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Formula One Weather Forecast: Chinese Grand Prix 2010

Ian Fergusson | 20:38 UK time, Sunday, 11 April 2010

Shanghai, 16-18 April 2010

(This forecast will be regularly updated. This entry: Sunday 18 April 2010, 06:00hrs BST)

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SUMMARY: Practice 1, 2, 3: Dry   Qualifying: Dry   Race: Rain expected 

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NOWCAST/FORECAST UPDATE: Sunday 06:00hrs BST: OK - here's the final forecast and it's essentially edging back more definitively to the thrust of our forecasts leading-up to today: wet running. It's much as we'd expected from the Met Office's Global Model, which held firm and was far more bullish on this, whilst some other models (notably the GFS) continued inter-run 'flipping' right to the last and wanted to lessen the rain considerably. As noted a couple of days ago, this one was always going to go to the wire, forecast-wise!

Rain is now falling quite extensively west of Shanghai and  - albeit dry right now at the circuit - current trajectories should see wet weather affecting it within the next hour or so with moderate rainfall rates and the odd heavier burst possible. It's then all about the showery nature of things: will we see intermittently dry or drier spells during the event? As they'll be doing on the pitwall - keep an eye on the local rainfall radar at http://www.nmc.gov.cn/publish/radar/shanghai.htm

Enjoy the race!

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Compared to steamy, showery Sepang a fortnight ago, it's a very different weather scenario forecast in Shanghai for the teams, drivers, spectators - and Eddie Jordan's shirts, assuming he arrives there after flight delays courtesy of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

Shanghai-GP-APPhoto-BullitM.jpgBecause one very noteworthy aspect - and a nod towards the conditions likely to prevail at various European races - will be the temperature.

After a decidely cool start on Friday morning, the race weekend will see these gradually rise by Sunday. Nonetheless, with a range from possibly as low as 12-14C on Friday, peaking around 20-22C by Sunday, it's a notably cooler prospect challenging the teams compared to Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia.

Indeed, it's shaping-up to be a little below average for this time of year in Shanghai (and worth noting the annual mean is 16C), but certainly presenting a much more comfortable working environment in the pitlane! Whether it'll make tyre performance more comfortable for some teams is another matter altogether... and it's fascinating stuff. It's a car-v-car dynamic we've yet to see, despite the rather cool but largely unrepresentative running experienced during winter testing.

During April, some 90-95mm of rain typically falls across the district of Jiading, where the circuit is located to the NW of Shanghai centre. The climate is classically sub-tropical maritime monsoon, but dry weather will prevail during most periods of track action.

Note I said 'most'...

....because Race Day has a risk of some wet weather.

Broad model agreement, with very good continuity, offers dry weather across all the practice sessions and qualifying too (McLaren and Ferrari radar-watchers will breath a collective sigh of relief!).

Sunday, by contrast, has been subject to all manner of forecasting swings to-and-fro and will be a wholly different challenge. It's likely to be affected by some rain at times, although the finer hour-by-hour detail for the afternoon remains elusive. The latest forecasts collectively emphasise a threat of showers at any stage of the race. However, it's by no means a 'done deal', if you are after a wet spectacle! I expect the heaviest rain to arrive after the event finishes.

GFS-SYNOP-PPN-180401-06.jpg

The GFS (Global Forecast System) model, produced by the USA's NOAA, offers a snapshot of the inclement weather expected by Sunday early afternoon across eastern China. The oranges and greens represent rainfall, with a front close to Shanghai (arrowed, red) clearing slowly east.

One model (the USA's GFS) has tended to flip-flop the rainfall progression with sufficient variation to offer a very wet race on some previous runs, versus a more intermittently wet scenario on others. It continues to do this with almost every run of the supercomputer, seemingly struggling to handle the position and phasing of rainfall. The China Meteorological Administration's medium-range mesoscale modelling; UK Met Office's Global Model; Canada's global model and forecast products from Taiwan and Korea all offer broad support for a threat of showers appearing during the day, but with varying degrees of forecast precipitation rate/accumulation and subtle differences in the areal spread and timing of wet weather. Some bring it by the morning; others only by late afternoon.  What a nuisance...

The broad forecast theme is thus:

FRIDAY: I wouldn't be surprised if there's some generally low visibility around beneath a weak inversion by daybreak. Shanghai will lie beneath the ridge axis of an area of high pressure, drawing cool air off the Yellow Sea and some low-level moisture beneath dry, cold air aloft. As the day develops, it will remain dry with hazy sunsine. Comparatively cool ambient temperatures will be the most noteworthy feature however (and feeling that way too, with low relative humidity); perhaps up to around 16C given sufficient insolation by mid-afternoon (and probably closer to 12C for Practice 1). Track temperature will clearly be rather low, too - perhaps 25+C but certainly way, way below the values experienced at previous race weekends this season. Breezy at times, in the E-SE flow.

SATURDAY: The inversion is still fairly pronounced by dawn, so rather a murky, hazy start is likely again. With the ridge axis just starting to topple eastwards and a more southerly component to the prevailing flow, this - combined with higher (circa 14C) Theta-W air - suggests not as chilly a morning. Otherwise, it's a continuation of the dry story this time around - so no repeat of Sepang's memorable qualifying 'banana skins'!  Pitwall radar screens should be redundant on Saturday afternoon. Hazy sunshine should typify the scene at Shanghai; some high and medium-level veils of cloud (increasingly so later in the afternoon) and warmer at around 20C air temperature. Track temperature should readily recover to 25+C or so in these conditions. Wind predominantly SE and breezy at times.

SUNDAY:

 So here we go again then... if the latest modelling becomes reality, it's possible we'll see brollies on the grid again but probably not, this time, as sunshades!

Showers will start to make eastward progress into parts of eastern China throughout the morning, turning to more persistent rain at times.

Model runs from various forecast organisations tend (even at this rather late stage) to disagree on the rainfall distribution, accumulation and timing of eastward clearance. This rather poor continuity, both inter-run and between each model, has not been unusual. Nonethless, the combined ensemble collectively affords only moderate precision for the precipitation aspect of Sunday's forecast (at best) and I do stress this! Crucially, for example, one model offers a dry window effectively throughout the race. A real forecast headache, for sure. It'll go to the wire in terms of pinning this one down with higher confidence.

On balance though, the race does look likely to be rain affected at some stage, but just how wet (or not) might the prospects be? The teams will be very conscious of how much of the data assimilated through the dry practice and qualifying sessions could prove negated, come Sunday. If the entire race runs dry (which is not wholly impossible), they'll be highly relieved. All eyes to those radars again, come Sunday...

A few brighter spells are possible but the largely overcast conditions will depress temperatures, with the circuit seeing 18-20C ambient. Aided by higher dewpoint air, higher partial thickness aloft and a warmer southeasterly flow, it won't feel chilly - even with any leaden skies. I doubt track temperatures will reach much above 25-28C beneath the fairly extensive cloud cover.  

Rather breezy again; winds from the south / SE.

More will follow!!

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Looks like potentially another weekend where the weather isn't totally clear. Could be Thursday/Friday time before we get any sort of remotely clear forecast. Certainly a few sites I've been looking at, have been changing constantly, as has the temperature (the other day it said it was going to be so cold on Tuesday that it might snow!), and the temperatures and rainfall forecasts seem to have changed quite often. Going to be a case of wait and see I think.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Stevvy1986 - indeed so. Confidence in the dry prospects for Friday and Saturday are more solid (ditto for the cool conditions on Friday), whereas you will note in my latest update above how the models continue to offer very different solutions for Sunday. I agree that the all-important race forecast won't become clear until later this week. In some respects it's akin to the Melbourne situation, where the rate of eastwards progression of frontal rain was the critical factor during Sunday. Best wishes, Ian

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks, always valued - the F1 weekend seems to start here.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thanks Ian.

    As always, your forecasts are appreciated.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you for this entry Ian! Really hoping for at least some rain to spice things up. The 2008 race was dire (dry).

  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks for your updates, Ian - keep up the good work.

    Given the Chinese authorities experience with cloud seeding, perhaps this is the one race where Bernie could have a word in an ear, and 'arrange' for some rain mid-race. Mind you, they did get it wrong last November, when they got snow instead of rain!

  • Comment number 7.

    Another superb insight the world of weather forecasting.
    I as I'm sure many others really appreciate these articles Ian.
    For me it does help explain some the difficulties the teams have to go through in setting their cars up for the Grandprix.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thank you for the latest update Ian. Looks as though rain is on the cards once again!

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm going to stick my neck out (perhaps rather foolishly at this early stage), and say we won't see dry tyres used on Sunday.......foolish prediction maybe, but......it's just my gut feeling (then again I remember last year that originally rain was forecast to fall in the early hours on Monday after the race, but ended up giving us a full wet race).

  • Comment number 10.

    So it still looks like a wet 1. Just hope it's not so wet that, as last year, we end up with a safety car start.

  • Comment number 11.

    This seems just as complicated as the Melbourne forecast, except for the fact that for Melbourne, during the week, and as we got closer to race day, the forecast gradually became more.....certain, and there wasn't a huge difference from run to run, whereas this week, it seems like with practically every run it's changed from a totally dry raceday, to a wet morning but dry race, a wet morning but damp start, dry start but raining during the race, varying amounts of rain etc. You'd have thought, so close to the race, that the forecast would be something close to certain, but.....it just isn't, it's impossible to know what'll happen at the moment.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Stevvy, it's merely the local / sub-regional detail that remains a pain in this forecast: the essential theme is fairly well-set, i.e., the high chance of wet weather around Shanghai and environs throughout the afternoon but it's all about exactly where and when the showery outbreaks fall. That's the sort of detail that the models employed in this case cannot hope to adequately resolve. I'd work on the reasoned assumption of this race being affected at some point by rain, but once again it'll become a radar-watching task on Sunday both ahead of - and during - the race. Best, Ian

  • Comment number 13.

    I'll be happy enough if you're right about the heavier stuff falling after the race Ian (mainly because I don't want another safety car start!), but......it does seem like it'll be a case of wait and see as to when it rains, how heavy, and how long for.

  • Comment number 14.

    Really enjoy this blog Ian. As much for trying to understand a bit about forecasting, as well as the added build up tension it creates! It should be bumped a bit higher up the BBC Formula 1 page every so often. Cheers

  • Comment number 15.

    Cheers for the latest update Ian (7pm)... I really hope it does rain still. Am eagerly anticipating your later update!

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Alex and Ben, many thanks for your comments. Indeed, the next model output will prove very interesting - the essential theme of some threat of rain tomorrow (and equally, the dry Fri/Sat sessions) has been well signalled since over a week ago. That's fair testimony, in my view, to the broad accuracy of modern medium-range forecasting, despite those who might snipe at the science and suggest it's all worthless guff. Clearly, this one is again being shaped into a 'devil in the detail' type of minute-by-minute situation by the time of race start. With that in mind, it's worth adding that you can keep abreast of any impending rainfall yourselves, with the (slightly delayed but pretty decent) regional radar feed available at http://www.nmc.gov.cn/publish/radar/shanghai.htm
    Note this is the raw feed and without boring you here with a radar interpretation lesson, my key advice is: Be wary of all the spurious and often widespread clutter and 'noise'; the bone-fide rain and showers (such as clearly evident about 60+ miles north of Shanghai right now) will be very evident and distinguishable from the spurious stuff by running a few frames back and forth and looking at the reflectivity signal for clear signs of structure and motion. Hope this helps; All the best, Ian

  • Comment number 17.

    Hopefully this next run will give us a more accurate idea as to what may happen. It's certainly always intriguing reading your blog Ian, especially as you go into quite alot of detail, which is quite helpful. I'm really not sure what I want to happen in terms of the rain.......maybe some light stuff, wet enough for inters, and then possibly getting heavier, and forcing the teams to try and work out when is best to put the full wets on, without staying out so long that their driver aquaplanes off on some standing water while on inters. It certainly has all the prospects of being a difficult race for the drivers. Just don't want a safety car start like last year!

  • Comment number 18.

    Well well well, a fully dry race really would be a turnup for the books. A bit of rain would be nice though.....

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi Stevvy, your wish will be granted.... forecast thrust for today has always held the risk of rain and it's soon about to become reality at the circuit, me thinks! Tricky forecast for today, as I've often said on the blog the past week, but it's now looking pretty solid as we get closer to the event... Best, Ian

 

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