As a longtime resident of Minnesota, you’re used to fast-changing weather—and this week is no exception. After some beautiful 75-degree days, a fall cold front has come slamming through the Upper Midwest, dropping temperatures by 25 degrees and kicking up the wind. Will that ruin your weekend plans, which involve flying to meet some friends at a lodge in South Dakota?
It’s 1pm central time and you’re finished with work for the week, hopefully allowing you to head to the airport for an afternoon flight. Ideally, you’d fly your Cessna 182 from Flying Cloud Airport (FCM) to Aberdeen, South Dakota (ABR), a one hour and 45 minute flight. You are not instrument rated, so this flight will have to be done VFR. Estimated departure time is 1900Z. Read the weather forecast below and tell us what you would do.
At first glance, ForeFlight shows pretty decent weather. Some rain from the cold front is moving off to the east of Minneapolis, with just a few leftover cells around Aberdeen.
The surface analysis chart shows very little to worry about, with high pressure building in behind the cold front.
The 12-hour prog chart is likewise pretty quiet.
Radar and satellite
How serious is that rain around your destination? A look at the static regional radar shows very scattered light rain in the eastern third of the Dakotas
The G-AIRMET shows a clear route, with the IFR conditions remaining to the east of Minneapolis.
While you’ll be VFR today, the icing AIRMET should reinforce this idea: there is probably some ice in that cloud layer.
How about turbulence? The wind is definitely blowing, so it’s not a surprise to see some AIRMETs for bumps, but the low level turbulence is forecast to be well south of your route.
The graphical turbulence forecast backs up the AIRMETs: there will certainly be a few gusts to deal with, but the 3000-foot turbulence chart doesn’t look too bad.
How about those clouds? Will they stay high enough to allow a VFR flight? The 3-hour cloud forecast says yes, but it might be close. Ceilings look to be 2500 to 3500 feet, with tops from 7000 to 10,000.
Your departure airport is reporting pretty good VFR, with excellent visibility and layered clouds. But the wind is blowing.
En route, conditions appear to be about the same, with a scattered layer around 2500 feet and gusty winds.
At your destination, conditions aren’t quite as good. That cloud layer has become broken and there’s light rain falling. However, the forecast calls for better weather as the afternoon goes on, so at least the trend is in your favor.
There aren’t many PIREPs, but one from nearby Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport reported wind shear on landing.
Another report near MSP shows a 2300 foot ceiling and some turbulence.
Further west, a PIREP at your destination reported bases at 3500 feet.
It’s time to make the go/no-go decision. All METARs show VFR conditions, you’re on the back side of the cold front, and there’s plenty of daylight to complete this flight over flat and familiar terrain. But there appear to be a few rain showers out there and it won’t be a smooth ride. Are you flying or driving? Add a comment below and tell us your thought process.