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6 Winter Weather Hazards Pilots Need To Prepare For

Winter is here for much of the United States, in the Upper Midwest, low temperatures are dropping into the single digits and some areas already have feet of snow. New weather patterns, snow, and icing risks mean you'll need to study up on some of those winter weather hazards before you go flying.

Here are some common hazards you might face this winter...

1) Regional Patterns

Be it lake effect snow in the Eastern Great Lakes or dense valley fog on the West Coast, pay attention to the patterns your local area experiences. If you're flying a cross country, take a look at the weather trends for your destination days ahead of time.

Mike Cetinich

2) Aircraft Icing

When super-cooled water droplets contact a surface below freezing, they turn to ice. Watch the charts for risks of super-cooled large droplets (SLDs). If you see an area marked for SLDs, that's where severe icing is most likely to occur. How to survive an inadvertent icing encounter.

3) Icing Often Occurs Regionally

Certain parts of the United States typically see more icing conditions than others. The Eastern side of the Great Lakes, around Buffalo, New York, often sees the heaviest icing. But no matter where you are, always make sure you check icing forecasts and reports.


4) Lake Effect Snow

When cold air flows over warmer water, the air cools and condenses over land. Lake effect snow begins to fall shortly after. Check out where lake effect snow is most common...

Mike Cetinich

5) Jet Stream Turbulence

In winter months, the polar front jet stream moves from higher latitudes in Canada towards more southern latitudes across the United States. In the winter, stronger upper level winds encourage vertical wind shear, causing turbulence around the jet stream. On the bright side, you could set a new speed record like this British Airways 777.


6) Advection Fog

Found in all seasons, but common in winter months, advection fog forms when moist air moves over an already cold surface. The air cools from below and the temperature reaches its dew point. The air becomes saturated, condensing into a low-lying cloud layer covering large areas.

Swayne Martin

Need a good way to preheat your airplane in the winter? Try this.

Want to get away from winter weather? Try flying to Yuma, Arizona (KNYL). It averages over 325 sunny days per year, the highest number of sunny days in the United States.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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