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:
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).
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:
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.
Visibility is stated in metres.
Confused yet? You’re not the only one! Keep reading your local reports and forecasts – you will soon get the hang of it!