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EZTip No. 21 - Don't forget to look at the big picture

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

It is very common for EZWxBrief users to have their EZRoute Profile (and meteogram) set to the maximum altitude view of flight level 150 (or 15,000 ft). Their justification is that they are flying at or below 12,000 feet so why should they care what's happening at a higher altitude like 30,000 feet?

Here's a good example of why it's important to comprehend the big picture first. Notice that on this route above from KCOS to KBPT, the maximum altitude is set to 15,000 feet. Although there are clouds as you approach your destination, it may be a pretty benign environment other than the IFR conditions. But there are several clues to be aware of. First, notice that the weather depiction along the last part of the route includes convection and IFR conditions (red thunderstorm symbols). That means that EZWxBrief believes it'll be embedded convection.

Second, if you zoom out so that you have the Max Alt set to 500 (50,000 feet), it's pretty clear that the depth of those clouds are significant with tops up to 45,000 feet. This is clearly an indication of deep, moist convection. As you are moving toward adverse weather (as it is for this route), typically you first run into high clouds aloft. Then as you get closer to the weather system, the cloud deck lowers (red line) and the clouds deepen. In this case, the weather depiction clearly indicates this could be deep, moist convection or thunderstorms. The moral of the story is to always look at your route at FL500 first and then you can "zoom" in to a lower altitude once you have a clear understanding of the big picture.

Interested in learning more about the Skew-T? You can order your copy of The Skew-T log (p) and Me book today in soft cover or eBook format.

Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise™

Dr. Scott Dennstaedt

Weather Systems Engineer

Founder, EZWxBrief™

CFI & former NWS meteorologist

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