Weather and Climate Information

12:15 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
52 reviewer rep
200 forum posts

Something that has become important to me since planning my first backcountry trip is the availability of historical and average weather and climate information. Current forecasts are easy to obtain, especially places where there exists an observation post that reports to the National Weather Service, but the remote locations we seek are often not serviced by observation posts. To compound matters, these remote locations often have some geographic feature that influences the local climate, differentiating it from the more populus surrounding areas.

All that to ask: What sources, if any, do you all use for this information?

1:05 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
4,429 reviewer rep
6,014 forum posts

First climate resource I use is guidebooks to the area, combined with the climate information on the NWS website closest to the area. Plus information on the NPS and USFS websites located closest to the area of interest. If possible, I contact guide and packer services in the area of interest and call the USFS and NPS rangers (or state park rangers, if there are state parks nearby).

Google, Yahoo, and other web searches yield a wealth of climate information as well.

Plus I add in information from experienced friends who have visited the area (or better, live near the area and frequent it), plus my own experience with similar areas and my meteorological background.

My secret weapon (which will do you no good) is that my Young Son is a professional atmospheric scientist with lots of research tools at his disposal and can provide me a customized report.

And obviously, you are consulting a great source of information right here - post a query on Trailspace and there is a high probability that one of the regulars lives there or has been there.

2:19 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
52 reviewer rep
200 forum posts

Thanks, Bill. I've seen some of what you mentioned, particularly the NWS and the NPS websites. In this case, the NPS has been little help. While larger parks have the information you mentioned, our destination of Cumberland Gap seems to be missing it. At least, I haven't found it.

There is an airport with AWOS in the city of Middlesboro, KY, which has given me some idea of what to expect in the area. What I'm concerned about though are the conditions on top of the mountain. Our trail runs the length of a ridge 1500 - 2000 feet above the surrounding terrain for about 17 miles (IIRC). Complicating matters is that 6+ miles of that is through a ridgetop meadow that is likely to be different than the surrounding forest.

I'm rambling, but the point I'm trying to convey is that there is likely to be more variability in temperature and precipitation than I've ever experienced and specifics seem to be difficult to come by. I did speak to a ranger and she indicated that Memorial Day is typically in the middle of a dry season and that temperatures should stay mid-40s and above along the ridge.

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