How to Understand a METAR (Quick Flight Tips)

METAR’s can be confusing and look like a foreign language to a student pilot or other pilots that may have not flown in a while. You can find METAR for any airport by going to aviationweather.gov or using any aviation mobile app such as: Foreflight.

Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR), is an observation of the current weather conditions at a given time and location i.e. airport.

METAR’s are issued ever 50-55 minutes past the hour, and are valid for one hour or until a new one is released.

Below is a sample METAR that we have broken down.

Sample METAR:

KSEA 111548Z AUTO 26005KT 4SM -RA BR BKN008 BKN014 OVC049 07/06 A3009 RMK AO2 P0008

  • KSEA - 4-character ICAO identifier. This report is for Seattle-Tacoma International, Washington

    • K – Is used for the lower 48 states in the U.S. i.e.

      • KLAX (Los Angeles), KSAN (San Diego), KORD (Chicago O’Hare)

    • Other U.S. station identifiers are; PA – Alaska and PH – Hawaii Islands

  • 111548Z – Date and Time. 

    • 11th – is the day of the month

    • 1548Z is always given in Zulu time (UTC).

  • AUTO – means that, the report is not given by a person i.e. ATC.

    • If the METAR is given by ATC, then the AUTO will disappear from the report.

  • 26005KT – Wind direction and speed. 

    • 260 degrees from the West.

    • Wind speed is at 05 Knots

  • 4SM – visibility is given in statute miles (SM), 4 statute miles.

  • -RA – Light rain (the minus symbol means light, RA is for rain).

  • BR – Mist

  • BKN008 – Means clouds are broken at 800 feet AGL.

  • BKN014 – clouds are broken at 1,400 feet.

  • OVC – means over cast clouds at 4,900 feet.

  • 07/06 – Temperature and Dew point are in Celsius (C).

    • Temperature is 07⁰Celsius and the dewpoint in 06⁰C

  • A3009 – Current altimeter setting, 30.09".

  • RMK – Remarks, means there is additional information.

  • AO2 – Automated station with a precipitation sensor.

  • P0008 – ‘P’ means precipitation. The numbers indicate the amount (0008 = 00.08 inches fallen in the last hour).

Additional METAR Symbols:

The above METAR sample does not show all of the possible symbols. Every METAR report is different. Below is a list of common symbols you will or may see on other METAR’s.

  • COR – Corrected observation, disregard previous report.

  • SPECI – (Special Report) Unscheduled observation time due to certain criteria i.e. change from VFR to IFR.

  • 01009G15KT – ‘G’ means gusty winds

  • 150V210 – ‘V’ means variable, wind direction is variable between 150⁰ and 210⁰.

  • V010KT – wind direction is variable at 10 knots

  • CLR – Sky conditions Clear

  • P6SM or 9999 – Plus or greater than 6 Statute Miles visibility

  • 22/M04 - ‘M’ in the temperature and dewpoint means minus 04⁰C.

  • FEW – Few clouds

  • SCT – Scattered clouds

  • SLP – Sea Level Pressure

  • AO1 – Automated station without a precipitation sensor.

  • $ - Dollar sign at the end of a METAR, indicates the station needs maintenance.

  • –SHRA – (-) means light, showers and rain.

  • PK WND 28045/1955 - Peak Wind at 280° at 45 knots began at 1955Z.

 

Tips:

  • Broken and Overcast cloud cover are classified as ceilings

  • When the temperature and dewpoint are when in 3 degrees of each other, it can usually mean either rain, mist, fog or low clouds.

References

ACS PA.I.C.K1 & PA.I.C.K2

Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge FAA-H-8083-25 (Ch. 13)

aviationweather.gov

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