I know the the FAA routinely routes flights around or over bad weather, yet tonight, 4-11, I noticed many flights originating on the east coast, such as Dulles and Newark, even as far as south as Charlotte, destined for west coast areas like Las Vegas and San Diego are being routed north of Chicago, into Wisconsin, then west and eventaully south. This seems like the long route, especially considering the midwest is in the middle of bad weather today. Can anyone help me with that question? Thanks from a fellow flightaware fan.
A couple things come to mind:
The route for the shortest distance between two points on a flat map will always curve upward in the northern hemisphere. Put a few airport pairs into the Great Circle Mapper to see how far north the shortest routes go.
The jetstream may be particularly strong and far south today, making it quicker for the airlines to fly north and avoid some of it instead of heading right into it.
Here are the winds aloft for the US. The first two numbers tell the direction in degrees (i.e. 26=260). The second two numbers tell the speed of the wind in knots. Finally, the third pair of numbers tell the outside air temperature in C. Temps above 24,000 ft are assumed to be negative.
Don’t forget that those are the winds aloft and temp forecasts, and they cover a very broad area. The winds can shift significantly between a few hundred feet in altitude or a few miles alone a route. Other than PIREPs, there is no way of knowing what the winds are actually doing.
I saw that yesterday too as I will be flying from CLT to SAN next week. It took the flight 5 hours, whereas east bound, the red eye only took 3 1/2 hours. I checked the jet stream and it was high from southern CA to Atlanta which would explain routing the traffic north around it.