How to Read a Weather Report like a Pilot

Pilots have various resources in order to know the weather. There are 3 main aviation reports that provide information about current weather conditions. In this article, we will learn and dissect one of them. The Meteorological Terminal Air Report (METAR) helps us know what is the current weather at an airport. It could be tricky at first but with time, you’ll get used to it.

Photo: blondsinaviation.com

Download any aviation weather app and it’ll show you two weather reports: TAF and METAR.
Or you can check online for a METAR report, it’ll look like something like this:

OLBA 131900Z 26019KT 4000 TSRA FEW018CB BKN023 18/14 Q1010

I checked online for the current METAR report where I live. I know for the ones who are still learning it might look like a bunch of cluttered letters and numbers, but stay with me, you’ll get this.

STATION IDENTIFIER

The report always starts with the station identifier, in this case, it is Beirut Airport, Lebanon

TIME AND DATE

Next is 131900Z
It is simply the date and time
13 is the day of the month
And the next 4 digits is the time in Zulu or UTC time

REPORT MODIFIER

Sometimes the METAR will have a COR or AUTO modifier after the Date & Time. COR means it is a corrected report and AUTO refers to an automated station.

WIND DIRECTION AND SPEED

The first 3 digits 260 shows the direction of the wind in degrees.

The second numbers 19 refer to the wind speed in knots

METAR VISIBILITY

In our example, the visibility is 4000m.

WEATHER PHENOMENA

TSRA stands for TS: Thunderstorm and RA: Rain

In your weather report you might these as well:
Intensity
(-): Light
( ): Moderate [No prefix]
(+): Heavy
Descriptor
MI: Shallow
BC: Patches
DR: Low Drifting
BL: Blowing
SH: Showers
TS: Thunderstorm
FZ: Freezing
PR: Partial
Precipitation
DZ: Drizzle
RA: Rain
SN: Snow
SG: Snow Grains
IC: Ice Crystals
PL: Ice Pellets
GR: Hail
GS: Small Hail &/or Snow Pellets
UP: Unknown Precipitation
Obscuration
BR: Mist
FG: Fog
FU: Smoke
VA: Volcanic Ash
DU: Widespread Dust
SA: Sand
HZ: Haze
PY: Spray
Other
PO: Well-Developed Dust/Sand Whirls
SQ: Squalls
FC: Funnel Cloud Tornado Waterspout
SS: Sandstorm
DS: Duststorm

SKY CONDITION

FEW018CB BKN023
The first three letters FEW are the codes for the amount of coverage in the sky and the next three digits 020 mean the amount of feet (in hundreds) in which the clouds are located.
Few clouds at a height of 1800 ft, Cumulonimbus.
Broken clouds at a height of 2300 ft

Other METAR reports might include:
• SKC: Clear
• CLR: Clear
• FEW: Few
• SCT: Scattered
• BKN: Broken
• OVC: Overcast

TEMPERATURE/DEW POINT

The first two digits 18 represent the temperature in Celsius.
The second two digits 14 represent the dewpoint in Celsius.

ALTIMETER

Photo: x-plane.org

Q1010 or A2982

Depending on your aircraft, you can choose to convert from hectopascal to inches of mercury and vice versa. A2982 is in inches of mercury and will be on the altimeter as 29.82.

It is used to set the pressure to make sure the altimeter is on the right altitude.

Finally, some METAR reports contain Remarks and they might be a bit tricky and will take some time to memorize but with time and practice, anything can be done. I will leave a link to a reference guide you can check for the remarks.

Reference:
https://www.weather.gov/media/wrh/mesowest/metar_decode_key.pd