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What are good indicators of hail approaching?

What the op is really asking is how to make their own weather forecasts. "How to recognize an impending while hiking?" seems pretty on-topic. How to make ones own forecasts seems rather off topic. Thoughts?

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It seems like the heart of your statement is:

We shouldn't be teaching people how to replace their local weatherman, but weather is an important topic.

I agree and feel like each weather question should be judged on its own merit. Like you said weather is such an integral aspect to safety with many outdoor endeavors that it really should be broadly on topic IMO. While in general I think it is inappropriate to replace your local weatherman, there are instances when I feel you need to become the weatherman.


Should discussions about reading detailed weather reports with isobar maps at various altitudes be off topic?

  • No! Bluewater cruisers might need help reading a weather fax to avoid the worst parts of a major storm. There are entire chapters of heavy weather sailing books dedicated to interpreting weather charts.

Should information analyzing weather patterns over a region, and correlating that information with observed local weather data be off topic?

  • No! Long term expeditions need some kind of forecasting knowledge when climbing a remote peak unassisted. Historical patterns are great for planning climbing windows. Once you're on the expedition you need to use the tools on hand coupled with your historical knowledge to plan a good summit window.

Should discussion about interpreting information culled from publicly available remote weather sensing stations be off topic?

  • No! Backcountry skiers need to understand how weather affects avalanche danger. Some regions don't have good avalanche reporting available, but they do have remote weather stations that can be leveraged. Even when there is good avalanche reports available the report must cover a broad area. Understanding the localized weather data will help you choose a spot to go, and in interpreting the snow pit results if you deem digging a pit is needed.

These are instances that I came up with off the top of my head that feel complicated and more the job of a weatherman than an enthusiast. The fact is an enthusiast sometimes needs to learn and interact with detailed weather information in order to reduce risk.

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    I was going to write much the same till I saw your answer - I think weather skills are an essential part of outdoors experience and safety. – Rory Alsop Mar 3 '16 at 23:36
  • @RoryAlsop, im not sure Russell Steen intended weather skills, I think what he actually means is becoming a proper meteorologist. If that's true then he is right in saying that it's listed as off-topic since the proper answer would be basically a meteorology book. And if that weather question has to be answered in real detail there would be a lot to type. Maybe an edit should be suggested to keep it within some limits – Erik vanDoren Mar 4 '16 at 14:18
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    No - I disagree with that, I'm afraid. There is a vast space between basic (clouds mean possible rain) and professional meteorologist. The training you get in meteorology for being a gliding pilot, or a yacht day skipper for example are possibly a bit further than a hiker may need, but a hiker/climber in the Himalayas may need extensive knowledge - so I think definitely on topic. – Rory Alsop Mar 4 '16 at 15:00
  • @RoryAlsop, i think the community should decide where is the line in between what is needed by hikers and what is beyond the scope of SE. Outdoor means a lot and to various degrees depending of activity and that way a tons of stuff can be made to be on-topic. (its really expected that someone planning an Himalayan expedition asks meteo info in SE? id expect them answering questions rather). I dont find the help section that clear on it. On the other hand i dont get why noone raised the offtopic issue on questions like "best way to cut a forest down" ;) – Erik vanDoren Mar 4 '16 at 17:04
  • i see Russell got to that one – Erik vanDoren Mar 4 '16 at 17:11
  • Is explaining what lapse rates are and how to use them, the different kind of clouds and what we can understand from them on topic or off? – Erik vanDoren Mar 4 '16 at 17:15
  • @ErikvanDoren I have no idea what "lapse rates" are. If it is tied to a valid use case then sure. If it is a pure meteorology question for general knowledge, it is off-topic. That is why each question must be judged on its own merits. – Erik Mar 4 '16 at 17:19
  • @Erik, thats what I mean, Unless you need to study meteorology you dont know/care about lapse rates, to me they are off topic as way beyond what one would need for going outdoors unless they are pilots or skippers etc, people that should know them already anyways. "what are lapse rates" would be off topic. But if a person says "what are lapse rates, i need to know because i want to understand meteo data as I'm planning to kayak across the Atlantic" is then considered on topic? even if its basically the same question? – Erik vanDoren Mar 4 '16 at 17:36
  • @ErikvanDoren In general if the person makes a decent case that <technical concept> in <field of study> is needed for <outdoor pursuit> for <reasonable logic> then I think it is on topic. That is the basic filter I'd apply. We can't expect everyone to know everything about every outdoor pursuit. Just like we can't expect everyone on SO to know every programming language. I know nothing about "lapse rates" and slightly more about what it takes to kayak across the Atlantic. However if someone makes a reasonable case that lapse rates are important and show passing knowledge I wouldn't close it. – Erik Mar 4 '16 at 17:45
  • @Erik, don't know, wouldn't that end including even questions that are not useful for 99.99% of the people that is interested in outdoor activities? I thought SE frowned on that. (I picked lapse rates not because I wanted to fill my mouth with a technical term but just because they would be needed by the user that asked the meteo question but, I suspect, noone else would care about it) – Erik vanDoren Mar 4 '16 at 18:10
  • @ErikvanDoren I think that is the wrong metric. >99.99% of the people on the site will not find it useful to know how bodies are disposed of on Everest, but many people found it interesting. I find high altitude mountaineering interesting, but I'll never stand on the top of K2 nor will most people so information on K2 isn't truly useful. Since few people will stand on K2 does that mean K2 is off topic? Personally useful shouldn't be the core metric. – Erik Mar 4 '16 at 18:21
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    ErikvanDoren - yes, the community is to decide, which is why this is a good meta question. – Rory Alsop Mar 4 '16 at 20:20
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Kind on the fence to me. I don’t think that "making your own forecasts" is a problem in itself... looking at the colour of the sky in the evening or how high swallows fly its a way to make your own forecasts after all, reliable or not, and I think that would be on topic. "How to read and put together the same meteorological data available to the weather network" instead, is basically a meteorology course and off-topic. Depends where you draw the line on the data you have to use I guess...

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