April 2019

I started enRoute 21 years ago talking about turbulence. I thought it appropriate to explain about bumps some 21 years later.

Yes, they only drew three stripes. Well the tunic could be a cruise pilot, relief pilot or a first officer upgrading to captain.

Yes, they only drew three stripes. Well the tunic could be a cruise pilot, relief pilot or a first officer upgrading to captain.

Pouring a Guinness

What does beer have to with weather?

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Captain D the bar tender

Learning to properly pour a Guinness.

How does beer and weather mix? Well, I learned the temperature for making a perfect Guinness starts at 232 degrees Celsius.

Second, my grade nine teacher pointed out that London, England is much farther north than many cities in Canada, but it is much warmer at the same latitude. Dublin, Ireland (Guinness capital of the world) is the same latitude as Goose Bay, Labrador at 53 degrees north. But Goose Bay can be -15 C whereas Dublin will typically be +15 C. Why the huge difference? Think…Gulf Stream.

In January, 2019 a United B777 diverted into YYR (Goose Bay ) due to a “medical.” The temperature was -30 C so one of the cabin doors would not close. Passengers were left to sit on the plane and cycle through the small, inadequate airport facility. Can you say “gong show?” Another exemplification that medical diversions are a challenge. And then some!

Now back from a Dublin vacation and I’m off to Sao Paulo tomorrow. Last time there, I diverted into Brasilia for a medical. Yes, another gong show. I sure hope the three year old boy is doing well.

United delayed for 20 hours in Goose Bay, Labrador.

United delayed for 20 hours in Goose Bay, Labrador.



















Beware of the southwest flow aloft!

Meteorological history repeats itself.

Surface analysis depicting a weak low pressure spreading an easterly flow over southern Ontario. An upper trough supporting this low, spread 25 to 45 knot southwest winds aloft at 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

Surface analysis depicting a weak low pressure spreading an easterly flow over southern Ontario. An upper trough supporting this low, spread 25 to 45 knot southwest winds aloft at 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

Part of our approach briefing is to include potential threats. While flying from Copenhagen, Denmark to Toronto I chimed in with, “YYZ’s TAF is forecasting a southwest flow for two hours after this northeast flow. There could be a strong southwest flow aloft.” Silence ensued among the other three pilots and I could hear them thinking, “what is the skipper talking about?” I broke the silence by joking, “my meteorological senses were tingling.” Sure enough ATC mentioned a strong southwest flow aloft with winds shifting to easterly at 1000 to 1500 AGL. The B787 radar was also painting purple wind shear, a rarity.

Buffalo’s upper air sounding clocked the winds southwest 25 to 40 knots at vectoring heights for Toronto. (Buffalo is the closest upper station). When the flow aloft is a strong tailwind, ATC can have a tough time with it. They also want you to get down and slow down. Something very difficult to do in an airliner without significant drag. Luckily, the 787 has “big boards” compared to the Airbus “credit cards” used for speed brakes. The F/O flying this leg couldn’t slow the slippery wing so he disengaged the A/P and rode the glide slope a little high. The well executed maneuver allowed final flap.

I wrote about this very scenario catching a supervisor by surprise some 15 to 16 years ago. It’s mentioned in both weather books. Weather does repeat itself!

The F/O greased it on in a light northeast flow coupled with a wet runway. A wet runway is a pilot’s favourite, but not too wet!

I did mention after we landed about how my meteorological senses were right and that no one buys my books. Hint, hint guys. Even if you have 15, 000 to 20,000 hours, which both my F/O’s had, they could use a refresher.

Shearing Anti-Ice fluid (Type IV) During Takeoff

In North America, most airliners are deiced with orange Type 1 deice fluid that goes on hot, about 60 C to 80 C. It tends to be diluted at various ratios. If it is precipitating, or a pilot thinks precipitation is imminent, an application of Type IV is applied. Type IV goes on cold, undiluted and is designed to shear off during the takeoff run. It does not prevent ice formation when airborne. The airplanes themselves look after airborne icing.

How Buffalo helps with Toronto's forecast

I am back from a long haul flight and Toronto is being inundated with freezing precipitation: FZRA, PL with FZDZ to come. The YYZ METAR below states there is ice on the indicator one millimeter thick (piece of aluminum to replicate an aircraft's skin) and about 2 cm of snow (probably ice pellets) have accumulated. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled. The winds are easterly (ugly wind) and the temperature is -2C with an IFR ceiling.

CYYZ 061800Z 08009KT 2SM -FZRA -PL OVC007 M02/M04 A2995 RMK SC8 1MM ICE ON INDICATOR /S02/

Last evening while flying in from Tel Aviv, Israel during my annual route check, I noticed the temperature on approach to be +3C whereas the surface temperature hovered at -2C. I immediately thought it to be a subsidence inversion as the stratocumulus cloud top was compact and level. However, some middle to high cloud lurked foreshadowing a frontal inversion. I tried to point this inversion out to my flying mates, but I remembered I was getting a route check and below 10,000 feet supposed to be a sterile environment. Oops.

So how does Buffalo, New York aid a Canadian forecaster? For an area with millions of people in the Greater Toronto Area we get our upper air data from the balloon launched twice a day in Buffalo.

Below is the upper air data called a Skew-T Log-P diagram, I wanted to point out the nice frontal inversion associated with a winter warm front. I tried to find a diagram that depicted heights in feet. One can get the data in text, and the above freezing started at 750m (2400 feet) to 2450 (8000 feet). Thick!

Here in Canada we call it a tephigram ) T for temperature and Phi for entropy (thermodynamic entity).

Buffalo’s upper air data for freezing rain/ice pellets in Toronto

Buffalo’s upper air data for freezing rain/ice pellets in Toronto

Southern Ontario’s GFA

Southern Ontario’s GFA

Tis the Season...Fog Season

This article will be appearing in the next edition of Canadian Aviator

Tis the Season…Fog Season

(Foggy IFR, Foggy Flying, The East Coast Veil, Obscurity , Obscure Fog, Advection Fog)

Holding short in the foggiest airport in North America

Holding short in the foggiest airport in North America

Most pilots know there are six types of fog: advection, radiation, upslope, frontal, steam and ice fog. Canada’s East Coast will be entering fog season annoying pilots from early April until well into the summer due to advection fog, but this type can loom anytime of the year if the winds blow in from the ocean.

If you are flying out East during fog season, expect numerous challenges. Airports like St. John’s, N.L (YYT), Halifax, N.S (YHZ), Sydney, N.S (YQY), Yarmouth, N.S (YQI), St John, N.B (YSJ) is where thick fog lurks. Growing up in Halifax, I thought it normal living in a continual thick blanket of fog this time of year. Not until I moved to Ontario did I realize the abundance of VFR.

Advection Fog (also called sea fog) forms when warm moist air advects over a relatively cool surface (water or land). Advection is the movement of air horizontally not to be confused with convection, which is the movement of air vertically. Where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream collide with the cold Labrador Current it’s conducive to forming some of the foggiest places on the planet. Advection fog is not as dependent on wind speed as it is on wind direction. Many claim this fog can lift to a stratus layer under strong surface winds, and indeed this does happen. However, when the cooling is extreme, like over the very chilly waters off Canada's eastern shoreline, think thick fog! You will often find gale-force winds and be unable to see beyond a few feet. The world’s foggiest place is found off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, where the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current butt heads. Your career may see you flying supply helicopters to oil rigs located in those waters. And where are the choppers based? At the foggiest airport in Canada, St John’s, of course! In a past article, I mentioned St John’s, a.k.a Torbay, is the windiest, cloudiest, second rainiest, foggiest city with the most freezing precipitation in the country. It goes without saying it has Canada’s lowest VFR ranking, about 65% in the summer lowering to just 62% in the winter.

The two currents behind the making of fog.

The two currents behind the making of fog.

As mentioned, wind direction is a very important factor in the formation of advection fog. For example, advection fog is almost a definite at the Halifax International when the winds are persistent from 070 degrees (true) to 240 degrees. This low lying IFR menace does not form in Halifax when west-to-northerly winds blow.

But don’t think advection fog is strictly an East coast thing. The west coast of Canada and the U.S also gets mired in it. Cold waters hug British Columbia and the States of Washington, Oregon and California and all the way south to the tip of the Baja Peninsula. While Vancouver sees some advection fog, it’s the west coast of Vancouver Island that is the real home to this chilled air mass. Sometimes you’ll see advection fog form over Lake Ontario and move inland to Toronto. Advection fog can be enhanced when a relatively moist air mass overrides a snow-covered terrain. The solid snow may sublimate directly into water vapour, adding to the low-level moisture. This process is conducive to very dense fog.

It takes most of the winter to cool the waters off the East Coast, so “fog season” plagues the Atlantic Provinces for months. The year when I moved back to Halifax as a commuting pilot, the airport authority decided to shut down their two ILS approaches for runway work in July. They had been informed there was minimal chance of fog forming at that time of year. Wrong! I had to book off my first pairing that summer. I couldn't get to Toronto to work my scheduled flight to Paris, France because there were no airplanes! Numerous flights were cancelled.

Advection fog can move well inland and be enhanced by hilly terrain (YHZ is about 15 miles inland on a high point). This type of fog may retreat to the coast during the day as the sun burns it off, but will quickly return as the evening cools. However, a cloud deck may impede the sun from burning off the fog, in which case it will remain until a wind shift causes it to break up. This fog can persist for days and wilt a person’s spirit. If it thickens, drizzle may form, which can cover an extensive area. But no matter its diverse guise, fog is every aviator’s challenge.

 

My attempt at poetry… 

Brume

It prances in diverse guises

It marks its misty presence as it ascends a hill little by little

As a warm wind moves over chilling waters it will form an immense white blanket

It can stay for days and wilt a spirit

Or come and go at the onset of dawn

It may accompany a gale obscuring a pilot’s line of sight to mere feet

It can ally with warm raindrops inducing low visibility

     Or play havoc in bitterly cold Arctic air

It can be a sign of seasonal change as it lunges from warm water

No matter its origin... it will challenge any aviator…

Captain D

 

Facts:

Pilots should always be looking at the spread between the temperature and dew point. If the spread is 2°C or less, anticipate FOG!

Fog (FG) is when visibility lowers to less than 5/8 of a statute mile whereas mist (BR) is 5/8 of a mile or more.

BR for mist is derived from the French word Brume.

When flying on the fog-infested East Coast, the answer a pilot usually gives as to when he saw the lights on an ILS approach, is a curt “minimums!” The truth may have had been stretched a bit as to when they actually saw the lights. (ahem)

Urban myth: It’s claimed the Halifax airport location was chosen because it was in a region of reduced fog, but when the trees were cut down to build the airport, fog materialized. My take is any airport near the Atlantic coast, especially one built on the highest terrain in the area, will be conducive to fog. Rather than burning off the fog from the heat of the trees, the clearing allowed the low clouds to reach the surface! St. John’s, Newfoundland suffers from the same plight, as it too is perched upon a hill.

 

 

 

Weather Warm Ups (Inversions)

Just sent another article to Canadian Aviator magazine. Here it is in its “raw” version.

An anvil and a fully developed thunderstorm. This guy hit the tropopause hence the blacksmith looking anvil. I called this inversion or isothermal layer a tropopause inversion. I took a pic of this “bad boy” over Montana. It flirted to FL 460 or so, well above an airliner’s maximum height.

An anvil and a fully developed thunderstorm. This guy hit the tropopause hence the blacksmith looking anvil. I called this inversion or isothermal layer a tropopause inversion. I took a pic of this “bad boy” over Montana. It flirted to FL 460 or so, well above an airliner’s maximum height.

Temperature Warm Ups (Inversions)

Or

A Weather Warm Up (Inversions)

Or

Temperature Warm Ups Aloft

Any pilot knows temperature decreases about 2°C per 1000 feet, but meteorologically inquisitive pilots want to know more about lapse rates and what exactly is going on aloft. I recently gave two talks to local COPA chapters on lapse rates. They discovered weather balloons launched twice a day from over 900 sites globally gather information while ascending to about 100,000 feet where the balloon bursts and tumbles back to earth slowed by a parachute. From these soundings, air is found to sometimes warm with height. These inversions occur in four different scenarios.

Nocturnal inversion. During the night under light winds cooling is more rapid over land than over water. This nocturnal cooling leads to stability in the lower layers as an inversion develops and may lead to the formation of low cloud or fog. Smoke rising in these inversions spreads out horizontally or even sinks as the warm air seeks the cooler air below. Any place with a smoke stack will depict such an inversion, however, unpleasant smells may ensue. I frequently see those low based plumes from pulp mills while flying into Vancouver from the east. Smoke from wood stoves will also form a plume during such an inversion, but the smell is much more pleasant. Nocturnal inversions generally mean smooth flight conditions, but sometimes non-convective low-level wind shear (LLWS) can be present when a surfaced-based inversion results in the development of a low-level jet maximum at the top of the inversion. This inversion decouples the wind just above the surface and allows the winds to accelerate unencumbered by surface friction. Nocturnal inversions can trap many pollutants and moisture, possibly resulting in IFR conditions. If you fly up north during the Arctic winter (think long nocturnal night) you’ll witness dramatic inversions.

Years ago, at a weather conference in Winnipeg, I met a grape grower from the Niagara, Ontario region. His grape-growing operation included hiring a bi-wing aircraft with lots of parasitic drag to churn up the nocturnal inversion, pushing the warmer air to the ground so the grapes would not freeze. Many growers also employ expensive helicopters to do the job. These inversions can also bend ground-based weather radar beams during early morning. The beams are deflected toward the ground giving false returns called anomalous propagation.

Frontal inversion As warm air overrides a cold air mass, a frontal inversion sets up. At the surface during winter below-freezing temperatures exist, but as one ascends, an above-freezing layer develops, on the order of a few hundred feet to several thousand feet thick. Temperatures then decrease to below zero on top of this inversion. Because of this scenario, snow falling through the above-freezing layer turns to rain. The rain then falls into the below-freezing layer near the surface. Depending on how deep or warm this above-freezing layer is, either freezing rain or ice pellets will form which is conducive to serious airframe icing.

Years ago, during a flight from Halifax to Moncton in a Navajo, we encountered light-to-moderate icing in the climb, but an advancing warm front pushed above-freezing temperatures in a thick layer from 4,000 to 8,000 feet with balmy +5° C temperatures. We stayed in this layer until our descent into Moncton and literally watched the ice melt and wash away.

Subsidence inversion Air sinks within a high pressure system, causing air to heat up due to adiabatic compression. This heating eventually causes clouds to dissipate and is why clear skies are associated with a high pressure system.  The sinking (and warming) of the air slows down closer to the surface of the earth, resulting in an inversion in the lowest layer of the atmosphere (typically several thousand feet in height). Clouds may be flattened by this inversion or break up. Stratocumulus is a very common cloud associated with subsidence inversions. Sometimes, this inversion may be so strong that it traps the low-level moisture busting forecasts calling for sunshine!

 

Often, on descent, I mention the temperature to my flying partner when I suspect a subsidence inversion. I point out that at the cloud top, the temperature will be warmer than the temperature in the cloud. Sure enough, one can watch the temperature sway from, say, plus 6° C at cloud top, to well below freezing a couple of thousand feet inside the cloud. This goes against the standard logic, which says that temperature should increase on descent. The potential for airframe icing exists when the subsidence inversion traps lots of moisture. If you fly near open areas of water such as the Great Lakes during late fall, winter and early spring you may encounter heavy icing conditions in this moisture laden cloud.

 

The last inversion comes to a surprise for most. Many learn the top of the troposphere (tropopause) has an isothermal layer, but a significant inversion may be present due to warming from ozone in the stratosphere. I am constantly pointing this out to my flying partner (yes, sometimes I get funny looks) and I try to drive it home when teaching new hire pilots who will fly at tropopause heights. The temperature may be -60° C and within minutes it rises to -54°C meaning you flew above the tropopause. On a recent flight from Frankfurt to Calgary at flight level 380 the temperature went from -70°C to -54° C. I haven’t seen such frigid temperatures in a while so I took a picture of the readout. This inversion is why anvils form from thunderstorms.

A frigid outside temperature of MINUS 70 Celsius.

A frigid outside temperature of MINUS 70 Celsius.

Facts.

There are four types of inversions: nocturnal, frontal, subsidence and one at the tropopause.

Inversions imply stability, but LLWS may occur during a nocturnal inversion.

Warm air aloft and cold air below indicates stable conditions.

Four inversions: subsidence, frontal, nocturnal, and at the tropopause.

Four inversions: subsidence, frontal, nocturnal, and at the tropopause.

Winter warm front and its associated inversion.

Winter warm front and its associated inversion.

Canada and Great Britain plot upper air data on charts called tephigrams, but south of the border they are labelled Skew-T log P diagrams.

You won’t find these plots on NAV CANADA or Environment Canada’s site, however, the university of Manitoba and UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) tap into this source.

Many sites and universities supply data from upper air soundings.  

Doug Morris is a B787 captain/certified meteorologist. His weather book, Canadian Aviation Weather, has a great chapter on lapse rates. www.canadianaviationweather.ca.

Doug recently published an American aviation weather book, Pilot Weather: From Solo to the Airlines.  www.pilotweatherbook.com

Nav Canada Update Needed

My previous post depicts what I wrote for my weather column. Below is what made the cut. If you freelance, be prepared to have things changed, altered and mutilated. That’s show biz!

Oh, it looks like I submitted the wrong website address for Pilot Weather. Shoot! It should have been www.pilotweatherbook.com

Pilot Weather is selling like a hot cake. Canadian Aviation Weather needs a boost. Anyone?

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Crickets, Warts and Cow Patties

A pending Canadian Aviator article

You probably thought I would be talking about unique weather lore with this title. Sure, male crickets chirp at different rates according to temperature. Found on the web... “to convert cricket chirps to degrees Celsius, count the number of chirps in 25 seconds, divide by 3 and then add 4 to get the temperature.” But “crickets” also denotes silence or NORDO (No Radio) for us pilots. It’s what I experience from my weather blog, feedback from this column and my requests to update NAV CANADA’s weather website.

About six years ago while researching for my weather book, I approached NAV CANADA regarding their archaic weather website. For years, it’s header broadcasted its emergence in 2006 and revision in 2007. But nothing has been touched since. Truth be told, they recently removed the header stating its birth date maybe because some of us were raising eyebrows. Every tab I examine has gaping holes.  “PIREP not available” is found on the PIREP tab for most regions. Have pilots given up? And why can’t I get a high-resolution surface analysis chart? The same one is available on Environment Canada’s site. And why do I have to type in the four-letter ICAO code for METARS and TAFs when the three letter IATA code would suffice since they don’t supply weather outside the Canadian border? The satellite pictures are poor quality, the weather radar does not supply cloud tops in feet and there are more legal disclaimers than there are weather tabs. It’s probably the same reason why Environment Canada persists in calling it ANAL surface for surface analysis. I know many of you gave up and have moved on to other sites/apps, mostly American. We are losing our Canadian meteorological identity. At one time, 9 out of 10 initial conversations began with the topic of weather and that included pilots. Now when an quiet/awkward moment occurs we all reach for our cell phone. But at least we have the TROWAL (Trough of Warm Air Aloft) to reference an occluded front. That is as Canadian as Tim Hortons. Sorry to come out punching with such a negative overtone. To prove I am not all sour and not just another high time crusty ornery captain, my enRoute magazine column will have an upbeat take on pilot hiring - if there ever was a time to become a pilot, the time is now! Okay, back to my stormy take on weather politics.

Over two years ago, I attended an aviation weather conference in Montreal geared for you, the pilot. This three-day seminar consisted of a room filled with meteorologists, dispatchers, academia and one pilot, moi. There I challenged NAV CANADA’s weather liaison why their weather site has not been updated. His lips moved and all I heard was blah, blah, blah. Funny, I could recruit two young computer whizzes on Friday from any Canadian college or university, feed them pizza, beer and legalized Canadian marijuana and they would have a gleaming weather website by Monday morning.

To fly safe, you must challenge and query on a continual basis. Weather and aviation is dynamic so why aren’t you challenging the norm regarding an updated weather website? Are we Canadian aviators that inert? I give the site D+ for disappointing and a disservice.

But it doesn’t stop there. I have been trying to get Transport Canada to acknowledge my weather book, Canadian Aviation Weather, as a viable alternative to a book written over four decades ago, the Air Command Weather Manual a.k.a the ACWM. Don’t get me wrong, this monochromatic book geared for the military is excellent when it comes to theory, but is defunct of aviation forecasts or how to read a METAR. This weather fossil, albeit well written, is pre-internet, smart phone or lap top. Yes, it’s that old and yet the book is the number one seller for aviation meteorology in Canada.

Because my book is not government published the standing policy is Transport Canada can’t/won’t acknowledge it. It is why most flight schools and colleges are reluctant to take it on because their curriculum is geared to questions and material supplied from the historical ACWM. To paraphrase one Transport Canada employee’s take on things and to offer up an explanation why status quo rules, “My grandfather used to say, don’t touch the cow patty, it will only smell worse.” How is that for mandated safety? He admitted to low staffing levels, but claimed my book is being (might be) tagged in their database as a reference for hundreds of exam questions.

I too worked for the federal government and realize the frustration. Over 30 years ago, I was getting an annual “route check” on the weather desk. The supervisor asked what I would like to see or accomplish as a forecaster. I wanted to close the huge gap between weather and the pilot. Sadly, that bridge has never been built nor is it on the drawing board.

My aviation career is slowly unwinding. I teach and write for that young lad in Prince George, British Columbia learning to fly, or for the mother of three changing careers in Quebec City, Quebec flying a Navajo or for that seasoned helicopter pilot flying out of Churchill, Manitoba. After all, the company I fly for also has meteorological warts. They still reference the METAR and TAF as SA (Surface Actual), FT (Terminal Forecast) and FC (a short Terminal Forecast). The system changed 22 years ago, when I was hired! Yes, I’ve been asking. But every large organization has warts. It’s how my friend described his airline that launches from the heat of Dubai, U.A.E. This A380 skipper nailed it with the wart analogy.

To a quote an instructor, pilot, and mentor for young aspiring pilots, “What underlies this malaise and failure to respond to changing conditions and requirements in aviation?

A kick start and wakeup call is in order…”  As an aviator challenge the norm. Take up the quarrel and poke those cow patties.

Doug Morris is a B787 captain, certified meteorologist and wrote Canadian Aviation Weather. www.canadianaviationweather.ca.  His latest book, Pilot Weather: From Solo to the Airlines is hot off the press catering to pilots south of the border www.pilotweatherbook.com

Time for Weather

Here is the latest found in Canadian Aviator magazine. I called it "Time for Weather" but it was called "When the Ball Drops." Every pilot should make their way to Greenwich to experience where time starts. 

Weather 1.jpg
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Pilot Weather book coming soon!

Coming soon...an aviation weather book for American pilots...Pilot Weather: From Solo to the Airlines. ETA is September 2018. This book will include a glossary of over 550 entries and will be in full colour  (Oops, I meant color for my friends south of the border). I have hit a meteorological wall trying to convince Canadian pilots that Canadian Aviation Weather is the best weather book out there, so it's time to move south of the border. "Trumpland" here we come!

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Wet Microburst

Over Great Slave Lake (North West Territories) in a DC-3 during microbursts. 

Great Slave Lake .jpg

A former student Jamie MK from the Brampton Flight Centre is building time with Buffalo Airways (think the iconic show Ice Pilots) in a DC-3. Notice the outflow cloud and the wave of water created by the intense downpour. Can you imagine trying to land with this parked over an airport?  Or worse yet, training to land a float plane near the dramatic walls of water.