July 2009 Issue

Don’t Like The Weather? Wait An Hour

We’ve all heard this old adage about significant and rapid weather changes. Thing is, if you follow the advice, your flight planning and success rate can improve.

If you take a big look at the general weather patterns across the entire contiguous U.S., you’ll see a rather marked difference. The eastern U.S. from about the Mississippi River to the Atlantic has a pattern that is often the least flexible, with adverse weather that can be frustratingly stable. Weather not very friendly to airplanes can persist there for days. Still, though, the worst weather—i.e., convective activity—is usually transient. Next is the area from the Mississippi to the Rockies. This area can get some rather severe weather, too, but the worst of it usually doesn’t last long. While you may have to avoid the thunderstorms, tornadoes, ice storms, etc., an early start or short delay will usually make the difference between "don’t-go-there" weather and reasonable VMC. Of course, like anywhere, it can still have its periods of low IMC that just hang there with no hope of a quick reprieve. The next area that we can generalize is from the Rockies all the way to the Pacific coast. Here, other than predictable isolated cells or cell clusters, severe weather is far less common. Indeed, other than the infamous coastal fog layers that can last for weeks, the weather in the West is seldom even IMC for more than a few hours at a time.

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