The Atmosphere
Movement in the Atmosphere
Atmospheric Stability
Localised Winds
Clouds
Fronts
Visibility and Fog
Aircraft Icing
Thunderstorms
Altimetry
Weather Reports and Forecasts
Practice Exam

The Language of the Weather

Meteorology comes with its own language and a very long list of standardised abbreviations and codes. This is largely to eliminate any ambiguity around the world, where English is not everyone’s first language.

We’ve outlined these below, but if you prefer to ‘learn by doing’ or are already familiar with some of the abbreviations, you can jump to the Reports & Forecasts Practice Examples for a somewhat more interesting way of revising them & checking your knowledge:

Report & Forecast Decoding Practice

Click here to jump ahead to the Report & Forecast Decoding Practice. You can always come back to this page to look at codes and abbreviations that you’re unsure of.

You are not expected to remember ALL the codes and abbreviations used in meteorology reports and forecasts. The best way to get used to them is to start reading the ones published for your local airport and use Google to find the meaning of any codes that you don’t know.

Locations

Airports are described by a four letter code, known as an ICAO code (after the International Civil Aviation Organisation). The first one or two letters are typically common to a country, and the rest are specific to the region and airport. For example, UK airports start with EG: Heathrow Airport is EGLL, Manchester Airport is EGCC. Other examples include all airports in the USA beginning with K (Miami is KMIA) and all airports in Australia beginning with a Y (Sydney is YSSY).

Date and Time

Dates and times are always reported in UTC and the abbreviation for UTC is ‘Z’. UTC time then often gets called ‘Zulu time’. Dates and times are shown in one of three ways:

0615Z = 06:15am UTC
1518/1618 = a forecast that is valid from the 15th at 1800 UTC to the 16th at 1800 UTC.
151701Z = 15th day and 1701 UTC.

Wind

Wind is always described as the direction it is blowing from. The wind strength is given as an average speed in knots. If the wind has occasional gusts that are 10+ knots faster than the average wind, the gusts will also be reported.

15020KT = A wind blowing from 150°T at 20 knots
29015G28 = A wind blowing from 290°T at 15 knots, with gusts up to 28 knots
180V270 = A wind that is varying between 180°T and 270°T
00000 = Calm winds

Visibility

Visibility is stated in metres.

0600 = 600m visibility
4000 = 4000m visibility
9999 = 10km or better
6000 1400SE = 6000m visibility generally, but to the south-east the visibility is 1400m

Confused yet? You’re not the only one! Keep reading your local reports and forecasts – you will soon get the hang of it!