Formula One Weather Forecast: Brazilian Grand Prix 2010

Ian Fergusson | 08:01 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Interlagos, 5-7 November 2010 (Round 18)

(This forecast will be regularly updated. This entry: Friday 5 November, 15:00hrs GMT)

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 Forecast Summary:

(PPN = Precipitation)

Emphasis: Increasing confidence sees Friday to remain dry or largely so - possible arrival of some afternoon showers aside - before a thundery trough/cold front moving north brings threat of wet weather overnight into Saturday AM. The remainder of Saturday sees further thunderstorms (possibly severe, with torrential downpours in places), showers or prolonged spells of rain likely during the morning; still a threat of showers (some heavy) continuing into the FP3/quali windows. Currently good inter-model agreement for Sunday to be dry or largely so for the race, with a fairly low % chance of some showers forming later PM.

Friday: CONFIDENCE HIGH: Sunny spells and dry for much of the day, before cloud increases later PM, bringing showers/t-storms possibly by late afternoon but more especially into the evening and then overnight. Chance of PPN 25% until end of FP2. Hot; Max 29C.  Breezier later. Wind NNW-NNE

Saturday: CONFIDENCE MODERATE-HIGH (PPN totals subject to some doubt): Cloudy. Outbreaks of rain or showers/t-storms arriving overnight and continuing into the morning, heavy at times, some severe t-storms possible.  A continued periodic threat of some further heavy showers / spells of rain appearing throughout the afternoon, yielding some very wet conditions on track. Chance of PPN 90%. Cooler. Max 21C. Wind light-moderate, variable; mostly S.

Sunday: CONFIDENCE HIGH: Perhaps more widespread early cloud, but this breaking to offer sunny spells for remainder of the day. Some deeper convective cloud build-up is likely later into the afternoon with a few (mostly light) showers possible, but the balance currently firmly favours dry conditions. Chance of PPN 25%.  Max 23C.  Wind light-moderate, SE-ESE. 


Synopsis & Forecast Evolution:  

 Fri. Update, based on 00 & 06UTC model output:

Pretty good inter-model agreement now for the next 24-36hrs, with the cold front and associated thundery band now very evident on IR satellite loop (see link above) steadily approaching from the SW. The resultant rainfall later Friday overnight and into Saturday has potential to be heavy at times, albeit the actual extremes of PPN accumulation remain open to uncertainty. Recent runs of GFS have turned to become one of the more extreme solutions, falling somewhat closer into line with earlier output throughout the medium range from most other operational centres. However, the variation in rainfall modelling between models still needs emphasising; e.g., through the next 24hrs, Brazilian global output (RSPAS) offers fairly conservative rain totals across much of São Paulo (<5mm), while their regional 20-km resolution model (ETA-20) concurs with GFS and some others (including UKMO and ECMWF) on significant accumulations of between 40-100mm. As explained in my update yesterday,  there's ample potential for mass convergence and organisation of the thundery zone during it's northward passage and the potential for severe weather certainly cannot be discounted during Friday night and Saturday. Could we see a repeat of scenes from last year's event? Very possible, but timing will be critical.

Meanwhile, the models still hold onto the notion of a dry (or drier) affair on Sunday. The upper trough is expected to lose intensity, albeit some models vary their handling of prevailing flow at mid and upper levels, thus reaching different conclusions of the position and amplitude/phasing of the trough and associated PPN. Current consensus sees the rain further to the NE, with moisture convergence activated across the Amazon and across to the Atlantic coasts, yielding thunderstorms once again but not affecting São Paulo. Still subject to some flux, for sure, but for now the prospect of a dry race remaiins the stronger bet.


Thurs. Update, based on 00 & 12UTC model output:

There's growing inter-model and inter-run continuity now, with little significant to add to the general theme described since the outset of this blog. Much of Friday will remain dry and fair, but with deeper convective development into the afternoon (perhaps even by FP2) and evening, heralding the arrival of the cold front from the south. This becomes a dominant feature overnight into Saturday, with most models tending towards clearance (of the main PPN band) by around midday on Saturday, but the finer detail of local rainfall threat shouldn't be taken too literally, given the varied handling of frontal PPN spatio-temporal extent by different models. Some models - notably ECMWF, UKMO, CMC and Brazilian regional NWP output - have been bullish about the wet weather potential for Saturday throughout the medium range lead-up. Much like we saw in Korea, GFS has somewhat turned around to fall more into line with these solutions, but with inevitable run-to-run oscillations re finer detail. I expect this to remain so right up to the wire: after all, ignoring the mesoscale continuity, a dozen miles will make a huge difference in terms of how the thundery band clears (or not) ahead of the track sessions on Saturday, thus dictating fortunes on the circuit. Radars at the ready, folks...

There's a cocktail of critical upper and low-level atmospheric dynamics coming into play, including potential for localised mass convergence; import of moist air via low-level jet (LLJ) out of the vast Amazon basin and consequently, a prospect of seeing a more organised structure of any frontal/trough passage, offering a risk of heavy downpours in places. The fairly low pre-frontal pressure gradient is significant, however. GFS (and some other models) still prefer a somewhat discontinuous feature from Atlantic into the continental interior, making the local PPN accumulation even harder to reliably call, whereas others (including UKMO) suggest a more coherent band of heavy rain, with slower rate of clearance during Saturday. Of relevance here is how regional Brazilian modellling for Sao Paulo (i.e., ETA20, ETA40) tend to concur with UKMO and ECMWF in threatening higher amounts of PPN, in contrast to some other global output (e.g., GFS) - this all courtesy of differences in how the upper level flow is synthesised.  

 Either way, the potential for heavy rain (plus low but no less emphasised threat of severe t-storms) at some stage early Saturday comes with high forecast confidence: a wet, damp or drying track being the likely outcome for FP3 and possibly quali too. Any cloud breaks PM will add insolation effects and bolster a threat of further localised showers, hence the % chance of some rain never really diminishes to any significant degree during the periods of track action. It could prove knife-edge, not least given the latent drama surrounding this race and it's importance for the championship tables...

Sunday still looks a far better affair, with a goood deal of dry and largely sunny weather prevailing and a broadly low  but not insignificant threat of afternoon light showers (as exemplified by both UKMO and ECMWF output)). Further model runs are needed to lock-down the likely chance of these, but at least broad inter-model consensus offers a high chance for a dry or largely dry race.

Weds. Update, based on 00UTC model output:

A largely similar story to my original entry and some better continuity - of sorts - is now emerging. The broadscale evolution has good inter-model agreement, with the upper trough dominant from overnight Friday and then throughout Saturday; a cold front moving north later Friday overnight into Saturday AM. Inevitably, each model handles the precipitation signal somewhat differently, i.e., the areal extent of showers and timing of frontal clearance northwards. In short, no model can be wholly trusted on this level of detail, not least at this range in a convective regime. Importantly, the new runs of ECMWF, UKMO and CMC are a tad more progressive (albeit not by much) in easing the frontal band of showers and t-storms northwards through Saturday morning to possibly clear Interlagos by midday (or indeed earlier). GFS still remains the most progressive in this respect, with good continuity; similarly Eta-20 regional modelling now follows it's lead. It also has the primary PPN signal restricted to overnight Fri-Sat, followed by further late afternoon/evening showers on a trough post-front. This sort of shortwave feature (plus any local diurnal shower development) inevitably keeps a threat of some showers still present into the afternoon, but there's a fair chance of the wettest conditions having passed ahead of FP3 and quali, perhaps by some margin. Sunday, meanwhile, continues to look dry or very largely so, with good inter-model support for this outcome (as earlier noted) and a dry race expected.


(original entry follows) 

So, are we ready for the drama? Interlagos seems to have an annual ability to offer heart-stopping moments - not least in the last three championship-deciding events there.  And if there's a last weather-borne banana skin to await the 2010 title contenders, it will surely appear here at São Paulo, rather than at Abu Dhabi...

The potential is certainly there for Brazil's lively spring weather to play some part in the destiny of this year's title hopes. The key focus is on Saturday, when the possibility of (at least periodically) wet weather will be of most concern for teams and drivers as the early forecast evolves.

The key models employed for this forecast blog are the global models from UK MetOffice (UKMO); ECMWF, US-GFS, Canada's CMC, Japan's JMA, US-NOGAPS and the regional (20km resolution) output from Brazil's INPE/CPTEC.

During the later stages of Friday, an upper trough elongates northwards out of Argentina, with a surface low spinning-up offshore to the east. Up aloft, the polar jetstream winds loop northwards to define the upper trough axis, offering potential for inclement weather to gather below. The subtropical jet lies just to the north. Showers and thunderstorms are likely to become increasingly more prevalent beneath this vigorous cocktail of upper forcing, aided locally by daytime maxima climbing into the mid/upper 20's.

The US-GFS is not wholly dissimilar, offering dry conditions for much of Friday before also bringing the upper trough across São Paulo later into Saturday, albeit as a somewhat less pronounced and flatter feature compared to some other models.   

As the weekend advances, the trough expands up through southern Brazil into Saturday, before relaxing eastwards into Sunday. Meanwhile, just to the north, the SACZ (South Atlantic Convergence Zone - a critical component of Brazilian weather patterns) sits almost quasi-stationary, delivering frequent thunderstorms stretching over a vast band from the depths of the Amazon basin down towards SE Brazil. The intensity and positioning of the SACZ - shown to be allied to phasing of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events - is the most important driving force behind any extreme spring-summer rainfall events occuring in São Paulo.

Friday looks largely or entirely dry during the two free practice sessions, with sunny spells and turning somewhat breezier into the afternoon. Model continuity for this outcome has been essentially consistent throughout the medium range output from all operational centres. This dry spell precedes the increasing influence of the upper trough and surface cold front easing northwards into Brazil later into the evening and night. Surface pressure steadily falls, the cloud cover thicken-up and heralds a streadily increasing % chance of showers later.

At the time of writing, the most pessemistic forecasts for Saturday come from the very same models that performed so admirably when foretelling of inclement conditions a fortnight ago in Korea.

ECMWF, UKMO and CMC are largely in agreement (albeit with nuances of timing differences) in developing a sharper, thundery feature along the frontal band during early hours and keeping it largely in-situ through the day (almost a component of the SACZ), with resultant potential for more prolonged outbreaks of rain at times and generally a lot more cloud across Interlagos. Temperatures will fall back towards the mid 20's. It's noteworthy how the wetter signal for Saturday is also reflected in the Brazilian Eta-20 regional modelling, especially into the afternoon (see latest São Paulo meteogram, link at the top of this blog), thus offering pretty good support for the EC, UKMO and CMC solutions.  ECMWF's EPSgram for São Paulo (NB: not available publically on the web) is a fairly decent replica of the Eta-20 solution, too.

GFS, on the other hand, is more progressive and takes the frontal band northwards quicker (it also wants the SACZ further north, too), with the shower threat easing away before qualifying and skies tending to clear somewhat. Of course, taking the precipitation distribution from GFS (or any other model) at face value in such a convective set-up is a mug's game, because they're only ever providing a broad brush signal for the regional & local potential, not the actuality!

So, adopting the necessary 'wide-angle' view across all the various model output, very clearly the likelihood of rain at some stage during Saturday is very high, but the comparative speed of this clearing through Saturday is the critical element to dictate wet weather potential into the windows of FP3 and qualifying. Some mainstream forecast providers (e.g., MeteoGroup) offer up to 99% precipitation chance for Saturday, which seems quite reasonable taken across the 24-hr window. However, for periods of track action it may prove closer to 20-40% in terms of site-specific probability. The outcome? Anyone's guess!! Better inter-model continuity is awaited...

But either way, the models do then tend to converge in offering Sunday's dry or largely dry prospects. The upper trough relaxes to a more zonal pattern aloft; the surface front/trough is by then further north and swallowed-up into the broader SACZ convective band over SE Brazil. Later into the afternoon, clouds will tend to bubble-up more readily across Interlagos, aided by insolation and a reasonable amount of CAPE, but any resultant showers are likely to be lighter affairs and more broadly scattered. So, there's more than a fighting chance for this year's race to remain a dry affair.

I'll of course keep you updated on how the model runs this week shape-up prospects for what promises to be a truly thrilling event - wet or dry!




Formula One Weather Forecast: Korean Grand Prix 2010

Ian Fergusson | 14:25 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Yeongam, 22 - 24 October 2010 (Round 17)

(This forecast will be regularly updated. This entry: Friday 22 October, 18:40hrs BST)

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Quick Links:


 Forecast Summary:

(PPN = Precipitation)

Emphasis: High confidence for dry Friday; Saturday's FP3/Quali sessions also expected to remain dry. Improving inter-model continuity suggests a threat of rain arriving into Sunday, with increasing potential to affect the race.

Friday: CONFIDENCE HIGH: Sunny spells and dry. Chance of PPN 5%. Max 22C.  Breezy at times. Wind ENE.

Saturday: CONFIDENCE HIGH: Turning cloudier during the day. Rather breezy again. Expected to remain dry throughout FP3/Quali.  Chance of PPN 30% until end of quali, but rain arriving late evening / towards midnight. Max 21C. Wind ENE.

Sunday: CONFIDENCE MODERATE (improving): Mostly cloudy. Rain expected to have arrived overnight, albeit heaviest PPN expected further to the south. Possible that wet weather will have departed before race start, but this remains open to a high degree of uncertainty. Chance of PPN 70%.  Max 19C. Breezy.  Wind ENE. 


Synopsis & Forecast Evolution:

Update to original entry (below):

Friday Update, based on 12z Model runs:

There's closer agreement generally now between the main operational centres, with a high chance of rain falling across the circuit at some stage later Saturday and into Sunday. This has been strongly signalled for some time in the ECMWF-ENS output for Mokpo; ditto (with good continuity) by Canada's GM, the UKMO-GM, Japan's GM and (on and off) by NOGAPS. Korea's own KMA modelling and meteogram spread offers a similar idea.

The US-GFS has tended to play catch-up of late, now bringing rain overnight Saturday and into Sunday morning, but clears it well ahead of race start. This solution has about 50% support and we'll see if the 00z GFS (and other op centres) build on the theme of dry weather and / or only light showery outbreaks of rain prevailing by the time the lights go out. Certainly not impossible, in my view.  The Canadian model falls into a roughly similar camp, with fairly heavy overnight and morning rain trending much lighter ahead of race start.

Meanwhile, the Japanese, EC and UKMO modelling still threaten outbreaks of rain (some heavy) continuing into the race window. The Canadian output had also doggedly stuck to this idea virtually all week, with UKMO not far behind in terms of continuity and remaining so in the latest run. ECMWF's output is best summarised in a remark from the Met Office's Deputy Chief Forecaster made to me earlier today, who - after analysing the Mokpo EP meteogram - concluded: "....(there's) clearly a high chance for some heavy rain, either before the race, if not actually during it."

So it's a very finely balanced situation; further runs are needed to gauge continuity on the areal spread of heaviest rainfall and the timing of any clearance off eastwards. Broadly speaking, a middle ground approach is to anticipate rain arriving overnight and into the morning (= green track), mostly clearing away to the east before midday but with potential for some lighter showery outbreaks continuing for a while into the afternoon.

Thursday Update, based on 12z Model runs:

Today's ensembles maintain a trend - already offered with high forecast confidence some days ago - for dry running to prevail throughout Friday's sessions and a strong prospect of the same outcome on Saturday. The focus of forecast attention remains very much fixed on Sunday, with a growing prospect of rain arriving during the day, courtesy of the ex-Megi remnants described in the original entry (below). As also highlighted below, this threat of wet weather has been consistently offered by some models as a minority to 50% solution, while the US-GFS - suffering some earlier upstream divergence in handling Megi's track - has continued to oscillate in solutions for Sunday.

Crucially however, it has tended to erratically edge the prospect of rain northwards in successive recent runs. It's 12z output now comes into broader, if not exact, agreement with most other operational centres (ECMWF, UKMO, JMA, CMC, NOGAPS etc.) by bringing a prospect of rain across the extreme SW and S districts of South Korea throughout Sunday. Other models are more bullish, with a more northerly, extensive threat of rain and in the case of CMC (exhibiting strong continuity), offering showers potentially slightly earlier from overnight Sat-Sun. The timing of this - plus precise degree of northerly extent of any precipitation - will be the critical factors during race day. 

Clearly, tomorrow's runs will be important in terms of continuity (or lack thereof); CMC, UKMO and some others having already 'led the way' in threatening a wet or potentially wet race, with GFS tending to play catch-up in the last 24hrs. I'll update you all again tomorrow, by which time we'll have seen just how the teams fare on the new circuit in dry, fine conditions during FP1 and 2!


(Original Entry follows)

While the Suzuka forecast was a (rare) example of great inter-model continuity and bullish forecast confidence - even quite a few days ahead of the event - assessing weather prospects at this inaugural Korean event have been proving quite the opposite!

Forecast confidence is now starting to improve and consolidate. Currently, only the weather for Friday's practice sessions can be foretold with a very high degree of certainty: it's looking dry, fine and rather breezy for those. The various models are starting to show increasing agreement for the rest of the track action to stay dry, too.

Now, I hope you can keep up with this next bit - but it's pretty critical in determining just how dry (or not) the new and doubtless rather slick asphalt will remain by the end of the race weekend!

The complications emerge especially during Sunday, much of them courtesy of how extra-tropical remnants from Typhoon 15W, named 'Megi', track and evolve through the mid to latter parts of next week.

Right now, Megi - located SE of Hong Kong - is tracking very much as anticipated, steered around the southern boundary of a deep-layered mid-level subtropical ridge. With time, the western portion of that ridge of high pressure will subside due to mid-latitude influences coming east out of China, while the typhoon itself is expected to continue it's more poleward track.

Megi is currently expected to make landfall into S.E. China / Hong Kong, according to the official model output from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.  Therafter however, the complex evolution of the dissipating core - and extent and distribution of it's northward rainfall outflow - are all influenced by various factors, including a trough emerging south-eastward through mid-central China. However, it will certainly dissipate and weaken as the poleward journey continues during the week, through the increasing influence of land and decreasing potency of vertical wind shear. But the northerly-orientated outflow of rainfall and associated 'lobes' of low pressure will remain pretty noteworthy features on weather charts for a few days still, some of this possibly crossing - or at least grazing -South Korea later during the race weekend. However, this is most likely to occur post-race and  overnight int Monday.

The main 'free' forecast model output available on the web, feeding many automated popular forecast websites, is the US-GFS model. Importantly, it has persisted in offering a divergent track in certain respects compared to the collective (and very similar) output of other dynamic models (e.g., ECMWF, UKMO, NOGAPS, GFDN). On the basis of consensual expert analysis, the GFS track you might see on some weather websites is still presently considered the 'outlier' solution by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and is, in their words, "....deemed as unlikely, considering the strength and position of the steering subtropical ridge positioned to the north." 

Consequently, the GFS forecast further 'downstream' into later stages of next week may prove somewhat unreliable for south Korea (at least at this range), albeit continuity in the broader weekend prospects for Mokpo is now improving.

The UK Met Office and Canadian CMC models were both quite progressive in taking a threat of rain - some heavy - northward towards Korea into the weekend. Previous runs of UKMO suggested overnight wet weather Sat-Sun but unlikely to directly impact track sessions; CMC, meanwhile, offered a decidedly wet race. UKMO has now reverted to a dry solution for Saturday and Sunday, bringing the threat of rain only later during Sunday and into Monday. CMC, however, sticks to the notion of a very wet spell into and throughout the race window. It remains effectively alone in this very pessimistic solution (but that doesn't mean it's to be discounted!).

GFS has exhibited some pretty typical oscillations at this sort of forecast range and especially in a complex set-up.  It sticks to the idea of dry weather all weekend, steering any rainfall southwards across Japan. ECMWF, meanwhile, is essentially the closest to the Megi 'official' track published by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and also looks to keep the race weekend dry or largely so.

A reasoned summary, for now at least, suggests:

- dry, sunny & breezy weather all of Friday;

- very probably dry (and again breezy, plus eventually somewhat cloudier) conditions for Saturday's sessions, and

- a dry, breezy and fairly warm race the more likely outcome, but with an uncertain, low % threat of rain appearing during the event.

I'll of course keep you updated all the way...

Cold(er) spell on the way....

Ian Fergusson | 20:00 UK time, Thursday, 14 October 2010

So, the weekend looks a benign affair for us here in the West Country: high pressure still the dominant theme; generally light winds, some sunny spells and remaining dry.

It'll be distinctly cool, however, with the potential for a widespread ground frost in our inland areas, overnight Saturday into Sunday.

In the next few days, I dare say some newspapers will start hyperventilating. Expect to read about an imminent "Arctic Blast!"; or how "Winter Arrives!", etc., etc.


Because early next week, we'll see a transition to a colder, unsettled cyclonic pattern which draws the prevailing flow directly down from the north, accompanied by brisk winds and a more showery regime of weather across the nation.


The current Met Office prognosis is hardly forewarning of 'Snowmageddon'. 

Yes, we do expect to see some snow accumulation across the Scottish mountains next week; equally, there's a fair chance of transient (as opposed to lying, or disruptive) snow even falling to low levels for a while across other parts of Scotland and similarly, some districts of northern England.

The various forecast models inevitably vary in just how far south the cold 'plunge' is advected into England, but the prospects of any snow appearing further southwards are extremely limited. In fact, it looks barely worth a punt.

The broader theme will be a chilly, windy and occasionally showery spell of weather through a fair part of the next working week.

We can expect periodic bands of showers - some likely to be a tad lively, offering hail and a crack or two of thunder - to arrive on the brisk and very noticeable northerly flow, but with brighter spells dominating between these, across most districts.

Beyond that, the latest Met Office longer term (i.e., in medium range) analysis keeps things somewhat on the cool side, but no early or widespread advent of winter weather in the true sense.

Best to keep the sledge tucked-away in the garage for now... but for sure, you can dust-off those warm coats and gloves!

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