March 11, 2014

The Weather of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Like many, I have been following the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  And from my background, the first question that came to mind deals was the weather conditions experienced by the the 777 aircraft that night.  Although modern aircraft are highly robust in most weather conditions, a recent mid-ocean crash ( Air France  occurred during strong thunderstorm activity and thus it is important to at least cross weather impacts off the list of potential contributing factors.

The last contact with the flight was at 1721 UTC on Friday, March 7th (around 9:21 AM PST), somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam (see map, courtesy of

Here is a map of the surface temperatures, surface winds, and satellite-based cloud cover at 1700 UTC on that day for the area in question.  Satellite imagery shows thunderstorms, clouds are anything else on the route. Surface winds are weak.

And here is an infrared image from the Japanese GMS satellite an hour before the aircraft was lost (1631 UTC). Absolutely NOTHING going on along the flight path...essentially clear skies.

How about the upper level (500 hPa) height maps at 10 AM on Friday? (see below).  Large height gradient over China (and thus wind), but nearly no gradient over the accident zone and thus very, very weak winds.

Bottom line:  It is hard to imagine a region with less weather hazards.  Nothing interesting meteorologically was going on.  Weather was not the issue.


  1. This is indeed a mystery, when all else is ruled out the impossible becomes possible. Meteor strike or space debry?

  2. Cliff, do weather radars pick-up aircraft in flight, like when they pick-up birds that you have mentioned before? Further, if airliners do show up on weather radar could the local weather radar plots be used to spot the missing plane?


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

More Wildfire Misinformation at the Seattle Times

 The Seattle Times continues to shamelessly exaggerate and hype the regional effects of climate change. This week they really went overboard...