The weather at Camden is very different from that in Sydney
As you can appreciate, gliding is a particularly weather dependent sport. Summer is the best season for experienced pilots to enjoy long soaring flights. Often we also have good weather in winter, and this is a good season for pilots who are learning to fly.
The main factors which affect our operations are rain, wind, and low cloud or fog.
Online weather information
You can obtain up-to-date weather information online, thanks to:
- Bureau of Meteorology, last 72 hours of conditions at Camden, updated hourly
(you may need to press REFRESH in your browser if a page with an old timestamp is presented).
- The weather radar for the Sydney region at the Bureau of Meteorology's web site gives a good picture of the weather conditions in the Sydney Basin. If there's no heavy rainfall around Camden, then there's every chance we're flying !
- Atmospheric Sounding for Sydney Airport (YSSY) (useful to predict convection heights, etc), or for sites elsewhere in Australia
How the weather affects gliding
Rain is more than something which gets you wet! A wet glider can't fly as far from a given height as it could if it were dry - in gliding terms, it has a reduced "glide angle" caused by the water droplets disturbing the airflow over the wings. Rain showers also tends to reduce visibility from the gliders cockpit, so we will briefly suspend operations until the weather improves.
Wind is not, despite common misconceptions, required to keep a glider aloft (perhaps people think they're like a kite ?). A slight breeze is of no concern to a glider pilot - if anything, it helps to stir up the air mass and encourage pockets of warm air to break away from the ground layer and form rising updrafts called "thermals". These are what glider pilots in Australia are most often looking for in order to stay aloft. If the wind is too strong (above 15 knots / 27 km/h) then it can make for an uncomfortable ride due to the turbulence created, especially close to the ground. Our tugs have a maximum crosswind strength that they must keep in mind when taking off and landing - once this is exceeded they must either change runways or temporarily suspend launching operations.
Cloud and fog affect visibility, and the height to which we can launch and fly our gliders. If we get a thick early morning fog (which is thankfully a rare event), then we will start our operations later than usual. Unlike powered aircraft, flying in cloud in a glider is not permitted in Australia. The Club follows strict rules on the minimum distance we can fly below and near to cloud (in what are called "Visual Meteorological Conditions") If we get a blanket of low cloud, then we may not be able to launch or fly as high as we'd like to.
That said, a the right sort of cloud can also be a glider pilot's best friend. Generally, thermals can be found underneath the white puffy "cumulus" clouds that are often seen on fine days. However, it is possible that thermals exist on cloudless days - these are what glider pilots refer to as "blue" days, and generally make the search for thermals more interesting!
In summary, gliders can fly in a wide variety of weather conditions. The overall concern is of course safe operations, followed by passenger comfort (particularly important for people experiencing gliding for the first time).