Mt Whitney Webcam
Mt Williamson Webcam
Who's Online Now
0 members (), 71 guests, and 20 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Physics on Telescope
#20940 01/23/12 05:04 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 129
B
Bob R Offline OP
OP Offline
B
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 129
In spite of dismal current weather and worse predictions, on Saturday January 21 five of us—two Bobs, Luke, Jay, and Phillip—decided to give Telescope Peak a try. We left Ridgecrest at 0615 in the dark, with wind and rain, and expectations of more of the same but amplified where we were going. "Giving it a try" should rather read: We would start up and turn around when the conditions forced us to.

We made it to Mahogany Flat and I set my altimeter, 8133 feet. It was cold, windy, and spitting snow. As we started up the trail, my altimeter behaved relatively normally, primarily because we were on the lee side for the WSW wind. It had been predicted to be 40 to 45 mph with gusts to around 70. Every now and then we experienced those gusts and my altimeter jumped around a bit.

I noticed it more in the elevation rate display. On trails like this I usually manage around 15 feet per minute gain these days. But the display would bounce between more than plus 30, and negative numbers. I knew Bernoulli was at work.

We neared Arcane Meadows in good style considering the conditions, and my altimeter usually displayed close to the correct value of just under 9600 feet. At Arcane Meadow we were suddenly in a wind tunnel: We estimated the wind speed at a steady 50 mph. I had read my altimeter just a minute or so earlier to be 9990 feet, the elevation of nearby Rogers Peak—and 400 feet high!

At that point three turned back, while Bob H and Luke pushed on to Rogers. They later reported that they were on hands and knees for the last part. They hiked back on the road, and we all met up at Mahogany Flat at about the same time. Bob reported that his (accumulating) altimeter said he had gained 4000 feet for the day. But we knew from the map that the correct figure was less than 1900. Again, Bernoulli at work: The gusts had lowered the pressure temporarily and therefore increased the elevation. After the gust the elevation went back to normal but the elevation gain had been memorialized.

Pictures here: Telescope Peak trip

Back home, I decided to do some calculations. As is well known—all things being constant—as the wind speed increases, the local pressure goes down. And as the pressure goes down, the observed altimeter reading goes up. For example, as you are approaching a pass from the leeward side, when you enter a high wind zone the measured altimeter value will be too high. Experienced mountaineers are familiar with this effect, and know to adjust their altimeter readings for the local wind speed. It can be important when navigating in poor visibility.

Bernoulli's equation relates the pressure to the air density and the speed. And of course the pressure can be expressed as an altitude value. Without going into all the details, I calculated the pressure at Arcane Meadow as 69700 dynes/cm2 when it should have been 70500: 800 dynes/cm2 too low. With the air density of 0.00113 gm/cm3 Bernoulli says the wind speed was 1188 cm/sec. While this looks like a high number, it converts to only about 27 mph. And we had "guessed" almost twice that much. I think the explanation is that I read my altimeter as we were in the final approach to Arcane Meadow, not when we were actually bearing the full brunt of the wind. If I do this experiment in the future, I'll be more scientific about it.

The message: Navigation in the mountains sometimes needs to take into consideration the wind speed and how it is varying for your trip. And that altimeters that provide a readout of gross elevation gain can overestimate in gusty conditions.

Afterthought: My rule of thumb regarding an atmospheric low moving in--nothing to do with the Bernoulli effect--is as follows:

  • If the elevation gain overnight is 100 feet or less, I don't worry about it.
  • If it's 200 feet, I worry a little.
  • If it's 400 feet or more, I get the hell out

That's what I do. Others may react differently.

25 Wind estimated at 50 mph steady

Last edited by Bob R; 01/24/12 03:03 PM. Reason: Afterthought
Re: Physics on Telescope
Bee #20953 01/23/12 07:35 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 583
Offline
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 583
It's sure nice to see a post that prominently features Bernoulli's equation.

Re: Physics on Telescope
Bob R #20966 01/24/12 06:23 AM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 1,261
Bee Offline
Offline
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 1,261
Very interesting demonstration/explanation of Bernoulli's Principle in mountaineering! Alas, I had to study Bernoulli whilst in ground school, with an emphasis on the dangers of flying near mountains at night in a storm and the grave consequences should one encounter a low pressure zone (false high altimeter reading thus, one might plow into a mountain if flying by instruments)(perhaps a contributing factor in the Gambler's Special crash...I have not looked into it)

I readily admit to being nothing more than a casual hiker with a map & compass, so I am curious how essential -- or widely used -- is the altimeter amongst experienced mountaineers?


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Physics on Telescope
Bee #20970 01/24/12 07:15 AM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 595
Offline
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 595
Originally Posted By: Bee
... so I am curious how essential -- or widely used -- is the altimeter amongst experienced mountaineers?


Knowing one's altitude, in conjunction with a map and compass, can be most helpful in locating position, especially in mountains which are heavily forested. When I was bushwhacking (going 'cross-country' in western parlance) the higher peaks on the East Coast in pre-GPS days, I found an altimeter a valuable tool.

Re: Physics on Telescope
Bee #20974 01/24/12 10:10 AM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 129
B
Bob R Offline OP
OP Offline
B
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 129
In the '60s, '70s, and early '80s, CLMRG responded to small plane crashes in the Sierra seemingly every year. The crashes were typically in storms, and often at or near passes. We used to think that the pilot was trying to gain altitude to get over the pass but the aircraft just didn't have the lift. But I have believed the Bernoulli effect sometimes made him think he was safely several hundred feet high, when he was instead a little too low. In poor visibility, he never knew what hit him.

Here is one that got a bit of coverage: Lauren Elder. For our part in it, scroll down to #34, July 1976. It was made into a book and also a movie.

Nowadays, things are different. Better weather prediction and better technology like non-barometric altimeters, for example.

Re: Physics on Telescope
Bob R #20975 01/24/12 10:33 AM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 8,509
Likes: 103
S
Offline
S
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 8,509
Likes: 103
Don't altimeters need to be adjusted all the time for air pressure changes due to weather?

It seems to me that, especially in the Gamblers Special situation, if a pilot flies from a stable weather location, where pressure is higher, and into a storm, where pressure is lower (especially a strong storm), that his altimeter will show a higher than actual elevation.

Re: Physics on Telescope
Steve C #20976 01/24/12 11:08 AM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 583
Offline
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 583
Here is a nice article on altimeters, including barometric altimeters for applications like hiking and aircraft use article. It also discusses radar altimeters, some limitations of GPS, etc.

Re: Physics on Telescope
AlanK #20977 01/24/12 01:00 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 8,509
Likes: 103
S
Offline
S
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 8,509
Likes: 103
Interesting. ...so then I searched for "barometric pressure effect on altimeters" and found this pilots information page:

    Barometric Pressure and Altimeter Settings
Quote:
Flying from a High to a Low:

This is just the opposite of the situation described above. Flying into a low pressure causes the indicated altitude to slowly increase. If we maintain the same indicated altitude by descending, our true altitude will gradually decrease.

A person flying on instruments or at night in a region where there is high terrain or obstacles must be aware of this and be sure to update the altimeter setting frequently.
        ...My own emphasis added...

Re: Physics on Telescope
Bob R #20980 01/24/12 01:36 PM
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,037
Likes: 6
H
Offline
H
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 1,037
Likes: 6
Originally Posted By: Bob R
"Giving it a try" should rather read: We would start up and turn around when the conditions forced us to.


Bob, I like that attitude !

here is what two famous British mountaineer-authors said about 80 years ago:

There is no risk in starting early in doubtful weather. (note the italics are his, not mine)
Tom Longstaff, This My Voyage, page 59

The sooner we go up the sooner shall we meet the sun, or find out that it is not there for the day.
Geoffrey Winthrop Young, Mountain Craft, page 54

Re: Physics on Telescope
Steve C #20998 01/25/12 11:03 AM
Joined: Jan 2011
Posts: 286
B
Offline
B
Joined: Jan 2011
Posts: 286
I constantly have to adjust my watch altimeter to known altitudes.

Re: Physics on Telescope
Brent N #21035 01/26/12 04:48 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 2,251
Likes: 1
Offline
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 2,251
Likes: 1
Fly Bernoulli! !

Last edited by wagga; 01/26/12 04:49 PM.

Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII
Re: Physics on Telescope
wagga #21040 01/26/12 07:11 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 8,509
Likes: 103
S
Offline
S
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 8,509
Likes: 103
Originally Posted By: wagga
Fly Bernoulli!

Very cool demo. It would be nice to see the angle and shape of the wing varied, with the same smoke/pulse lines.

I wonder if that turbulence at the tail affects the lift efficiency?

Re: Physics on Telescope
Steve C #21046 01/26/12 11:43 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 2,251
Likes: 1
Offline
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 2,251
Likes: 1
Original article from the Sydney Morning Herald.


Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII

Link Copied to Clipboard
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.4
(Release build 20200307)
Responsive Width:

PHP: 7.4.33 Page Time: 0.057s Queries: 40 (0.042s) Memory: 0.6404 MB (Peak: 0.7476 MB) Data Comp: Off Server Time: 2024-04-19 03:37:46 UTC
Valid HTML 5 and Valid CSS