Gliding forecasts have come a long way in the last few years with Regional Atmospheric Soaring Predictions (RASP) being made available. RASP is the brain child of Dr. John W. (Jack) Glendening, a Meteorologist in the US. Dr Jack has made his RASP program freely available to other regions around the world to post-process files output by "equations of motion" meteorological models run by the U.S. Weather Bureau and the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Thanks to sponsorship from Internode and the GFA, the RASP processing of the models and subsequent forecasts are available in Australia. The Australian RASP is available at the AusRASP web site: http://glidingforecast.on.net/RASP/RASPtable.html where you can use the viewer to page through forecast images related to Thermals, Cloud, Winds and Wave data for each state and for hourly time periods. It also gives you some information about each type of image to help you interpret what you're seeing.
I'm sure many of you review an Area forecast (ARFOR) and Terminal Area Forecasts (TAF) for the area and aerodrome(s) you're planning to depart from and possibly overfly on a cross country gliding flight, these are good weather forecasts and are important for planning, but they don't provide much in the way of soaring data. RASP is a great source of gliding forecast information that can be easily and quickly interpreted.
It can take a little time to become familiar with what information each option provides, but once you're familiar with it you can quickly page through each chart (related to a specific time) and interpret the colours and pixilation’s to come up with an idea of what the soaring conditions are going to be like. Remember, RASP is just a forecast too and should be used as an "indication"... like any forecast, you can be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, but from my experience it has proved to be a good indicator.
Over the last few months the RASP viewers have gone one step further, they are now available on mobile devices. Whether you're an Android user or an iPod, iPad, or iPhone user, there is now a RASP viewer available for your mobile device to make viewing your regions RASP images easy from anywhere. These applications provide a simple way to flip through the RASP charts for your region and also provide the ability to pinch on a chart to take a closer look.
The Android RASP viewer application (written by Nimbly) can be reviewed and installed (Free) at: http://www.appbrain.com/app/rasp/be.suffix.rasp. If you're an iPod, iPad, or iPhone user, the RASP viewer application (written by Jelle Vandebeeck) can be reviewed and installed (Free) from the "App Store" on your device, or on iTunes at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rasp/id426040634?mt=8.