Wind Forecast Part 1: quick & dirty with weather.gov March 27 2017
Get in, get the facts, move on... once you know what you are looking for, you should be able to get your forecast quickly to make an informed decision. I'm going to write multiple parts to this (time allowing).
Part 1: quick forecasting with Weather.gov
Part 2: Colorado's CAIC avalanche website: Using The Model Forecast
Part 3: Kevin's wind & weather 101 for high alpine wind chasing
I'm skipping all the conceptual stuff here and going straight to the forecasting. Here we look at using Weather.gov. Don't fool around with the *.com commercial weather sites- stick with the government one that is run by NOA- no ads, no nonsense!
STEP 1) Weather.gov take a quick look at the full US map:
Storms generally move in from the west... thus winter storm warnings in California, Nevada, and Utah are generally a good clue that a big front is on it's way. If there is a warning in Colorado - then you probably already know about it.
Expect wind in the days leading up to a big storm. Expect calm weather after a storm passes through. It gets more complicated than that... but it is a good place to start.
STEP 2) the forecast for the nearest town:
This is really just a gateway to get closer to the point forecast for your actual location of interest. But while you are here… go ahead and look at the general weather forecast for the upcoming 7 days. Also go ahead and look at the wind forecast for the next 2 days for a preliminary baseline. Note: wind forecasts are only provided 48hrs in advance… there will not be a wind prediction for 3 days out.
STEP 3) Narrow in and look at a point forecast for your exact destination:
Do this by scrolling on the map (lower right) to the general location, zoom in, and click (or double click) to calculate a new forecast for this exact location where you clicked.
NOW… look again at the summary forecast and wind forecasts for the next few days. This is a reasonably legitmaete forecast. Look at wind direction, speed and gust. Also look at the wind and weather trend if it provides one. (ie. “SW 10-20mph shifting after 1pm to ESE 0-5mph”… don’t be late or you’ll miss out on the fun!).
This point forecast provides the approximate location in the upper left corner, and also the forecast elevation lower down on the right.
STEP 4) Finally: get more details by looking at the hourly forecast
The Hourly forecast gives you all the interesting stuff on an hourly scale, and provides the level of detail needed to predict the peak wind periods, time when it will die-off, and/or time when a storm will hit.
Weather.gov is a good reliable source for forecasting... but you have to dig deeper than just the daily forecasts for the nearest town. What it lacks is good regional wind & Weather modeling. We will cover these topics via the CAIC website in the next round.
Other key points: wind is dependent upon your exact location and the mountains upwind that are blocking the wind (or ideally lack there-of). The forecasts should be interpreted for trends, weather transitions, and general characteristics - not interpreted for exact values.