Paragliding is a weather dependent sport. If you are going to train or fly in the UK you should understand that there are probably around 100 days each year that are suitable for flying. In some other countries, the percentage can be twice that, but there is nowhere that is always flyable. Before starting out, we need to know what conditions will be suitable.
The weather is a huge subject and there are some excellent books that are definitely worth reading if you wish to know more. The first step is to make yourself aware of the forecast. If it is supposed to get stronger and it’s a bit windy already that is a bad sign. If it is due to clear up later, it may be worth waiting a while. If you are training with a school, they will check the forecast and make the call, but you must accept that sometimes it is simply not suitable to fly safely. To confine ourselves here to the fundamentals (whether it is flyable), we have three basic requirements.
It is self-evident that it is dangerous to fly if there is low cloud or mist obscuring the hill. Even if you can see parts of the slope or the landing area, there is a very real danger of it thickening quickly, particularly if the temperature is falling.
Rain and snow
If you are flying and encounter light rain or drizzle, it can be unpleasant, but it is not dangerous for short periods as long as the visibility is OK and there is no undue turbulence. It may be easier and quicker to fly down than walk down if the weather turns damp. If poor weather means getting a nice dry canopy wet, remember it may be a long job to dry it out again. The flight characteristics will be affected, and packing a canopy in a wet field may well mean getting it dirty. All important considerations.
We require a reasonably smooth breeze to fly. For initial training, it can be anywhere between zero and about 20 kph (though not too gusty). For ridge soaring we need at least 10 kph, but no more than about 25 kph. We can check the wind strength and how smooth it is in several ways. The first and most important is by feel and experience. Standing on the edge of the hill for five minutes before deciding whether or not to fly is never a wasted exercise. It also gives you a chance to check the incoming weather, by observing what is happening upwind of your launch point.
There is a considerable amount you will need to know about weather, and this is looked at in more detail in several of the video presentations in Part 1 and Part 2 of the E-learning resources.