Often times we think of the ten essentials for outdoor recreation as the bible of preparedness: Navigation, Illumination, Sun and Bug Protection, First Aid, Knife, Fire, Shelter, Nutrition, Hydration, and Clothing. These categories are designed to keep us prepared and safe, but in my opinion one category is missing; Weather!
When I prepare to step out the door, the first thing I do is check the weather. It’s such an impactful element that determines how long I will be out, what activity I will partake in, what I will pack, contingency plans to be made, and so much more. So how can you become a better weather observer? I’ll tell you.
It’s safe to say that everyone is a bit of a Weather Observer. Think about the day you saw it was raining and you grabbed an umbrella. You observed the weather. That’s a great start to know what is happening in the here and now, but how you build on this information and forecast is key. So let’s take today, a late August Friday in North Conway, NH, as an example for some weekend forecasting. Below are a list of sites I visit and how I interpret the data, because 5 o’clock is fast approaching and I want a trail beneath my feet.
I start by taking a generalized look of the weather across our country. Are there hotspots of convective activity near me? Is radar registering any precipitation above my location or to the west of me? (typically weather moves west to east)
Next, I focus in on the region I will be recreating, mainly the NE. The default view again shows me the radar as well as pressure lines. Pressure lines are helpful because it shows if high or low pressure will be moving into your area. (Remember to look west of your location)
Using the same Mesoscale Analysis page, I toggle my view to look for visible clouds (Overview Tab, then select Visible Satellite). White indicates clouds, black indicates the lack of clouds or the absence of moisture. The absence of moisture indicates a drier day to be had with less humidity. (Keep in mind if the sun has not risen in your area, there will be nothing to see in this view)
Now I like to verify the information I have gathered by looking at Surface Analysis maps. Sure enough, I see verification. I have a cold front passing to my south, low pressure to my north, and high pressure building in to my west.
With this information I have collected, I have a great weekend ahead of me in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire to be outside. So, I pack the kayak, climbing gear, bike, and of course my Oboz Footwear, because it’s going to be an adventurous one!