Understanding the climate in the Gorge helps you figure out what to expect at the Flying field. There are three ways to look at conditions:
1) Immediate: what is it like at the flying site this minute?
2) Forecast: what is predicted for the future within the day, several days or week?
3) Analysis: Why the forecast is the way it is and gives you an idea of what to expect, basically making up your own forecast?
Here is the big picture: the Columbia River Gorge runs East and West where we live and is bisected by the Cascade mountain range. In the summer it blows from the west and in the winter it sucks from the east. In the Spring and fall there is less sucking and blowing and is our prime flying time.
A high pressure system always fills a low. In the winter there is usually a high on the east side of the cascades and the air flows toward the low systems over the ocean (west) making Troutdale and Portland a place where it blows. In the summer the situation is reversed. There is usually a high on the west side and a low on the east so the air flows to the low and we get the Gorge Winds. Wind surfers love this, model airplane flyers don't.
In the spring and fall the pressure differentials are not that great and we get storm systems coming through, always from the west. But a system passing through has a beginning, middle and end, usually one to three days. Air flowing from high to low is not a weather system and can last for days, even weeks.
The wind flows up or down the Columbia River, but is different for the Hood River Valley. We have found that the farther up the valley, the less gorge wind there will be. The valley winds are usually a function of the air heating up more than a pressure differential. This means that at Hardmans there will usually be very little wind in the morning until around noon. There can be white caps on the Columbia, but no wind at Hardmans. As the air in the valley heats up, it rises and pulls air from the river and thus there is usually a north wind by noon or a little after.
The Dalles Port Field is quite different. It is on the Columbia River and open to west and east winds. This area is best in the winter, fall and spring. When the Gorge Winds kick in, The Dalles Field is usually un-flyable. This area is also more susceptible to weather systems than Hardmans.
IMMEDIATE WEATHER CONDITIONS
1) Hardmans: on Fir Mountain Road, lower Hood River Valley.
A) IFP net. http://220.127.116.11/IFPNetWeb/ViewMap.aspx. This is a Fruit Growers reporting station network which links weather station at various orchards throughout the Hood River Valley and The Dalles. The site is finicky. Sometimes you get a login window. Ignore that. Shut down the browser, throw out cookies and whatever is in your cache and try the above link again. Select the lower Hood River area, then look for Wells, and Goe. I think the Goe station is in a hollow which means the wind at Goe may not reflect what is about a mile away at Hardmans. Wells is east of the field and about a mile away and is the most accurate.
B) Pine Hollow, http://raws.wrh.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/roman/meso_base.cgi?stn=PNGO. This station is on the fruit packing building next to the hill, not the fire station so the wind reading is not accurate for East or South. We don't care about that anyway. It is fairly accurate for west and north winds. Combine this information with Goe and Wells and you will have a pretty good idea of what it is like at Hardmans. Add that to the time you expect to be there (greater chance for north west wind by noon) and you can be fairly accurate as to what kind of day you are going to have.
2) The Dalles Port Field: This area is a about 2 miles east of the Dallesport airport and you would think that the airport weather station would give you a reading for the flying field because it is directly east and at the same altitude, but it turns out not to be true. There is a flow of air from the Klickitat River (west of the Dalles) that can last until mid morning. This means that the wind can be dead calm everywhere, even the Dalles and the airport and there will be a brisk west wind at the field. It will die down by mid morning and then be more predictable.
A) The best indicator o this local west wind is at the Rowena station: http://www.met.utah.edu/cgi-bin/droman/meso_table_mesowest.cgi?stn=UP048 owned by Union Pacific. You can see it at the crossing on your way to Mayer Park. The station is about 200 feet east and has three big cotton wood trees on the east side. The station is exposed to the west so the station will report west wind fairly accurately, but not so for east winds.
B) For viewing all river stations, including the Dalles Wind on Water is best: http://www.windonthewater.com/ You have to zoom in on Oregon, the Columbia. If you see no wind at the Dalles or Hood River, but wind at Rowena you will have a fairly good idea that it will die down by mid morning as described above.
√ A Hood River guy named Larry Spellman has a very elaborate site with his own reporting station featured at the top of his page. The best part are all the links to NOAA maps and weather cams. http://webpages.charter.net/hoodriverweather/weather.htm Just remember his weather is from Montecello Ave. He lives west of Roy P.
WEATHER ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
Temira Wagonfeld is very knowledgable and goes into quite accurate detail about what to expect for the day. This is very important to wind surfers and useful to us. http://thegorgeismygym.com/ She also is the source for all recreation activities in the gorge if flying model airplanes isn't enough for you.
Temira's analysis is for the Gorge Wind Surfer, but for the big picture and the last word is Cliff Mass, PhD, professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Washington. The place to start is his blog where he goes into an analysis of what is happening. He writes for the layman so his analysis is not so technical as to be offputting. He has links to U of W sites as well as others. http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/