Weather Routing's Monthly TradeWinds Newsletter

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Yacht Newsletter
Volume 17 Issue 5 May 2024
Touring the Hurricane Hunters Aircraft
Jeremy Davis, Director of Operations

Earlier in May, the NOAA and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters aircraft embarked on a hurricane awareness tour along the U.S. East Coast. One of the stops was on May 7 in Albany, New York, and I had the chance to tour the aircraft in person, meet some of the crew, and other representatives from NOAA and the National Hurricane Center.

The two hurricane hunter aircraft on display included the NOAA WP-3D and the Air Force Reserve WC-130J. The NOAA aircraft is used primarily by scientists to study various aspects of a tropical cyclone, including flying through the eye of hurricanes, while the WC-130J flies directly into the core of the storm to gather important real-time measurements used to predict the development of tropical cyclones. At Weather Routing, we follow these reports very closely and use them in our own forecasts, so it was very interesting to see how these are done in person. Finally, on the exterior of the plan are decals for every hurricane the plane has flown into, dating back to the 1970s.

When touring the WP-3D (below), I had the chance to talk with the crew about their experiences flying into hurricanes. I saw the various workstations where crew gather data and transmit it to the National Hurricane Center. Having the chance to see the cockpit up close was also fascinating.

On the WC-130J (interior photo below), I was able to speak with Dr. Michael Brennan, director of the National Hurricane Center. We discussed how this Atlantic Hurricane Season will be very active, and the steps being made to safeguard the public. I had the chance to discuss with him about how Weather Routing works to keep our clients safe and well informed when tropical cyclones threaten.

As discussed in our last Trade Winds, this is going to be a very active Atlantic Hurricane Season. Weather Routing will use every tool at our disposal, including observations from the Hurricane Hunters, to keep our clients safe and well informed. All clients who are actively receiving forecasts from us are eligible for our tropical alerts and daily summaries, which are also included in all of our SeaWeather subscriptions. Contact us for more details.

Mistrals, Their Effects, and How WRI Keeps You Informed
Jeffrey Springer, Meteorologist

The Mistral, a northwesterly wind, funnels through southern France into the Mediterranean Sea, shaping the region's climate and environment. This wind, known for its strength and chilling effects, originates in the Rhone Valley and impacts the Mediterranean coast, particularly the Provence Alps and Languedoc regions.

A Mistral begins to form over the Alps as low-pressure stalls over northwestern Italy or the North Sea and high-pressure forms or shifts over the Bay of Biscay, cold northwesterly winds propagate down the Alps and funnel through the valley. This geographical feature accelerates the wind as it moves southward, eventually reaching the Gulf of Lion. The Mistral is characterized by its speed and strength. It typically blows at speeds ranging from 20 to 50 knots, but it can sometimes exceed 55 knots.

The continuous and strong winds of the Mistral can also produce an enhanced swell over the western Mediterranean Sea. In the Gulf de Lion, the swell generated by the Mistral can reach significant heights, often ranging from 3 to 5 meters (10 to 16 feet), and in severe cases, can approach 7 meters (23 feet). These high swells can travel far into the Mediterranean Sea, impacting areas well beyond the vicinity of the Gulf of Lion towards southern Italy. For instance, the Strait of Bonifacio can experience enhanced westerly funneling towards the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Another distinctive feature of the Mistral is the clear conditions. As the wind funnels through the region, it can diminish clouds, resulting in bright, sunny weather. However, this clear weather often comes with a significant drop in temperature. As it brings sunny days, it also brings in dry, cold air that can be challenging, especially in the winter for vessels. The Mistral is not a rare occurrence, and it can blow at any time of the year, though it is most frequent in the winter and spring months. The duration of the Mistral can vary. It can last for just a few days, bringing a brief but noticeable cold air, or it can persist for over a week, significantly affecting daily life and weather patterns in the region.

Vessels should avoid crossing the Gulf of Lion during a Mistral due to the extreme and hazardous conditions it creates. A Mistral's powerful winds generate relatively high and choppy waves, leading to unfavorable transits. The Mistral's sudden and strong gusts can reduce the stability of the vessel, increasing the risk of accidents. These severe conditions can overwhelm even most vessels that are readily prepared for the worst, showing just how strong and dangerous a Mistral can be.

In conclusion, a Mistral can affect maritime operations negatively as it increases winds, elevates seas, and brings cold dry air. Vessels should avoid operating within the Gulf of Lion during Mistrals, as well as keep a safe distance due to the enhanced conditions that can expand towards the Alboran Sea, southern Italy, and the Cote d’Azur. Be sure to contact WRI for your routing needs when within the Mediterranean so you can be sure to avoid a Mistral and receive the best routing advise for your voyage. WRI also offers SeaWeather alerts for heavy weather events and a wide array of forecasting products (see below) to help you stay informed when travelling within the Mediterranean Sea, as well as charter packages which are forecasts and consults bought in bulk for a discounted rate.

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