I had originally intended to create a document that would explain my personal method for forecasting soaring weather on the front range, but every attempt I made ended with realizing it was simply impossible to make it accessible to most pilots while still being accurate enough to be useful. I finally came to the conclusion that it would require a more broad effort to first introduce the basic and fundamental physics principles of how and why thermals work. This is my attempt lay the groundwork for a more formal explanation on how to read a skew-T. While this first part will not directly help you forecast a day, it’s a good start to helping you speak the language and begin to understand which parts of a day matter and why.
I intend to follow this up with a more formal introduction on skew-T diagrams and then ultimately a more generalized approach to using these tools to forecast soaring weather on the front range. Until then, I hope you’ll gain some value out of this first part until I finish the rest. For now, once you have read through this I highly recommend playing with the tool at https://rucsoundings.noaa.gov/ and see if you can apply some of this knowledge.
If you found this relatively approachable, there are quite a few good writeups on Skew-T diagrams that are reasonably accessible if you understand the underlying concepts. I like this one. I find that most people are thrown off by the sheer amount of information, but it helps to know that most of the lines on a skew-T are glorified gridlines that are just useful for putting the balloon data into context. On the rucsoundings tool you can turn them off by choosing “simple plot”, and tools like the android skew-T app show much cleaner interfaces.
Introduction to soaring stability.pdf (491.9 KB)