Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Kitesurfing Weather Conditions: How to Read the Sky

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Imagine yourself enjoying a kitesurfing session when the weather suddenly changes, and you are not sure if a storm is coming, the wind is changing or it's just some clouds that will not impact any of your kitesurfing conditions. Obviously, you will not want to get out just to check the weather online, so it’s quite helpful to be able to recognize the various weather patterns by observing what’s around us.

Kitesurfing, like all the wind-based sports, is influenced by weather conditions. Weather research is advisable not only to understand the optimal kitesurfing conditions, but also to know when to stay away from the water.

The wind is basically moving air: the cause of this motion is the difference of pressure in various areas of the planet, which is a direct consequence of varying temperatures and other local elements.

In another post we’ll talk in detail about the wind, its behavior and its influence on your kitesurfing conditions. For now, let's get the basic idea about how to read the sky by its appearance, temperature and humidity in order to forecast the weather, even without any technology or weather maps. 


The movement of cold or warm air fronts are usually the major factors that influence weather conditions. There are basically just two scenarios: a warm front coming after a cold one or vice-versa. To understand what happens we have to keep in mind these three basic facts:
  • When cold and warm air move against one each other, cold air slides under warm air due to the difference in density; as a result, warm air is pushed up in the atmosphere.
  • Warm air generally is much more humid.
  • As warm air moves higher and higher, it starts to cool down, producing clouds from its humidity.
1. The first situation: a warm front approaching a cold front.


weather, warm, front

As shown in the picture, when a warm front comes against a cold one, due to the difference in density, the warm one, full of humidity, starts to slide over the cold air, and this movement produces slow condensation of water vapor that starts to create clouds.

The clouds that appear first are high Cirrus, followed by Cirrusstratus (at lower altitudes), then the thicker Altostratus (at even lower altitudes, appearing closer to the border of cold and warm air), followed by the Nimbustratus, which normally bring rain (nimbus: rain in Latin). This sequence is normally pretty slow, and you can see the first Cirrus clouds even 36 hours before the rain by the Nimbustratus clouds starts. 


In this situation we normally see the following changes in the area:

Meteorological sequence of an entering warm front:




Approaching front
Front passing over
Inside the warm front
Wind
Reinforces and changes direction

Abrupt changes
Constant direction
Clouds
Sequence of Cirrus, Cirrostratus, Altostratus, Nimbostratus and Stratus

Nimbostratus
Stratus and Stratocumulus
Rain
Heavy and continuous

Light or even stops
Occasional or light rain
Visibility
Gets worse as the rain becomes stronger
Bad
Limited with occasional fog formations


2. The second situation consists in a cold front overcoming a warm one:


weather, cold, front

This situation leads normally to much more dramatic weather conditions. The overcoming cold front pushes the highly humid warm air to higher altitudes very fast, causing massive condensation and convective wind currents. This effect produces the most dangerous cloud formation, the Cumulonimbus. This kind of formation consists of the clouds developing very high in the sky, which can reach up to 12 km of height. They have the typical anvil shape, where the upper tip normally shows the direction of movement of the cloud formation. 

In fact the Cumulonimbus is the only kind of cloud which, due to the strong convective air currents, can create its own wind. This means that these clouds move independently from the normal winds and become unpredictable and very unstable. The wind direction and intensity can change dramatically and suddenly, just in few minutes, in the presence of this stormy formations.

WARNING: When you see such a formation on the horizon, you'd better keep an eye on it and stop kitesurfing. Get out of the water at the first sign of its approach to your area:


  
Meteorological sequence of a entering cold front:


Approaching front
Front passing over
Inside the cold front
Wind
Reinforces and changes direction close to the front

Abrupt changes with whirlwinds and gusts
Constant direction,   strong and with gusts
Clouds
Sequence: Stratus and Cumulus, Nimbostratus get thicker

Cumulonimbus
Clear with occasional Cumulus formations
Rain
Heavy, close to the front
Strong rain, with hail and lightnings

Normally light for 30 min, then rain showers
Visibility
From moderate to poor, occasional fogs
Bad due to heavy rain
Very good


This is just a quick summary of kitesurfing weather conditions. Of course, we don't mean to be exhaustive or complete, since we're not weather pros. The idea is to give some hints about how to read the weather when you are out in the water.

Feel free to comment and give your own opinion and as usual! Safe kitesurfing! 


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post about atmospheric phenomena in order to easily forecast the weather evolution and to provide some hint to prevent kitesurfing in extreme and dangerous conditions.
Date published: 07/08/2014
Date Update: 07/09/2014