This page describes the BLIPSPOT prediction product and gives instructions for obtaining BLIPSPOT predictions at location(s) useful to your soaring site. Please note up front that there must be a contribution by the requestor to the general BLIPMAP effort, of either money or time, for creation a new BLIPSPOT prediction location - so if you had expected to get something to make your local soaring forecasting easier without giving something to the larger effort in return then you needn't read further.
What is a BLIPSPOT?
A BLIPSPOT presents thermal forecast parameters in a
format which allows rapid analysis of how those parameters will change
over a day at a single location (i.e. at a "spot"). The intent is to provide ready
answers to questions like "how early will the thermalling height be
high enough to take a tow" and "how long will convection last today"
and "what changes will occur during the day". Also, the
forecasts are provided as text numbers which may appeal to those who
have difficulty deciphering colors on the BLIPMAP maps or who like a
more quantitative description of the exact forecast (though of course
there is error/uncertainty in each forecast). Scanning through
all the forecast parameters can be done much more quickly than
is possible with the graphical plots, but it indicates conditions only
at a single point. The parameters forecast are identical to
those given on BLIPMAPs, with the addition of (1) a wind profile
prediction (giving winds both within and above the BL), (2) a
humidity profile prediction (which also gives a graphical presentation
of how the BL top varies through the day), and (3) a surface
temperature forecast (so an observed temperature can be used to see
how well the forecast is matching actual conditions). An
additional advantage of a BLIPSPOT is that the surface temperature used
for its forecasts can be empirically adjusted to obtain improved
forecasts - this is particularly useful when the location is
influenced by small-scale terrain which is not resolved by the
smoothed model topography.
A BLIPSPOT is updated every time a new forecast is available for its location. For early BLIPSPOTs, such as those available in the wee hours of the morning, forecasts are only available for the earlier hours, with later forecasts being filled in as they become available to give the full forecast suite depicted in this sample BLIPSPOT. Or one can view an active BLIPSPOT, the Minden BLIPSPOT forecast.
At what Locations are BLIPSPOTs Useful?
Experience with BLIPSPOTs in CA/NV has found that BLIPSPOTs are most useful for locations (1) at the gliderport itself, where it forecasts local soaring conditions, (2) at important "jumping off points" for longer cross-country flights, if conditions there differ significantly from those near the gliderport itself, particularly if the terrain height differs significantly, and (3) at far-away locations of especial local interest. For the latter two cases it is possible that the terrain involved is not well resolved by the model and that an empirical adjustment to the model-forecast surface temperature will produce more accurate results, in which case I am willing to work with those involved to establish such an adjustment.
Cost and Justification:
I am requiring BLIPSPOTs to be "sponsored" for an
amount which one person could handle if necessary but which ideally
would be covered by many people at a site determining that a BLIPSPOT
would be useful to them and each chipping in a small amount of
money. A sponsored BLIPSPOT will be publicly available to
anyone. The annual charge is $50, which is meant to defray my
time spent on creating and maintaining such BLIPSPOTs (at present it
takes 40 minutes for me to create an individual BLIPSPOT, so I do not
consider this to be a "donation" since my time is spent creating
something of value specifically for the requestor).
A major motivation for this charge is to ensure that requests for BLIPSPOT forecasts are based on a considered evaluation of the value of that forecast and that new BLIPSPOTs will actually be utilized. We all like to get something for nothing and tend to not consider the cost to someone else. If BLIPSPOTs were to be free then many people would ask for one even if they might not use it much, since the request only requires a short email to me. Yet each one would take a significant amount of effort on my part. I know many people (including myself) are quick to request or grab an item when it is free, even though they have no real need for it and may soon discard it. Determining which BLIPSPOTs would actually be important and utilized requires local knowledge which I do not possess, so trying to prioritize such requests would be a hassle - at present I am very much against introducing new hassles for myself so am using this process to establish the importance of each new BLIPSPOT.
My expectation is that this will make people think about what they are asking for and only proceed further if they believe the information will have real value and be utilized by them. For example, I would expect that someone who might have asked for a series of BLIPSPOTs might now only ask for just a single BLIPSPOT to see how useful the product will actually be for him - which I think is the way it should be. Unfortunately I cannot offer a "free trial" since all the effort is in the setup. BLIPSPOTs are largely for convenience in determining how conditions will change during the day and have only a small amount of "new" information which cannot be obtained from the BLIPMAPs themselves, so they are not really "necessary".
An important factor in this approach, from my point of view at least, is that I will be happy whatever the outcome! If no one asks for a BLIPSPOT I will be happy since no additional effort will be required on my part. If many people ask for a BLIPSPOT I will be happy since I will be assured that that request is important enough to them that they are willing to spend money to see it happen and because I will be getting some reward for my time and effort. (And I find that I am no longer willing to donate my time to that which benefits only one or a few individuals rather than all soaring pilots.)
The bottom line is that there is BLIPSPOT information which can be provided to you, but you have to determine whether it is valuable to you. If you are interested in how often users have accessed them, see the monthly BLIPMAP usage statistics.
So to ensure that that those BLIPSPOTs being produced are actually being utilized and continue to have value to pilots - and to help offset the operational costs of the BLIP processing program - there is a yearly charge for continued production of individual BLIPSPOTs of $50/year. To reduce my administrative burden, so I don't have to handle all renewals individually since that process is not automated, BLIPSPOTs are valid for a soaring season, not for a 12 month period. Renewal occurs in the spring, when you will be sent a renewal email, with a grace period of three months after that before expiration.
Please note that all BLIPSPOTS are freely available via the internet (i.e. the annual charge is for their daily creation, but they are then available to anyone as they are intended for group use) - however, I do require that individual users "register" (which is free) because knowing the number of individuals using each forecast product is important to me. (For further information on DrJack registration, see the Registration Information webpage.)
How to Request a new BLIPSPOT:
To create a new BLIPSPOT I need the following
information: (Note that if a valley airport has a local mountain which
generates thermals, you must decide whether you want the prediction to
be for the valley or for the mountain and give the location lat/long
and surface elevation accordingly.)
(1) a nearby geographic location (e.g. town, terrain feature) name for identification, including the state abbreviation, ala "Minden, NV" or "Walker Ridge, CA"
(2) a latitude and a longitude for the location, in degrees ala "39.156,-119.549"
(3) a surface elevation for the location, ala "4720 ftMSL".
(4) the BLIPMAP region(s) in which the BLIPSPOT is located Note: a BLIPSPOT is not required to be within a BLIPMAP region! However, it must lie withing the RUC prediction grid. This response is used to determine the grid used for the "Grid Orientation" plot, an ancillary product showing the location of the BLIPSPOT on the BLIPMAP region.
(5) the time zone in which the BLIPSPOT is located
(6) the name(s) of the sponsor(s) or sponsoring group
(7) a contact name with email address (unless you have none - if so please let me know)
The BLIPSPOT location I provide will not necessarily be the model grid point nearest the lat/long you supply - because the model forecasts use a smoothed topography I will also be using the surface elevation data you supply to estimate the "best" grid point and to establish an initial surface temperature adjustment to allow for the difference between the actual and model surface elevations. If actual experience should indicate that there is a "better" grid point or surface temperature adjustment, then that will be used instead. Please ensure that the lat/long and elevation information is correct, since changing those requires re-evaluation of the data point used and thus nearly as much time as the original creation (and you will not find me to be a happy camper if such is required); to date I have had only one case of incorrect data, so I thank all those who have ensured that they data they provided was accurate.
The above information should be sent either
(1) by email to:
(2) by postal mail to: Jack Glendening, 25953 Deer Run Lane, Salinas, CA 93908
In addition to the above information, a payment of $50 is required.
Payment can be made (in my preferred order, but yours may differ):
using your Credit-Card via PayPal
(use the "If you do not currently have a PP acount" button)
from your existing PayPal account:
by inputing the NAME of the BLIPSPOT
sending a check,
with the BLIPSPOT name and your email address,
25953 Deer Run Lane
Salinas, CA 93908