This information is for South Africa on How to Read a METAR – it may apply to other places, but it is written with the South African Law in mind.

First of all what is a METAR?

METAR – Meteorological Aerodrome Report
It is the current weather at the airport. They are only valid for an hour.

How to Read a METAR?

Lets jump in! For info on TAFs follow this link: HOW TO READ A TAF

Here we have the METAR, I will go through each thing one by one.


FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

Airport Identifier

FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

This is the ICAO code for the airport. In this example we are using Cape Town International Airport.

Date and Time

FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

This tells you the date and time. The first 2 numbers represent the day (date) (03).
The next 4 numbers (1200) represent the time in UTC Time. The Z at the end stands for ZULU, it is just another way of saying UTC.

Remember that a METAR is only valid for an hour, so check that it is still valid.


FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

The first 3 numbers represent the wind direction, this is where the wind is coming from. So in this example it is coming from 160º (and blowing towards 340º).
The next 2 numbers represent the wind speed. In this example it is blowing at 23kts. (Nautical Miles per Hour).
The G in this example stands for gusts. The 2 numbers right behind the G represent the speed of the gusts in knots. For this example it is gusting 33kts.
Then lastly the KT stands for knots (Nautical Miles per Hour).

If you don’t see a G it means there are no gusts. Here is an example – 16023KT


FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

All 4 numbers here will represent the distance for the visibility in meters. For this example though we have 9999, this means that the visibility is better than 10km (10000m).

FACT 032300Z 15020G31KT CAVOK 15/05 Q1025 NOSIG

We could also have CAVOK in place of the 9999, this means we have visibility of 10 km or more, ceilings greater than 5000 ft and no significant weather.

Below we have an example of the visibility of 4000m (4km).

FABL 031500Z 29007KT 270V330 4000 R02///// RA BKN005 OVC060 17/16 Q1018 TEMPO 5000


FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

Now we are looking at the cloud coverage and the height of the base.
The first 3 letters represent the coverage, in this example the SCT represents Scattered. Scattered is when the sky has 3/8 – 4/8 coverage.

SKC or CLR – Clear – 0/8
FEW – Few – 1/8 to 2/8
SCT – Scattered – 3/8 to 4/8
BKN – Broken – 5/8 to 7/8
OVC – Overcast – 8/8

The 3 numbers represent the level of the cloud base, the 1st number is 10000s, the 2nd is 1000s and the last is 100s. For the example above it is 035 which means 3500 ft (105 would be 10500 ft).

We can also have multiple levels of cloud coverage, see the example below. 

FAGG 031500Z 20013KT 9999 SCT035 BKN045 17/07 Q1025

This example shows a Scattered (3/8 to 4/8) layer at 3500 ft and a Broken (5/8 to 7/8) layer at 4500 ft.

Temperature and Dew Point

FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

The first 2 numbers represent the temperature and the second 2 numbers represent the dew point.
So for this example the temperature is 19ºC and the dew point is 08ºC.

If there is a M in front of either 2 numbers it means minus (-). So the example below the temperature is 30ºC and the dew point is -01ºC.
FAUP 031600Z 22011KT CAVOK 30/M01 Q1014 NOSIG

When your temperature and dew point are the same you can expect the cloud layer to start there. Temperature roughly decreases at 2ºC per 1000 ft when climbing (rule of thumb). So if your temperature was 14 ºC and your dew point 10 ºC you could expect the cloud base to be at 2000 ft.

QNH (Altimeter setting)

FACT 031200Z 16023G33KT 9999 SCT035 19/08 Q1024

Lastly we have the QNH (pressure setting). The 4 numbers just represent the QNH or altimeter setting. (the USA uses inches of mercury and would  look like this A2974)
This example it is 1024 hectopascals. 

No Change

FACT 032300Z 15020G31KT CAVOK 15/05 Q1025 NOSIG

NOSIG stands for no significant change.

Extra Info

There are many codes that can be used for explaining the weather in more detail. I am not going to go over that as there are so many possibilities and combinations for the weather that it would just take too long and make this post unreadable. However I will put a downloadable PDF below with the information on to How to Read a METAR.

TAF/METAR Short Codes

Find out about TAFs below:


I hope you found the information on How to Read a METAR useful and easy to understand. Feel free to leave a comment below if you do not understand anything.

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