Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chasing the right weather . . .

Not as odd a concept as you may think . . . with the amount of forecasting sites available on the web, 'chasing the weather' has become a black art.

All of us who love the outdoors have different priorities when it comes to weather: rock climbers, winter mountaineers, canoeists, surfers, walkers, paragliders. However, we all have one thing in common: the perfect forecast! For a surfer, this may be a settled period after a storm, with huge swells and little wind. For walkers and climbers, it is the eternal hunt for the 'blue day', usually a high pressure forecast with light winds and dry conditions underfoot. For canoeists, rain-swollen, low pressure systems whet the appetite, as the rivers boil into bursting arteries of peaty water. For paragliders, only the stillest, 'thermal' days will do.


Many old-timers will smell it in the wind, or have developed an instinct for it, such as 'mixed' winter mountaineers. This rare breed of snow-scrapers seek out hoared up rock in the Highlands, with each hill-range cursed with particular micro-climates and eccentric thermal behaviours influenced by a largely maritime situation - only perfect combinations of temperature, moisture and wind direction will see the cliff face come into 'perfect nick'. Nothing is more disappointing after a 2am alpine start, a 4 hour drive, a powder-snowed 3 hour walk-in, than to find the cliff  'black' and dripping, rather than frozen into a turfy, dandruffed playground.



For boulderers, only a dry, cold spell in autumn or winter, when the leaves wither into Barbecue crisps and the rock squeaks with chalk, will do. For trad climbers, long summer high pressures are the stuff of dreams, it seems more so these days.


 And so we all have our favourite forecasting sites, trawling through our list of Favourites to find the forecast that's 'just right', knowing fine well the weather will do just what it's going to do. It doesn't stop us picking our forecasts, though. Here are a few of my most visited sites for chasing weather in Scotland - my favourite is the Norway site. The Scandinavians are obviously used to Atlantic weather fronts and YR.NO is a great weather channel providing a time-slide animation which features wind direction, temperature and precipitation at once. It also offers pretty accurate long-term forecasts for those of us stuck at the coalface of dirty, jet-streamed low pressure queues...


The BBC also offers a reasonable time-slide satellite animation and good break-downs of  daily local conditions:



The best mountain sites for Scotland are the MWIS page, a PDF-based system, and the Met Office Mountain Forecasts 




1 comment:

elvin said...

really cool rock climbing, I love it. I wait your presence on my blog http://skrtu.blogspot.com

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