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Video: How to Read METARS

by Jason Schappert

Can you fully read and decode this METAR?

METAR KJFK 242235Z 28024G36KT 7SM -RA BR BKN009 OVC020CB 26/24 A2998 RMK AO2 SLP993 T02640238 56012

Learn how to in this video!

How to Read METARS Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to MzeroA’s video podcast. Episode Number 5, How to Read METARS. I’m your host, Jason Schappert. Today, we’ll cover two METARS: a simple one, and one that’s more complex. Each we’ll fully decode so you’ll have a better understanding of how to read METARS. Let’s get to it.

First, we’ll take a look at our simple METAR. I’m gonna read through it and we’ll gonna go by it, bit by bit. This is a METAR for KOCF prepared on the 27th at 1515 Zulu. It’s an automated weather report. The winds are 110 at 3, gusting to 14, with 10-statue miles visibility. Few clouds at 4400 and overcast at 5000. Temperature is 24, and dew point is 14. Altimeter 3034. Remarks they do not have an automated precipitation discriminator at this field.

Now let us go over that METAR section by section. The first bit is type of report. It’s a METAR. METARS come out 55 minutes past the hour and are a surface weather observation. The next section is the identifier, which airport is this for? In our case, it’s KOCF, or Ocala International Airport. The next section is our date and time of issuance. The 27 at the beginning indicates the date in which the METAR came out, in this case, the 27th of this month at 1515 Zulu. This helps you know when the METAR came out to make sure you have the most recent information. The AUTO means it was an automated weather report, meaning a computer generated this particular METAR. It wasn’t crafted by a human being.

Next it’s a lot more complicated when we look at the winds. The first three numbers are the wind direction. In this case, the winds are from 110. The next two numbers are the wind velocity, always in knots, so they’re at 3. The winds are 110 at 3. The G means the winds are gusting, and it shows you to what degree they’re gusting. So they’re gusting to 14 knots. So our winds today are at 110 at 3, gusting to 14.

The next section shows our visibility, always in statute miles in this case it’s 10 statute miles. The reason we use statute miles is because we are on the ground, this is a surface observation. Next shows our cloud cover: FEW at 4400 feet. The next also shows our cloud cover, OVERCAST at 5000 feet. This always gives you a good indication of where the clouds are at.

Next is our temperature and dew point. The temperature always comes first. So, our temperature is 24, and our dew point is 14. The A shows our altimeter setting. Our altimeter is 30.34.

Lastly, we have our remarks section. In this case, it says AO1 which means “This field does not have an automatic precipitation discriminator.” Meaning it knows some sort of precipitation is falling from the sky, but it doesn’t know if it’s snow, if it’s rain, if it’s hail. There’s no way for it to discriminate between different types of precipitation. It just knows that something is falling from the sky.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at another report.

This report again is a METAR, an hourly surface observation. This time, it’s for KJFK: John F. Kennedy Airport. It was prepared on the 24th at 2235 Zulu. Again, the first two numbers are the date, 24, and the last four are the time, 2235 Zulu. The winds: the first three numbers being the direction 280, and the last numbers being the velocity, 24. So the winds are 280 at 24. G means the winds are gusting, they are gusting to 36 knots. The winds at JFK: 280 at 24, gusting to 36 knots. There are 7 statute miles of visibility at the surface of JFK. Remember, it’s statute miles because it’s a surface observation. The reason there’s 7 statute miles at JFK is because of light rain. RA means rain. You can tell it’s light rain by the minus sign in front of it. If it were a plus sign, it would be heavy rain. And if there was no sign shown, it would be moderate rain.

After that, it shows BR which means mist. I remember that by saying “baby rain.” So there are 7 statute miles because of light rain and mist. The clouds are broken at 900 feet. Now, we know it’s 900 feet because of where the 9 is located. If it was over one more decimal place to the left, it’d be 9000 feet and over two decimal places it’d be 90,000 feet. There’s also an overcast layer at 2000 feet and this ends in CB. CB means “cumulu-nimbus” clouds. We know that nimbus means rain so we can tell that our rain that’s falling from the sky is falling from that overcast at the 2000-feet layer.

Just like our last METAR, the temperature and the dew point are the same. The temperature is 26 and the dew point is 24, and it’ll always be displayed in this format. The altimeter is 29.98. Just add decimal point in the middle, that makes it easy to figure out. 29.98.

Let’s take a closer look at our remarks section. We’ve already established that RMK means “remarks.” The AO2 at our remarks section is an automatic precipitation discriminator. It can tell exactly what’s falling from the sky: rain, sleet, hail, snow, it can tell the difference. SLP doesn’t mean it’s slippery, it means “sea level pressure.” The number following the sea level pressure is the measurement in hectopascals: you want to add a 10 or a 9 to this number, whichever gets you closest to a thousand. In our case, that would be 999.3.

Next, is our exact temperature and dew point. The T means temperature and the 0 means the number is positive. In our case, it’s a positive 26.4 degrees Celsius. Continuing down to the dew point, there’s also a 0 in that. So, our dew point is a positive 23.8 degrees Celsius.

Now looking at our pressure gradient, the 5, we know, that is the pressure gradient. The 6 means the atmospheric pressure has gone down. So the second number is the direction: a 1,2,or 3, the atmospheric pressure has increased. Whether if you have a 4,5,or 6, the atmospheric pressure has gone down. 012 tells you have any inches of mercury it’s gone down. So, in our case, it’s gone down 0.12 inches of mercury in the past three hours.

This week’s lesson was a tough one but hopefully has something you can take away from it. Try to read a METAR before every flight, something that you should be doing anyways. Remember, a good pilot is always learning. See ya.

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  • Rodrop

    Good info on METARs…

  • Charlie

    Nice work Jason! I have a Metar quiz on Tuesday for my AviationMeterloogy class and this video helped big time. Thanks again!!!

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