how to read metar

How to Read METAR (Meteorological Aviation Report)?

METAR report is an essential document for aviators to ensure safe flights for people. So how to read METAR? Follow this article to find out the answer.

October 14, 2022

METAR reports provide crucial information on the weather for aviators. A report may seem to a casual observer to be a collection of random statistics, yet every report really includes a wealth of information. Whenever you grasp what to look for, these reports aren’t difficult to decipher. How to read METAR? Check this article!

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What is a METAR?

how to read metar

A METAR is a short report that is formatted as an alphanumeric code and gives in-depth meteorological information about a particular airport at a certain time. In its most basic form, it is composed of a string of letters and numbers that are, at regular intervals, distributed by airports and aerodromes.

The word “Meteorological Aerodrome Report” comes from the French phrase “Metéorologique Aviation Règulière,” which translates to “Meteorological Aviation Report” in English. METARs are constructed up of a variety of blocks, each of which is devoted to a certain kind of meteorological occurrence. Some of these phenomena include wind, thunderstorms, temperatures, and atmospheric conditions.

How to Read METAR?

Step 1: Finding the Report Type and Origin

  • Get a METAR report from an airport aviation center

These data are frequently offered at no cost and may be accessed even if you are not currently flying. Make sure to check with the aviation office of your government or the national weather service online. For instance, in the United States, information may be obtained from the Aviation Weather Center. You may get reports by going to https://www.aviationweather.gov/metar. Choose a place from the drop-down menu in order to get a report from the weather center. If you would like to view a report from the past, you may choose a period of time from the drop-down menu as well.

  • Utilize the initial code letters to analyze and distinguish the report types

When you look at a METAR report, you will see such information stated at the very beginning of the report. There are also many additional kinds of reports to choose from. The information that is sent varies depending on the kind of report. Find out the differences between these different kinds of weather reports to receive the information you want.

  • Take note of the station identifier 

The identification tag will resemble KAFF in some way. A place in the United States is denoted by the letter K. The station from whence the report originated is indicated by the letters that follow it. The World Meteorological Organization assigns a unique identification number to each nation and weather station across the world. For example, RJAA is an abbreviation for the Tokyo Narita Airport. KAFF is the official radio station of the Air Force Academy in Colorado. The airport code for London Heathrow is “EGLL.” The letter E stands for the United Kingdom, while the letters GLL denote Heathrow Airport. 

  • Take the report’s date and time by reading the numbers 

Keep an eye out for a string of six numerals that is followed by a Z, like 212355Z. The day of the month is represented by the first pair of digits in the format. The remaining portion of the code denotes the time in Zulu, which is also referred to as Universal Time or Greenwich Mean Time. Take note that the report does not include any information on the month or year in which it was published.

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Step 2: Determining Wind and Visibility Factors

  • Check the first three digits of the following code to determine the  wind’s direction

The next code, which is a series of letters and numbers put together, can tell you everything about the wind. The direction of the wind is described with reference to the true north. The true north is referred to as the direction of the Earth’s axis, which is different from the magnetic north that is shown on a compass. Using a map or a compass, one may determine the direction that is “true north.”

For instance, the letter VRB denotes the direction from which the wind is blowing in the code VRB05KT. The term “VRB” refers to the variable wind direction. It’s also possible that the initial letters of the code are going to be anything like “120.” Imagine a compass with 0 degrees at the top and 180 degrees at the bottom. What direction would you be facing? A wind direction of 120 degrees indicates that the breeze is coming from the southeast.

how to read metar

  • Utilize the remaining digits in the wind code to determine the wind speed

When describing the wind, the direction is usually followed by two or three digits that indicate the wind’s speed. Knots, sometimes written as KT, are used to indicate speed. In addition to that, you could notice some more letters every once in a while that describes how strongly the wind is blowing. For instance, the value 05KT indicates that the wind is blowing at a speed of 5 knots, as indicated by the code VRB05KT. 

  • Determine the condition of the air by using the short wind visibility code

A brief string of digits, which are often accompanied by an indication of the unit of measurement, make up the wind visibility code. In the United States, the measurement of wind visibility is often done in statute miles. When reading data from countries other than the United States, you should anticipate seeing the visibility reported in meters.

Visibility of 15 Standard Miles indicates that you can see for around 15 miles (24 km). There is also the option of writing the visibility as a fraction. If it seems as if one and a half statute miles (SM), then the visibility is one and a half miles.

  • For runway’s visibility, read strings beginning with R

A series of letters and numbers, such as R36L/2400FT, will provide you with all of the information you want on the runway. There are several reports that do not provide information on the runway. If you follow the air visibility code and don’t see it, then you may anticipate that the circumstances on the ground are clear. You will be able to determine how far you can see from the runway by looking at the runway visibility.

Step 3: Obtaining Weather and Cloud Information

  • Observe the weather if it is mentioned in the report

Any important meteorological conditions in the region are described by the codes that follow the wind information. Precipitation, the severity of the weather, and other navigation-related elements may be included. Consider using a chart to analyze the listing since there are several distinct types of signals.

  • To assess cloud coverage, start the 6-digit codes with the first three letters

The first three letters of a sky condition code are followed by three digits. The letters indicate how much of the sky is obscured by clouds. Make careful to read the complete METAR report since distinct cloud groups may be described by more than one code. The report may, for instance, comprise FEW040 SCT060 SCT075 SCT090 BKN220.

  • The height of the clouds may be estimated by examining statistics

The figures represent the height of the cloud base. The height indicated for this information is hundreds of feet. The letters VV for vertical visibility will appear if the clouds seem to go on forever. Additionally, there might be letters at the end of the code designating certain kinds of clouds. BKN220, for example, informs you that the clouds are at 22,000 ft (6,700 m). To calculate the cloud height, just add a pair of 0s to the end of the code.

  • View the combined value indicating the dewpoint and temperature

A slash separates the temperature and dew point figures. The temperature is indicated in degrees Celsius by the first number. The dew point is shown in Celcius by the number after the slash. As an example, you may see 15/MOI on a report. The temperature in 15/M01 is 15 °C (59 °F). A negative sign (-) appears before the dew point. An M01 dew point is equivalent to -01.

  • Check the altimeter setting utilizing the code beginning with an A

You can always tell what the A stands for when it appears after the temperature since it stands for the altimeter. The code gives the local atmospheric pressure. Either inch of Mercury or hectoPascals will be mentioned. This data is used by pilots to confirm that the altimeter on the aircraft is showing the proper height.

An example of an altimeter setting is A2957. It is equivalent to 29.57 inches of mercury, or 29.57 “Hg. Reports typically include the altimeter setting in “Hg. Occasionally, reports from outside the United States may use a code like Q1030, or 1030 hectoPascals.

How to read METAR? Above is such a comprehensive guide for you to read METAR. Although the digits and numbers seem hard to understand, you can completely ace this by carefully reading our guide!