Weather Flashback

April 2023 - A View from 38,000 Feet (March 11, 2023)


On a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 Max flight from Austin to Oklahoma City, I captured the following scene. According to a flight attendant, we were at an altitude of about 38,000 feet (presumably above mean sea-level) and just beginning our descent into Will Rogers World Airport. Using that information, I was able to determine I was looking east-northeast out my window over south central Oklahoma. Later that evening, after I had landed, I went on with my analysis of the scene using a variety of data. In doing so, I discovered that the somewhat fuzzy looking cloud band (in comparison to the crisper looking cumulus on the cool side of the front) was probably stratocumulus; mostly made up of water droplets, and occurring due to airmass mixing. While the high thin clouds above our flight level off to the east were undoubtedly (icy) cirrus clouds; with some of the cirrus patch likely having been generated by a distant thunderstorm in the warm, humid sector of this storm system.  While not apparent here, I am confident that our flight path paralleled a dryline across portions of Oklahoma and Texas that afternoon.  Interestingly, I was able to snag a Mesoscale Discussion from the Storm Prediction Center issued about 20 minutes before I captured the scene, which supports my analysis:

Plate 1. A View from 38,000 Feet. Captured on March 11, 2023 at 5:27pm CST.  Looking east-northeast from 34°, -97°.