z.  So what’s that all about?

KCID 111120Z 1112/1212 08015G21KT P6SM OVC050
FM111500 08017G25KT P6SM -SHRA OVC035
FM111800 09017G25KT P6SM OVC020
FM120000 09014G21KT 6SM BR VCSH OVC015
FM120500 05013KT 5SM -SHRA BR OVC012

You then take a peek at the Area Forecast Discussion (AFD) out of the Quad Cities NWS weather forecast office. The aviation section explains the forecaster’s thinking.  The forecaster also believes this was a weakening area of showers and isolated storms. Then, the last sentence of this section goes on to say that thunderstorms were not included in the TAF for KCID because of the limited predictability due to the weakening system.

.AVIATION…(For the 12Z TAFS through 12Z Saturday Morning)
ISSUED AT 525 AM CDT Fri May 11 2018

A weakening area of showers and isolated storms will move through
the area late this morning into early this afternoon and have
timed a 2-3 hour window of rain at each site. Later this afternoon
and tonight, scattered showers and isolated storms will be most
favored at KDBQ, with lesser coverage expected to the south.
KDBQ/KCID/KMLI can expect periods of MVFR ceilings and/or
visibilities beginning as early as late morning. With limited
predictability, have not include mention of thunder in TAFs.

Nevertheless, the showery precipitation forecast is a placeholder for an uncertain thunderstorm event.  If the weather doesn’t dissipate as expected, the forecaster will amend the TAF once the event becomes more certain.  Even if this area of convection doesn’t meet the thunderstorm criteria to make it into the TAF, showery precipitation implies vertically-developed clouds from convective debris of this weakening system and may still contain dangerous convective turbulence.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Crosswind & prevailing wind color depiction on Meteogram view

There’s no doubt that wind is the leading cause of weather-related aircraft accidents.  Even so, strong crosswinds can make for a challenging landing even for the most seasoned pilot. So to help alert you to nasty wind conditions expected at an airport over the next three days, WeatherSpork version 4.3.5 has enhanced the wind Meteogram by adding “traffic light” colors (red, yellow and green) to the time-series wind graph depicted on the Meteogram view.

For an airport, the observed or expected prevailing wind (shown above) is plotted as a continuous line and color coded by wind speed using the following colors:

  • Green – 0 to 10 knots.
  • Yellow – 11 to 20 knots.
  • Red – greater than 21 knots.

The crosswind component is depicted as a color-filled graph overlaid on the same time-series depiction. Crosswinds are evaluated by determining the best opportunity runway based on the observed or forecast winds at the surface using the following colors:

  • Green – 0 to 10 knots.
  • Yellow – 11 to 15 knots.
  • Red – greater than 16 knots.

So the next time you go flying be sure to check the WeatherSpork Meteogram to determine if a challenging takeoff or landing are in your future.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

 

New weather imagery for you jet jockeys

If you are flying in the flight levels this summer and especially the upper flight levels, we have some new static weather Imagery for you!  We recently added to WeatherSpork version 4.3.4 new guidance that is going to be very popular with you jet jockeys out there.   It’s from the High Resolution Ensemble Forecast (HREF) which is updated four times a day and provides two probabilistic forecasts for echo top heights at hourly intervals with a lead time of 36 hours.

Two probabilistic forecasts are available in WeatherSpork.  You will find this in the Imagery view under the HREF Model.  Choices include echo top heights greater than 30,000 feet MSL and echo top heights greater than 35,000 feet MSL.  The height of the echo top is a forecast for the highest simulated radar echo top (top of the precipitation core) with an expected reflectivity not less than 18 dBZ.  Remember, these are forecasts, not actual NEXRAD echo tops.  And note, the cloud tops are often higher.

Notice the scale at the bottom of the chart.  The echo top height forecast depicted on the chart is a calibrated probability.  The highest probabilities are on the right side of the scale (red and purple) with lowest probabilities on the left (green and blue).  So a forecast that’s depicted in red means there’s a 90 to 100% chance at the forecast valid time, there will be tops greater than 30,000 feet (or 35,000 feet depending on the forecast you are using).   Therefore, flying through or near areas of red and purple will likely require flying at an altitude higher than 30,000 feet (or 35,000 ft).  They may be areas you want to avoid.

A flight at 30,000 feet (or 35,000 feet) through areas without colors depicted will very likely be above the highest echo tops or in an area without precipitation forecast.

The valid time is posted at the top of the chart as shown above (underlined in red).  It uses a YYYYMMDD HHMMZ format. For example, the chart abvove is a 33 hour forecast valid at May 9, 2018 at 03Z (20180509 0300Z).  The time on the left side is the initialization time of the model or what is referred to as the “run time” or “cycle time” of the HREF forecast model.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Passing of a legend Richard (Dick) Collins

I was very sad to hear the news this morning that Dick Collins passed away.  As I was learning to fly in the 1990s, Dick became an inspiration to me both as a writer and as a student of the weather.  As a newly minted private pilot, I read as many of Dick’s articles as I could get my hands on…I have stacks of his magazine articles still neatly packed away in my closet in a dozen or so boxes.

Even though my profession is in the field of meteorology, I didn’t have – and will never have – the weather flying experience that Dick so carefully wrote about in many of his articles.  You could tell with each and every paragraph he crafted that Dick was also a student of the weather and had utmost respect for the mysteries Mother Nature bestowed.   It takes a gifted and talented person to write to express, not to impress.   Even as Dick aged, he continued to impart his wisdom even just one month ago in his last piece in the Air Facts Journal.

I only met Dick once, very briefly at the Cumberland Airport in Maryland about 15 years ago.  As I reached out to shake his hand, he put on a big, but humble smile.  Even though we never exchanged business cards or emails, even though he never got a chance to attend one of my live aviation weather workshops, I felt he was a good friend and colleague simply through is stories.  He promoted safety in so many ways and his long aviation career demonstrated his passion for it.   There’s no doubt that his wisdom through his penmanship saved many a human life…not just those of pilots, but passengers as well.  As you have educated a countless number of pilots about weather over the last 50 or more years, I will continue to carry your torch Dick.  You will be missed!

Newest enhancements to WeatherSpork – version 4.3.0

WeatherSpork just got even better! WeatherSpork version 4.3.0 is now available in the App Store.  In addition to a few bug fixes, we are excited to tell you that we raised the roof of WeatherSpork to FL450.  You’ll now enjoy in the Route Profile view a depiction of clouds, wind and en route advisories from the surface to 45,000 feet MSL.  In this release we also added cross track distance to the Route Profile view allowing you to see the distance from fly-by airports to the proposed route.  Lastly, we added the High Resolution Ensemble Forecast (HREF) guidance for ceiling and flight category to the WeatherSpork Imagery view.

Watch the video below to see an overview of these enhancements to WeatherSpork. Enjoy!

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

 

Just raised the roof on WeatherSpork!

With WeatherSpork version 4.3.0, you now have the option of selecting FL450 as the upper limit on the clouds and weather display.  The upper limit on earlier releases was restricted FL200.  This will allow you to see winds (speed and direction) as well as clouds and advisories (G-AIRMETs and SIGMETs) that extend higher in the flight levels or FL450.

To change the altitude limit, go to the Route Profile view and simply tap or click on the black route button at the top.  That will bring up the Route Profile settings.  Scroll down in the settings window (shown below) to find the Maximum Altitude setting and select FL450 and tap or click Save. The other selections of 6,000 ft MSL, 12,000 ft MSL and FL200 will remain available.

This enhancement only affects the Route Profile view.  The Meteogram view will still remain limited to a maximum altitude of FL200.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Cross track distance from fly-by waypoints

When you’ve defined a proposed route in WeatherSpork you may notice that it picks a number of “close” fly-by stations (airports) to include along that route.  These show up on the Map view as rounded square icons like those shown below.  But how far is KMSV off of your great circle route from KBOS to KCLE to KORD?  That’s known as cross track distance (abbrevated XTK) and is defined as the closest distance from the station to the route as shown below.

Now in WeatherSpork version 4.3.0 we’ve added a cross track distance (abbreviated XTK) to the route progress strip at the bottom of the Route Profile view.  These fly-by stations along with those defining your route (departure, midpoints and destination) will be added to this view.   This gives you a quick indication of just how far this station is off of the route.  For example, in the Profile view below, KMSV is 27 nm from the route identified in the blue oval.  To decrease clutter in the route progress strip, cross track distances are not shown for the departure, destination and midpoint stations as shown by the red Xs below; it’s assumed that the cross track is 0 nm.

Keep in mind that the weather can be quite different at these fly-by stations as compared to stations right over the actual route.  The greater the distance, the more likely the variation in weather.  Keep that big weather picture in mind.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

 

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