Weather stations run by federal agencies

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What are the best weather stations? Government observing stations. Why? Because they are funded to keep and use modern reliable test equipment. Devices such as temperature recorders, humidity data loggers, wind speed instruments and devices for cloud information records.

Take a look at this weather stuff.

Weather Stations

In the US, NOAA weather observation stations and similar national forecasting services in other countries provide flight weather data. They deal with knowledge upon which human lives can depend.

Weather stations keep extensive records and empirical data past weather data, climate data real time weather data, and air quality data.

Sometimes data makes it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Often, it is used to calibrate aircraft instruments.

Government observers and technicians are highly trained and well paid. Because this stuff is important.

What do official observations look like?

Hang on, this can be quite technical. METAR is an acronym for hourly METeorological Aviation Report. It is a single line of encoded weather info provided by the weather stations.

If it's a special non-routine report, they call it SPECI. The services use it for sudden changes in observed weather.

For a forecast, the official phrase is Terminal Aerodrome Forcast or TAF for short.

METARs are weather observations encoded in a special language. The format has become the world standard for weather stations, as set by ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization.

For the most recent observations somewhere in the USA, find your nearest airport four letter code, for example KLAX for Los Angeles Airport.

If you need your airport weather station code, use this webpage. Type the city name and hit submit. Find the 4-letter code after the initials ICAO.

Big cities and two-word city names will give a list of several airports and stations and you'll need to find the right one. Then go to the government page at this government page and type that code in.

Canadians locations have a good one. It gives the last three METAR weather observations and TAF weather forecasts. It also allows you to type in the city name if you don't know the airport code.

Experienced the cold?

Everybody knows Canada is cold. Always. What do you think?

This country never has summer. Or does it?

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So how do you read these things? Here's an example:

KJFK 242151Z 15009KT 10SM CLR 09/01 A3006 RMK AO2 SLP180 T00940006

Weather stations decoded

Ok, here's the breakdown:

KJFK - Airport Code for John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. This needs to be one of the most reliable weather stations due to sheer air traffic volume they receive.

242151Z - 24th day of the month, the month and year are not included in the METAR. The data was recorded at 21:51 coordinated universal time, which works out to 4:51 pm New York time, Eastern Standard Time, EST.

15009KT - Wind blowing from 150°, the southeast, at 09 knots or about 10 mph. If there is a capital G in this part of the code followed by a number, that means there are gusts, bursts of stronger wind, the speed of which is given in knots.

The speed and direction can be determined by airport wind socks or anemometers combined with with weather vanes.

10SM - Visibility in statute miles. There could be fractions if visibility is poor. 10 miles shown here is pretty good. If it is bad, visibility can also be recorded in feet for each runway.

CLR - No cloud sky. Rain would be RA, light snow=-SN, Heavy showers=+SH, Fog=FG. There are dozens of other codes used here, but these are the main ones.

If there are clouds, the codes for coverage BKN for broken, OVC for overcast, FEW, SCT for scattered are given. VV indicates the furthest upwards the observer can see and the height in hundreds of feet follow each of these codes. So we might see BKN040 to mean broken clouds 4000 feet high.

If several layers of cloud can be seen, they will report them all starting with the lowest.

09/01 - gives us Temperature followed by Dew Point in degrees centigrade, aka Celsius. Capital M for minus means below freezing values. To get Fahrenheit temperatures: add 40, divide by 5, multiply by 9, and then subtract 40.

A3006 - Altimeter setting, for pilots. Set it for 30.06 inches of mercury if you flying a plane and departing at this time.

RMK AO2 - RMK means remarks, they may talk about recent weather, cloud types such as CB for cloud cumulonimbus, or other elements. Manned stations have this feature, other stations are automated and cannot elaborate on cloud types and such.

Wind shear - this is a real problem for pilots. We record shear here if present. AO2 is some kind of special code added by NOAA weather stations and not used in all countries.

SLP180 - Pressure. Adjusted for Sea Level. If the number is greater than 500 divide by 10 and add 900. And if it is less than 500, divide by 10 and add 1000 to get millibars. Then you can get kiloPascals by dividing by 10, or inches of mercury by dividing by 33.8653. You'll need a calculator for that one.

T00940006 - Can be ignored, not used by all countries.

This is the kind of flight weather data the official weather stations provide.

When placed on a surface analysis map, the code will look more like this.

Go back from Weather Stations to the Weather Equipment page now.

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