Another summer afternoon, another radar splattered with red and yellow cells. After many years of flying in the Southeast, you’re used to this picture but that doesn’t mean you ignore it—thunderstorms are a serious threat for any airplane. The goal today is to fly from Sarasota, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, in your Cirrus SR22. Will the weather allow it?
The trip should take about 2:15, and your Cirrus is certainly well equipped, with a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit, SiriusXM datalink weather, TKS deice system, and a good autopilot. Proposed departure time is 2130Z (5:30pm local). Read the weather report below, then add a comment and tell us whether it’s a go or a no-go for you.
The radar image in ForeFlight shows plenty of rain and thunderstorms, both in eastern Florida and in a large area over Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
The surface analysis is pretty quiet in the region, with no major fronts or low pressure systems.
The prognostic charts suggest conditions won’t change much over the next 36 hours. The 00Z chart shows widespread showers and storms, although mostly the lighter green “Chance” markings.
Tomorrow morning shows a gap in the rain in Georgia, but it’s still an active map in Florida and Alabama.
There are no AIRMETs for turbulence or IFR conditions in the area, and the freezing level today is above 15,000 so icing is not a concern.
However, there are plenty of convective SIGMETs along your route.
As usual in the summertime, thunderstorms are the major threat today. That means it’s time to review the radar image in more detail. Start with the regional NEXRAD view.
Next, it’s worth exploring the ForeFlight radar image in more detail. In particular, the area in north Florida appears to show a gap, but it’s not a guarantee.
Closer to your departure, it looks like the worst weather has moved off to the southeast, but some lingering showers still show up.
This might be a day to compare composite radar reflectivity (above) with base reflectivity (below). This suggests most of the rain around Sarasota is not reaching the ground.
This is probably a day where staying out of clouds as much as possible is a good idea. That means looking at the satellite imagery. Start with the infrared satellite layer in ForeFlight. As expected, this shows serious convection near Sarasota and west of your route, but relatively lower clouds in northern Florida.
The visible satellite images can give you a more detailed look at areas of building cumulus. Here’s the view of Florida.
And here’s the view further north.
One last tool that’s helpful is the cloud forecast chart. This shows that the tops in northern Florida will probably be above your airplane’s service ceiling.
Finally, a look at departure and destination weather is always a good idea. Sarasota is reporting VFR conditions, but thunderstorms around. The notes show the lightning is east and southeast, suggesting the storms may be moving out.
Weather in Atlanta is excellent and forecast to stay that way, except for some potential CBs that are forecast to be gone by the time you arrive.
It’s time to make the call. On the plus side, the weather at your departure and destination is good and forecast to stay that way. Your airplane is capable and well-equipped, there is a large break in the rain just east of your route, and you can complete the flight in daylight. On the minus side, there is a lot of convective weather around, including near your departure airport, and it’s a hot summer afternoon so things may continue to build. And of course you’re flying a piston airplane, so going to FL390 is not an option!
Are you flying the trip or canceling? Add a comment below.
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