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What is METAR in Aviation? (Meteorological Aerodrome Report)

Updated: March 03, 2024

Understanding the Meteorological Aerodrome Report (METAR)

Aviation relies heavily on accurate and up-to-date weather information to ensure safe and efficient operations. One of the essential tools used by pilots and air traffic controllers is the Meteorological Aerodrome Report, commonly known as METAR. This standardized weather report provides crucial meteorological information about an aerodrome or airport, allowing aviation professionals to make informed decisions regarding takeoffs, landings, and flight planning. In this article, we will explore the key components of a METAR report and understand its significance in aviation operations.

What is a METAR Report?

A METAR report is a concise and standardized format used to communicate current weather conditions at an aerodrome. It provides vital information such as temperature, wind direction and speed, visibility, cloud cover, and other meteorological phenomena. The report is typically generated and updated at least once an hour, although it can be updated more frequently if significant weather changes occur. METAR reports are available for airports worldwide and are used by pilots, air traffic controllers, meteorologists, and other aviation professionals to assess the current weather conditions and plan accordingly.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) sets the standards and guidelines for the content and format of METAR reports. This ensures consistency and uniformity across different countries and airports, allowing for easy interpretation and comparison of weather data. Each METAR report is identified by a four-letter station identifier, which represents a specific aerodrome. For example, the METAR report for London Heathrow Airport is identified as EGLL.

The Components of a METAR Report

Now, let us delve into the various components of a METAR report and understand their significance:

METAR Identifier

The METAR identifier is the four-letter station identifier that represents a specific aerodrome. It helps identify the location for which the weather report is issued. For instance, the METAR identifier for Los Angeles International Airport is KLAX.

Date and Time

The date and time in a METAR report indicate when the report was generated. The date is represented in a six-digit format (day and time in UTC), with the first two digits representing the day of the month and the last four digits representing the time in UTC. For example, 251530Z means the report was generated on the 25th day of the month at 15:30 UTC.

Wind Conditions

The wind conditions section provides information about the direction and speed of the wind at the aerodrome. The direction is given in degrees, with north being 360°, east being 090°, south being 180°, and west being 270°. The wind speed is indicated in knots. For example, 09010KT means the wind is blowing from the east at 10 knots.

Visibility

The visibility section indicates the horizontal visibility at the aerodrome. It is expressed in meters (m) or statute miles (SM). The visibility can be reported as a specific value or as a range. For example, 5000m or 3/4SM denotes a visibility of 5000 meters or three-quarters of a statute mile, respectively.

Weather Phenomena

The weather phenomena section describes any significant weather occurring at the aerodrome. This includes precipitation (rain, snow, drizzle), fog, mist, haze, thunderstorms, and other meteorological conditions. Each phenomenon is represented by a specific code, allowing for easy interpretation of the weather conditions. For instance, RA indicates rain, SN represents snow, and TS denotes thunderstorms.

Cloud Cover

The cloud cover section provides information about the type and height of clouds above the aerodrome. Clouds are categorized into different levels based on their height: low clouds (below 6,500 feet), middle clouds (between 6,500 and 20,000 feet), and high clouds (above 20,000 feet). The cloud cover is described using a combination of abbreviations and numbers. For example, FEW020 indicates a few clouds at 2,000 feet.

Temperature and Dew Point

The temperature and dew point sections provide the current air temperature and dew point temperature at the aerodrome. The temperature is expressed in degrees Celsius, while the dew point is also given in degrees Celsius. These values help determine the air's moisture content and potential for cloud formation.

Altimeter Setting

The altimeter setting indicates the atmospheric pressure at sea level. It is given in inches of mercury (inHg) or hectopascals (hPa), and it helps pilots adjust their altimeters to the correct pressure setting for accurate altitude readings.

The Importance of METAR Reports in Aviation

METAR reports play a crucial role in aviation operations for several reasons:

Flight Planning: Pilots rely on METAR reports to assess the current weather conditions along their intended flight route. This helps them plan for fuel requirements, alternate airports, and potential weather hazards.
Takeoff and Landing Decisions: METAR reports provide critical information about wind conditions, visibility, and cloud cover, enabling pilots to make informed decisions regarding takeoffs and landings. They can determine the most suitable runway and approach procedures based on the reported weather.
Air Traffic Control: Air traffic controllers use METAR reports to monitor weather conditions at different aerodromes and provide timely updates to pilots. This ensures the safe and efficient flow of air traffic, especially during adverse weather conditions.
Meteorological Forecasting: Meteorologists analyze METAR reports to identify weather patterns, monitor changes in atmospheric conditions, and make accurate forecasts. These forecasts help aviation professionals plan for long-term weather trends and mitigate potential risks.

Overall, METAR reports serve as a vital tool for aviation professionals, providing them with essential weather information to ensure the safety and efficiency of flights. By understanding the components of a METAR report and interpreting the data effectively, pilots and air traffic controllers can make informed decisions that contribute to the smooth operation of the aviation industry.

If you want to access the latest METAR reports for airports worldwide, you can visit aviationweather.gov/metar. This website provides real-time weather information and METAR reports for airports around the globe, helping you stay updated on the current weather conditions for your flight.

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