Birds are pretty good at grabbing any opportunity that they can get, but I don't think you could ever isolate miles of horizontal windshear without any vertical displacement or mixing.
Agreed. I think you're talking about two separate points I was trying to make. I've seen and soared miles of windshear at Funston many times. The shear that sets up there (as anywhere) has a very definite vertical component. It creates an "artificial ridge" of sorts. When this phenomenon occurs we can get at least a couple thousand feet of altitude, whereas we normally only achieve under 1000' in steady on-shore winds at the Funston ridge. The wind shear I'm talking about occurs when two air masses meet and one passes over the other at the shear-line. The shear line will sometimes advance toward the cliff or retreat, but generally moves far more slowly than the wind itself.
When I speak of getting lift from strictly horizontally moving air I'm talking about wind speed gradient in proximity to the ground (or water). If one could have an indefinite gradient (all horizontally moving air) one could continue rising indefinitely. However I don't think this condition ever occurs.
And in real life, the windshear will never be a perfectly even gradient across great horizontal and vertical expanses, even in the middle of an ocean. If a bird flies headlong into increased headwind (or reduced tailwind - same thing, relatively) he can use the newfound kinetic energy to soar higher, and he'll probably be pretty intuitive about changing course to take advantage of the next horizontal gust or gradient.
Again I think we're talking about apples and oranges. There's no question that a bird (or glider with sufficient performance) can remain aloft indefinitely in a consistent gradient (not talking shear here).
In a gusty environment (usually near geographical obstructions), any windshear near the surface is better characterized as turbulence, and in wide open, steady surface winds, evenly distributed windshear isn't significant enough to turn a kiteboarder into a soarer.
I think you're refering to a different phenomenon than I am. I'm not talking about a transient thing like a gust. I'm talking about a steady state shear that sets up and remains more on less in place. I've seen this happen at 3rd Ave a couple of times. The only turbulence to speak of in that case is at the shear boundary.
I agree mostly, but 22 seconds of hangtime wasn't just caused by horizontal gusts.
I agree completely.
And there is almost no such thing as a purely horizontal gust with no vertical displacement involved. You can't have a horizontal gust blasting along the surface without coming from somewhere, going somewhere, and displacing the slow moving air in its way.
Again, I'm with you 100%
Many sailors and kiters would do well to perceive wind and gusts as three-dimensional phenomenon, instead of the conventional two.
I believe you could dynamically soar indefinitely in a strong enough steady wind gradient with proper kite control.
Not when you are doing about 20 kts at a 6:1 glide ratio, sinking at 500 fpm.
I'm not sure I'm ready to buy your 500 fpm sink rate. In my 14.0 sq-meter glider I sink at about 185 fpm. I'm sure I sink faster on my kite but I would guess it's more in the 300 fpm range. I don't claim I could dynamically soar my kite in horizontal gradient, but I have no question it could be done given a sufficiently strong gradient (although I haven't worked out how strong that gradient would have to be or whether such a gradient would ever occur).