Who we are

Andrew Berkley and Peter Spear are paraglider pilots. We like to know what the weather is going to do so we can go flying more often.

What we do

This site provides two types of visualizations from the output of the continental run of the High Resolution Deterministic Prediction System (HRDPS), a weather model run by Environment and Climate Change Canada as well as the Global Determinstic Prediction System (GDPS). The most popular visualization is a windgram which shows a slice through the atmosphere at a single location. Then there are maps which show a single piece of information about the atmosphere overlaid on a map. Limited documentation can be found here.

History

Starting in 2013, this site ran very high resolution cloud resolving (400m) WRF models for the Pemberton, Fraser Valley, and Lumby areas nested inside the HRDPS west parent model.

Much of the starting code came from Dr. Jack Glendening's RASP project, but I decided to use a more modern version of WRF and needed to interface it all to the output of the HRDPS model for boundary and initial conditions so I ended up tearing most of the original parts apart and switching to a modern version of WRF and a different physics model to resolve clouds. The initial bits for the map viewer came from Paul Scorer, a sailplane pilot in the UK. The windgram code and assorted advice came from TJ Olney, a American paraglider pilot in Washington state. These WRF runs were very informative for understanding the details of wind and Whistler express events around the Pemberton valleys. Unfortunately, it regularly over-predicted the winds in that area and thus resulted in pilots choosing not to fly when it was flyable. I spent time trying to tweak the models and the topography to make it work better but the turn around time was so long to see if it made any difference that I eventually gave up and stopped running it in late 2014. Plus, some of the computers running the model died.

Then we were left with just visualizing the HRDPS output as it seemed to be quite accurate as an indicator for flyability and soarability in our local flying areas.

From May to Sept 2018, I upgraded the system to handle the entire Pan-Canadian HRDPS model output as we were missing many of the pilots in the east and the north with the western only output. This takes a reasonable amount of computing power (this all runs on relatively big iron in Amazon EC2), so I am hoping my viewers consider donating. The processing back end costs $800 CAD/year, so $5/user/year would easily cover that. It would also be nice to cover some of the development costs and be able to expand the system to handle a couple of the global models and the NAM3 for high resolution for the rest of the USA so you can have windgrams for sites you travel to.

From Sept through Nov 2018, I worked on adding a global model (the GDPS) to the map and windgram system. The windgrams are not as useful as I hoped for, but the wind / parameters maps are useful. I'll see how there are when I travel south for the winter. It should be easier to integrate the GFS (which I will do after they upgrade the GFS forecasting system in January 2019) and the NAM3 now (which I will start at some point soon).

Also, if you would like any windgram locations added (or you want to generate windgrams for an area that is not currently covered), please email me.

Planned Changes

  1. Add a jetstream map
  2. Add surface wind gust map
  3. Add a map of cumulus cloud base (lifting condensation level).
  4. Move away from google maps to something like Leaflet.
  5. Add some more weather models: GFS for another global model and NAM3 to cover with high resolution the rest of the United States of America.
  6. Add more complete on-demand windgram generation (there is a limited implementation available off the main map page). Add a better interface to this (context menu to select days, model, etc).
  7. Maybe change to a prettier javascript front-end viewer like windy or ventusky. If you are a web developer with a talent for making nice interfaces, I could sure use some help.
  8. Also look more closely at better ways to present estimated top of lift with sensitivity information.
  9. More compact output files for the map page and a smoother interface.
  10. Fix some minor bugs in the windgram generator (numbers in the wrong spot on the time axis and the color legend bar is a bit messed up sometimes).

Changelog

18 November 2018 ajb Moved the alpha runs to production -- you now have global coverage available on www.canadarasp.com. I haven't plugged in any windgrams globally as I don't find them that useful unfortunately. You can look at them by selecting GDPS from the windgram page. I'd be happy to add some of our global flying spots that aren't already covered by a RASP site. You can access the old infrastructure at old.canadarasp.com for the next couple weeks in case something goes wrong.

Oct - Nov 2018 ajb Added global GDPS model to alpha.canadarasp.com. Modified map and windgrams to use local time not fixed pacific time. Slight changes to interface.

9 September 2018 ajb Shutdown old.canadarasp.com and the old generation infrastructure. Added dynamic windgram generation to windgram selector page, changed map interface for dynamic windgrams from an enable checkbox to a long press on the map surface. Please send me any feedback you have... it's a long winter coming up.

6 September 2018 ajb Fixed surface dewpoint (I am plotting dew point depression in the new maps), resurrected the average thermal strength plot. Did final comparision versus the previous production runs. Moved the main website to my new Amazon webserver and have rolled out what was the alpha code to production. The old maps and windgrams will continue to run on old.canadarasp.com for a few more days until I'm sure everything is working well, and then they will be shut down.

3 September 2018 ajb Better wind arrow drawing, scales as you zoom a bit. Working on clipping wind to terrain. Got the rain map back and switched surface pressure map to the correct source (surface pressure MSL). DNS service is now Amazon. www.canadarasp.com is the old production server, and alpha.canadarasp.com is the new testing domain. I will switch the alpha to production in a few days after I make sure the latest changes are stable.

2 September 2018 ajb Added a dynamic windgram generator. Click the dynamic windgram box, then click a place on the map...Press and hold on the map... only works for places near other existing windgrams. I'm improving the back end so all tiles will be covered. Also added a windgram for Yamaska, Quebec to try and get the new folks from the central and eastern parts of Canada into using this site.

28 August 2018 ajb I'm in the process of moving my webserver from Go Daddy to Amazon...

25 August 2018 ajb Moved wind direction drawing to client, reduces compute requirements on server side which frees up space and time for loading other model data in the future.

23 August 2018 ajb Added coverage for all of Canada and the northern parts of the United States! This required a huge amount of back-end work (mainly to make the processing fast enough so as not to drive me broke with Amazon EC2 costs). This should enable me to add NAM3, HRRR, and GFS model output data and on-demand windgram generation for any location and model (this will cost some extra money to keep the data around, but it doesn't look too bad). I replaced the crusty old NCL map generator with some 10x faster Common Lisp code (my language of choice) with the GIS part handled by GDAL and graphics generation by my new Lisp code. I use eccodes, cl-png, cl-gd, cl-gdal, and libgd. Currently the winds are not getting clipped to terrain properly and there is no rain map... will fix soon! fixed

7 August 2018 ajb For tomorrow's run: fixed surface dewpoint. Added boundary layer depth, average thermal velocity, and cloudbase. Added a parameter description page.

5 August 2018 ajb Added a map of expected top of lift above ground. This is similar to the height the paragliders get drawn on on the windgrams. I'm thinking this indicator is a bit pessimistic. I will get the boundary layer height map on soon which will be the most optimistic. This top of lift indicator ignores cloud suck and ridge lift and uses a model for the shape of thermals and their lift distribution versus altitude. I think we can probably do better. On some days with a slightly inverted layer the top of lift can be very sensitive to ground heating. You have to look at the windgrams to see and judge yourself. I can add a sensitivity map too (ie assume ground temperatures are 0.5C higher or lower), but in the end these are just meant to give you a rough indicator of soarability.

5 July 2018 ajb The old windgram generator failed to run today, so I switched everyone over to the new one. There is now only the new page running. Old bookmarks will work fine, but the map interface will be the new one only. Remember to check the bottom left corner of each windgram to be sure it is the newest one.

3 July 2018 ajb Another oops, windgrams were being generated in the wrong spot, so sorry if it put you off flying. The old versions were fine (and most people link directly to them).

2 July 2018 ajb Oops, some windgrams were not being generated properly. Fixed. Also shrank back the clouds on the two day windgrams and got the time access colored properly and the pressure back to kPa. Show windgrams checkbox is now persistent too (saved in bookmark).

30 June 2018 ajb The tiled map viewer is currently in beta test with all of you as my testers. You can no longer access the old viewer and old windgrams.

10 April 2018 ajb Added a donate button.