Cloud reading: weather observation

In California, late fall usually means the door to Pacific storms begins to swing wide, bringing snow to the highlands. No matter where you live, the weather affects your daily life, but it’s especially important for people who spend time outdoors. Naturally, skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts will listen to the latest weather reports before heading to the heights. But once they’re slipping through the glass blanket or walking in potentially bad weather, they may not have a radio or TV or reliable cell phone service available to control the storm forecasters said was coming.

However, approaching storms hint at their imminent arrival at least several hours in advance. The following aids can help decipher those clues:

“A Field Guide to the Atmosphere” by Vincent J. Shaefer and John A. Day (Houghton Mifflin).

As the title suggests, this book is about more than weather forecasting. Like all the books in Peterson’s field guide series, its primary focus is identification; in this case, clouds, rainbows, glories, halos, and other atmospheric phenomena. For this, it has numerous drawings, in addition to 336 black and white photographs and 32 in color.

Because the atmosphere is not only something to identify, but also an ever-changing system to observe, the book devotes much space to discussing the processes that operate in the ocean of air. It’s as much for the skier wondering how a high, icy cirrus can halo the sun as it is for the snow camper who wants to know if he’ll have to get out of his tent the next morning. .

“Resisting the Wilderness” by William E. Reifsnyder (Sierra Club Books).

The subtitle of this book is “The Sierra Club Guide to Practical Meteorology.” It is written with the outdoor recreationist in mind. The first part of the book is a basic course on the why of winds and storms. Of particular interest to the future forecaster is a table that shows how different weather conditions – pressure (for which you’ll need an altimeter/barometer to measure), wind, clouds, precipitation, temperature, humidity, and visibility – change as approach systems and He passed. Incidentally, the chapter on “Weather Hazards,” especially its discussion of wind chill, hypothermia, and avalanches, should be of particular interest to the skier.

The second part deals with the general weather patterns of various regions of the United States and Canada, including the Sierra Nevada, with generally mild and wet winters producing good skiing conditions.

Pocket Weather Trends (Weather Trends Inc.)

This device is the most practical of the three forecasting aids. It looks like a simple slide rule. A slide stand has 6 boxed areas on its front with photos and descriptions of different types of clouds. Each box has eight compass directions. Each slide, one for each of several regions, has a black mark in the middle that is aligned next to the wind direction within the box that corresponds to the cloud type observed overhead. Then, in two horizontal windows, one from November to April and the other from May to October, the slide will show you the forecast for the next 12 to 36 hours.

All of these books are available on Amazon.

In addition to books or charts, there are portable weather instruments that a recreationist can take with them. Accurate measurements of weather conditions can take the guesswork out of forecasting. Companies like Kestrel, Ambient Weather, Speedtech, Weather Mate, and Davis Instruments make portable devices that can measure temperature (current, maximum, and minimum), pressure, elevation, wind speed, relative humidity, dew point, and humidity. other measures. In addition, they are all water resistant or waterproof. These are available directly from the manufacturer, recreation stores, or online.