Perlan Pilots wave flight on April 25, 2014

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Perlan pilots, Jim Payne and Dennis Tito had a fabulous wave flight on April 25, 2014. The photo shows a triple lenticular cloud over the Owens Valley. They took off and landed at Rosamond, CA, and flew almost 1,000 miles (1,614 km) traversing up and down the Owens Valley. The furthest north they flew was around the Mammoth Lakes region where they had to turn south again due to the increased moisture. The next morning the 24-hour snowfall totals at Mammoth was 21 inches and at Kirkwood Ski Resort just south of Lake Tahoe was 28 inches.

New Speed Record for the Perlan DG 1001M

pre-485x6501-1-485x380Last night Jackie Payne sent out a short note via e-mail from California around the world: “If all paperwork goes ok, looks like 135 kph for a 521 km triangle. That should beat two US national multi-place triangle speed records.” This morning my SeeYou states “all reached turn points rounded ok, task completed” and documents 134.45 km/h during 521.8 kilometers.

Early in the morning of Earth Day (April 22nd), Jim Payne and Dennis Tito launched for another record mission. Flying in the famous Sierra Wave their goal was to beat the existing 500 km triangle speed record with their “unflapped” two-seater. After launching at Rosamond Skypark, the DG 1001M first headed up North in wave to reach the first turn point near Bishop, CA. To get to the second turn point they first turned around to later leave the primary wave, heading eastwards into the direction of Death Valley National Park. To close the triangle they flew back to Rosamond Skypark.

But instead of landing there Jim turned the glider’s nose back up northwards: “We plan for an easy afternoon on Earth Day!“ After only four hours of soaring there was enough lift left to do it again…

Jackie Payne who followed their efforts from her desk had a quick satellite phone conference with her husband who told her about clouds to contend with on first turn point west of Bishop. Right after rounding it he and his Perlan-Partner Dennis Tito lost 9000 feet in only ten minutes. After reaching the second turn point somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the crew had 80 kts headwinds to overcome… but finally clouds around the finish point to duck under. Otherwise, Jim said, they could have been faster.

Dennis Tito and Jim Payne posing for Jackie’s camera
While Jim and Dennis enjoyed the rest of their day up high, Jackie decided to spread the word. Shortly before switching off the lights in Europe, I received her e-mail note and asked for a picture of the day. Jackie’s answer was simple: “I’m packing for Mexico right now. The pilots are headed for near the border in El Centro, CA. Been there several times before. They should land around 7 pm local.”

Sounds like another long retrieve-drive… Well, have a safe drive and a good night at “your” hotel next to El Centro airport! After getting up this morning I enjoyed a quick look into OLC’s daily scores and found Jim and Dennis had completed another 1,570.8 km flight. The yoyo had helped to rise the total speed to 159.4 km/h during almost ten hours of flight. Feel free to have a look into the flight and read Jim’s OLC comment. Congratulations!

Source: Soaring Cafe

Southern California Thunderstorm

On Friday, April 18, an upper level storm moved across southern California. Often in Spring, especially in late Spring, these systems may not produce more than some towering cumulus clouds in nearby mountain areas. This is due to the drier air often above the shallow moist marine air this time of year.

However this day there was just enough instability and just enough moisture to produce thunderstorms in the San Jacinto Mountains of Riverside County. Lightning from one of these storms struck a home southeast of Anza shortly after 5:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (see map and radar scan below).

The strike destroyed a home weather station, and computers connected to it. The electrical charge went into the home, and destroyed internet connections, phone connections, and part of a stereo system. No one was home at the time, and no one was injured. This was just one strike, but that’s all it takes to cause a death or injury, or cause substantial damage.

This points out that the warm season thunderstorm season is beginning in the mountains. During some periods in the summer, especially during the monsoon, thunderstorms may be in the area every day. Take shelter when storms approach. “When thunder roars, go indoors!”

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Below are some images of equipment that was scorched during the storm:

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Photo Credit: Curtis Croulet

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Photo Credit: Curtis Croulet

Winter Review 2013-2014

The volatile winter of 2013-2014 kept the news headlines revolving around the weather. While California and parts of the desert Southwest continued to suffer from record drought, portions of the northern and eastern United States experienced one of the coldest, and sometimes snowiest winter seasons on record (and most of those records date back to the mid-late 1800’s)! Myths about the polar vortex and its media craze were debunked in previous blogs, but that does not take away the fact that it was a frigid winter for millions of folks who are surely ready for some warmth. It is nearing the end of April, and locations in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin are STILL measuring new snowfall!

This map of statewide temperature rankings for the period of December 2013 – February 2014 demonstrates the stark contrast between the dominant weather patterns on opposite sides of the country:

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Source: NCDC.

Additionally, this map of statewide precipitation rankings for December 2013 – February 2014 shows the wet, active storm track over much of the Midwest and Northeast, while many states in Southwest, including California, approached their all-time driest seasons:

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Source: NCDC.

How cold is a “Top 10” ranked coldest winter on average in parts of the Midwest? This map from the National Weather Service in Northern Indiana region shows the time that various locations in the region spent below 0°F (listed in number of 24 hour totals). Keep in mind that this was only through February 26, and that March and April were also noticeably cold compared to averages.
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Source: NWS Northern Indiana and the Iowa Environmental Mesonet.

And finally, these maps of Mean Temperature for January 2014 show observed temperatures (top) and temperature anomolies compared to past January data from 1981-2010 (bottom). Almost all of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan spent the month at an average temperature below 10°F (top)! Lows in the coldest spots often dipped to -40°F to -50°F! Even some states in the deep south like Mississippi and Alabama experienced average temperatures for the month only near or slightly above freezing (top). The average temperature was between 5°F to 15°F below average for the vast majority of the east, while almost the entire rest is shaded in above average temperature colors (bottom).

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Source: Oregon State University.

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Source: Oregon State University.

Because of the cold wave, the Great Lakes accumulated the most ice cover in 35 years. At one point, over 90% of all the surfaces of the Great Lakes were ice covered! As of April 15th, the lower 2/3 of Lake Superior, the largest of the lakes, is still frozen at record levels! This image will be one of the storytellers of the extreme winter of 2013-2014 for years to come:

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Source: NOAA.

Photo depicting wake vorticies generated by aircraft

airvorticies-1-680x380This is an incredible photo depicting the wake vorticies generated by aircraft. The two counter rotating vortices are clearly visible in the cloud as it spins around.

Vorticies generated by smaller aircraft are almost negligible, however, vorticies generated by larger, heavier aircraft can be extremely dangerous. The aircraft’s weight, speed and shape (configuration) govern the strength of the vorticies it creates.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that between 1983 and 2000, there were 130 aircraft accidents and 60 aircraft incidents in the U.S. that resulted from probable encounters with wake turbulence. 14 of these accidents were fatal (11%). Eighty-seven of the accidents (67%) and forty-seven of the incidents (87%) occurred at or below 200 feet above ground level.