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New Zealands weather is by no means

unique in the world, but we do see
extremes concentrated over our two small
islands in the South Pacific. NewZealand is
surrounded by water, and the Alps present
a significant obstacle for moist air masses
to pass over. As the air masses move over
NewZealand we end up with dynamic and
quickly changing weather.

As the song says, we get four seasons

in one day.

The CAA gratefully acknowledges the

assistance of MetService in compiling
this booklet.

Cover image Jay Cassells

Why Get Met?............................ 4
How This Booklet
Will Help You.............................. 6
Get some GUTS..............................6
Understand .....................................6
Think ahead.....................................7
Before Flight............................... 8
What Do You Need to Gather?........8
Building the Picture.......................10
UTC Time Converter .....................12
Radar Imagery...............................15
Satellite Imagery ...........................18
Infrared Satellite Imagery..............19
Putting it all Together.....................20
Reports and Forecasts...................20
ARFOR ..........................................22
The 17 ARFOR Areas....................23
Aerodrome Forecasts....................24
Aerodrome Reports.......................26
Interpreting Webcams............ 30
Understanding......................... 32
Understanding Weather................33
What is a GARFOR?......................34
Before You Go.......................... 36
Cloud Base and Visibility ...............36
Escape Options.............................37
Reserve Fuel .................................37
Terrain Avoidance..........................37
Passenger Plan..............................38
Inflight Decision Making......... 39
Post Flight ............................... 40
CAA Web Site Practice Makes Perfect ........... 42
See the CAA web site for Civil Aviation Rules, Advisory Circulars, Rules of Thumb........................ 44
Airworthiness Directives, forms, and more safety publications. Quick Reference Met Info....... 46
Abbreviations.................................46 Met Code ......................................48

Key Information.............................50
Planning Tables........................ 55

Every effort is made to ensure that the information in this booklet is accurate and up-to-date at the time
of publishing, but numerous changes can occur with time, especially in regard to airspace and legislation.
Readers are reminded to obtain appropriate up-to-date information.
Why Get Met?
A full Met briefing is essential, it keeps Weather is a significant contributing factor in
you safe and legally you must be familiar air accident statistics, and all too often these
with the current Met conditions before accidents could have been prevented by the
you go flying. pilot having all the Met information available
and understanding how it affects their flight.
A comprehensive Met briefing is one of the
most important tools in your planning and There are several practical steps you can
decision making kit. But beyond getting the take to ensure your understanding of the
briefing, its critical you understand it, and weather, and how it changes, is as good as
can build a mental picture of what effect it can be:
the weather will have on your flight. Become familiar with all the places
you can get weather information

Know what Met products you

should have

Use charts, satellite pictures, and There are many sources of background
radar images to get an overall picture Met information, including AIP NewZealand,
of the weather the CAA and MetService web sites, and
many books on aviation weather and weather
Be clear about how the weather
in general.
affects aircraft and your intended flight

Break the information down so that

it is easy to compare conditions

Use the most up-to-date information


Look at the sky and relate the weather

you see with what you expect.

How This Booklet Will Help You
This booklet will help cement your Met knowledge, encourage your continued learning, and
help you to turn Met information into a usable picture you can take on your flight with you.

You may have been to an AvKiwi Safety Seminar where we have encouraged you to get
some GUTS and were going to do this again because great inflight decision making
will save your life, and bad inflight decision making can kill you.

Get Some GUTS

GUTS stands for: Gather, Understand, acquired. This knowledge can be attained
Think ahead, and Self-review. only through your work ethic, effort in learning,
professionalism, and your own motivation.

Gather Gather

Gather as much information as you need to

be well-prepared for your flight. Dont stop All the information in the world wont
gathering information when you take off. do you any good if you dont understand it,
You need all the appropriate information you or cant filter it effectively. This is particularly
can get. important with Met information, because it
is rarely clear-cut.
The foundation of good decision making
lies in your ability to recognise and Once you have gatheredUnderstand
all the information,
comprehend all the relevant information you need to make sense of it.
around you by looking and listening. To do Is the information youre receiving what
this you need capacity. you expect it to be? If not, why not?
Capacity is a measure of how much total Dont just try and make the information
awareness you have and your ability to fit your mental model.
absorb information while flying. The amount Have there been any changes in the
of total awareness you have is directly weather that you need to take notice of?
proportional to the knowledge you have

6 Think ahead
Are you flying the right procedure at the
correct altitude?

Do you understand the airspace


Work out if, or when, traffic is going

to be a problem.

After the flight you will be able to take the

picture you predicted, compare it with the
Think ahead actual conditions, and review the differences.

You should be able to easily identify the areas

you need to investigate, and then go and
figure out why they differed, so that you are
Once you have the right information and have continually improving your Met knowledge.
processed it, you need to project it into the Don't forget to think back too. Its important
future to try and predict what will happen, to reflect and review your flight to make
and be prepared for all the possible outcomes. sure you learn from any mistakes and
Stay ahead of the aircraft and fly proactively. improve your flying skills. Thinking back on
Its important to keep reviewing your flights helps you evaluate your performance
information and comparing it with what you and improve each time you fly.
should be seeing. If your gut instinct tells We have a smartphone app, Graph My
you something isnt right, it probably isnt. Flight, developed specifically for this
Have there been any changes in threats? purpose. You can download it free from
Keep on the lookout for new ones. Remember, the Apple Store or Play Store (for Android
there are ways to avoid another aircraft other devices) just search the store for Graph
than sighting it. Changing direction, altitude, My Flight.
or communicating your intentions will also We also have a forum available in the
help you to avoid conflicting traffic. WX Matters section of the CAA web site
In this booklet, you will learn how to take at where you can
Met information and turn it into a picture ask our Met experts questions.
representing the weather you could expect
to see on your flight. You will be able to
take that picture with you on your flight
and compare your forecast with the actual
conditions you encounter. That will help you
do the next step

Before Flight
What Do You Need to Gather? The information available and the functions
Met information is all around you. Just as provided include: a situation statement,
important as getting the official information, satellite pictures, weather radar, analysis
is taking notice of the weather around you. and prognosis charts, low cloud and rain
forecasts, SIGMET, VAA, ARFOR, TAF,
General Met information is available
on television and radio. The internet is a
rich source of Met information, both for Internet Flight Information Service (IFIS)
aviation Met and general Met, particularly Webcams are also
a popular source of weather information, IFIS is provided by Airways New Zealand.
but they can easily lead you astray if you This is the online location for obtaining
arent careful. NOTAMs, current ATIS reports for attended
aerodromes, and filing flight plans. There
So long as the information is current, all
is a link at the bottom of the IFIS to the
sources of Met information can be used
MetFlight GA site.
to help you build the big picture. Specific
aviation Met briefings are available from What to Get
the following sources:
As there are so many sources of weather
information available, the first challenge is
MetFlight GA
simply knowing where and how to look for
MetFlight GA is the best source of pre-flight
the weather information you need. Below is
Met information.
a list of the Met information you should use when preparing for and flying a VFR flight.
The MetServices MetFlight GA web site A guide to the abbreviations used in this
provides aviation Met for non-commercial booklet is on page 46.
use and is intended primarily for general
aviation and flight training organisations.

Aviation Met Information
When to Type of Aviation Weather
Coverage and Content
Use Information Product

NZ Situation
NewZealand and Tasman Sea
Surface weather charts
Overview the big picture of the major
Satellite pictures and
weather elements
radar imagery

NZZC FIR details of

hazardous weather
Intended route and alternate
Enroute ARFOR
routes forecast for each area

Departure, destination and
Aerodrome alternate aerodromes
forecasts and reports

Update of preflight
Warnings, Amended TAF
information, hazardous
In-flight and METAR/SPECI
weather, and destination and
Aerodromes METAR AUTO
alternate aerodrome updates.

* To supplement METAR/METAR AUTO/SPECI reports, or as a general information source in the absence of

METAR/SPECI from the aerodrome(s) concerned. Note that air pressure information in BWR is QFF and not QNH.

Southerly storm front.

Peter E Smith, Natural Sciences Image Library.

Building the Picture
Just like they do on the TV weather, start
with an overview of the whole country and
surrounding seas. You can get this from
assessing surface weather charts, satellite
pictures, and radar images. These will give
you the overall situation.

Then you need to start asking some

questions about your particular route or
area of operation:
What Creates Weather?
Do the maps and images agree with
each other? If not, why not? To build the big picture you need
to know what creates it.
Is there a frontal situation overhead
or expected? When will it arrive? The three basic elements of weather are:

What general wind direction and temperature warm or cold

strength is expected? wind speed and direction
What effect will terrain have on moisture or humidity
the wind?
Air masses can be described as
What cloud would you expect to see? warm, cold, moist, or dry. Air masses
What is the visibility likely to be? are named according to where they
originate from, and each has its own
What changes would you expect to see?
characteristic temperature and humidity.
Does the information suggest any
hazardous conditions?

Air Masses The air masses reaching New Zealand are
A tropical air mass flows from the generally maritime polar or maritime tropical.
tropics, and is therefore warm and Temperature differences support the
generally moist. development of low pressure systems.
A polar air mass flows from the polar Surface low pressure systems usually have
regions, and is therefore cold. fronts associated with them. A front is the
zone between two air masses that contain
A maritime air mass flows over a large
different combinations of the three basic
sea area, and is therefore moist.
elements temperature, wind, and moisture.
A continental air mass flows over a
A front marks the boundary between two air
large land area, and is therefore dry.
masses and appears on the weather map as
a line with triangles or semicircles attached.

150 160 170 E 180 W


30 H 30


997 1008
40 1008

1000 991 L

140 150 160 170 E 180 W 170 160 50

Surface weather chart of the Tasman area.

UTC Time Converter Surface Weather Charts

UTC Standard Time Daylight Time One of the primary ways of representing
(NZST) (NZDT) the weather is the use of surface weather
0000 1200 1300 charts. It should be the first thing you look
0100 1300 1400 at to build your mental picture of the current
0200 1400 1500 and expected weather conditions.

0300 1500 1600 The chart could be historical an analysis of

0400 1600 1700 the situation at a particular time; or it could
be a prognostic forecast chart for some time
0500 1700 1800
in the future. So check the type and time
0600 1800 1900
of the chart. You may have both, the most
0700 1900 2000 recent analysis and the latest prognostic
0800 2000 2100 chart. Remember, all chart times are in
0900 2100 2200 UTC time.
1000 2200 2300 The MetFlight GA image looper function is
1100 2300 0000 a helpful tool for looking at the progression
1200 0000 0100 of the weather as depicted on the standard
analysis and prognostic charts.
1300 0100 0200
1400 0200 0300
1500 0300 0400
1600 0400 0500
1700 0500 0600
1800 0600 0700
1900 0700 0800
2000 0800 0900
2100 0900 1000
2200 1000 1100
2300 1100 1200

Reading Synoptic Charts

150 160 170 E 180 W


30 1016 1020 30


1012 40


996 1000

140 150 160 170 E 180 W 170 160 50

Remember that the charts are showing the Cold fronts (lines with blue triangles)
nominal weather pattern at sea level. represent the encroachment of cold air

The isobars connect areas of equal pressure under a warmer moist air mass. This forces

with 4Hpa spacing, and the closer together the warmer air mass to rise, creating

the isobars, the windier it will be. The direction cumuliform clouds that can result in light
of the wind is generally parallel to the isobars: to heavy showers, as well as reduced
Anti-clockwise around a high pressure visibility and lower ceilings during showers.
area (a ridge or anticyclone), and clockwise The passage of the front itself will create
around a low pressure area (a trough). more intense, and possibly longer duration,
shower activity depending on the speed of
Important features to note are the
the front.
frontal systems. This is where different
air masses clash resulting in poor or After the passage of the cold front the air
hazardous weather conditions. is usually clearer; the wind direction having

backed to the southerly quarter. If there is ocean, especially to the south, then the area
sufficient instability along the frontal zone, of the country exposed to it will experience
a line of active cumuliform clouds and CB showery and, depending on the intensity of
(cumulonimbus/thunderstorms) can form the flow, windy conditions.
along the front.
Conversely in these conditions, leeward of
Warm fronts (lines with red semicircles) the mountain ranges will be dry and more
represent the encroachment of moist settled because all the moisture has been
warm air over a cold air mass. Generally removed from the air mass windward of
warm fronts move slower than cold fronts the mountains. But leeward areas can
because the warm air mass is less dense still be very windy. For example, a strong
than the cold air mass it has to rise over. southwesterly on the West Coast passing
Cloud ahead of the warm front is mostly
over the Southern Alps; it becomes an
stratiform, and rainfall gradually increases as
even stronger, turbulent, and very dry
the frontal zone approaches. There is often
northwesterly on the east coast of the
low cloud preceding the passage of a warm
South Island. This same affect can be
front and then clearing and rapid warming
experienced leeward of all of the mountain
usually follows. If the warm air mass is
ranges in New Zealand.
unstable, CBs may be embedded among
the stratiform clouds ahead of the front, How fast are the systems moving? Have a
and after the front passes showers may look at a series of prognostic charts to get
continue. Essentially warm fronts are much a feel for how fast any given weather
less well defined than cold fronts. system is moving. Because New Zealand
lies in the mid-latitudes surrounded by
Occluded fronts (lines with both blue
ocean, the speed of the systems can vary
triangles and red semicircles) represent
areas where a cold front overtakes a warm greatly. A frontal system may pass through

front. A variety of weather is associated in less than an hour or take the best
with an occluded front, with CBs possible. part of a day. Similarly, anticyclones can
Isolated occluded fronts often remain sometime lock onto the country and be
for a time after a low pressure system present for weeks, and low pressure areas,
has decayed. Cloudy conditions with lower especially remnants of tropical cyclones
visibility and patchy rain or showers are can pass quite quickly.
the result. It can be hard to imagine what a surface
Less obvious perhaps than frontal systems, chart looks like in reality, so we have
but equally important, are the overall developed an animation to help. You can
airflows shown on the charts. For example, view this on the WX Matters section of the
if there is a sustained airflow from the CAA web site

Rain Intensity

Possible hail



NZ radar image.

Radar Imagery
Met radar operates using the same energy to return to the radar, the distance
principle as any other radar. A beam of to the object (in the case of weather radar,
electromagnetic energy is emitted from a precipitation) can be determined. There is
focused antenna. If the beam encounters a mathematical relationship between the
any precipitation, either water or ice particles' characteristics and the power of
particles, some of the energy of the beam the returned beam, and this is used to plot a
is returned to the radar. The antenna also colour-coded image that shows precipitation
acts as a receiver, and by timing how long intensity. Generally, the stronger the echo,
it takes for the pulse of electromagnetic the heavier the precipitation.
continued over >>
Weather radars use a wavelength of about Attenuation
5.5 cm. This is much less than ATC radar,
which has a wavelength of about 23 cm,
because the size of objects being detected
by the weather radar is much smaller.

The radar rotates through a full 360 cone,

and the entire scan takes approximately
7 minutes. This means that any image
you look at will be at least 7 minutes old.

Due to the Earths curvature, the further

the beam is from the radar, the higher it is
looking in the atmosphere. At 250 km, the
lowest beam elevation is approximately 6 km
(about 19,700 feet) above the Earths surface.
Precipitation below the beam will therefore In the above image, the strong echoes
be undetected, and also there is no guarantee southwest of the radar (located at the
that any precipitation detected by the radar green X) are blocking the beam in the area
at this elevation is reaching the ground. indicated by the red arrow. There would
still be rain in that area, but none of the
beams energy can penetrate the heavy
Drizzle is associated with cloud in the lower
rain. Some newer radars can correct for this
levels of the atmosphere. There could be
phenomena using algorithmic techniques.
drizzle below the beam of the radar but its
physically impossible for the radar to detect it. Icing and Virga
Compounding the problem is the very small
size of drizzle droplets; any energy returned to
the radar will be very weak, making detection
problematic. However, the visibility associated
with drizzle is typically very low. Just because
you dont see much on the radar, doesnt
mean flying conditions are good!

Orographic Screening
Like any other primary radar, the beam
cant go through mountains. It can be
raining heavily on the West Coast, but the
Christchurch radar wont pick this up.
This is known as orographic shadowing.

Virga is precipitation not reaching the ground. the algorithm can fail to detect that a signal
If you only looked at the image at the bottom is ground clutter.
of page 16 you might think its raining in If you only looked at the radar image to the
Wanganui. METAR AUTO reports during this left, you might think theres an area of heavy
time didnt report any rain. However, there precipitation off the North Canterbury coast
was a report of moderate icing in the area. (Pegasus Bay area) perhaps even
The radar is detecting ice in the cloud and/ a CB!
or virga below the cloud. Below the freezing
level, the ice will melt and any precipitation
(ice or rain) falling from the cloud must have
evaporated before reaching the ground.

Use other information, such as METARs

and METAR AUTOs, to help complete your
mental picture.


A satellite image from the same time is

also shown above (the radar scan area
is indicated by the darker circle).

You can see in this image that there is

some cloud in the area, but it appears quite
smooth-looking (stratiform). Directly over
where the radar echoes appear is a clear
area (black in the image).

The Christchurch METAR AUTO at the time

reported BKN250.
If there is an inversion, the radar beam can
be trapped below it, enhancing ground Putting all this information together, it is
clutter and the range of the radar may be safe to assume the radar echo that appears
increased by 500 per cent. Ground clutter is in the image isnt real precipitation.
when the radar detects a signal from objects
such as trees or terrain, and it is usually Sea Clutter
filtered out. However, because of the Sea clutter occasionally appears in radar
increased range under ducting conditions, imagery when the radar detects the changes

in sea state often associated with a wind the surface. For example, snow will appear
change. This is particularly pronounced brighter than grass and thicker clouds are
with southerly changes moving through brighter than thin clouds.
Cook Strait. Sea clutter is mostly removed On MetFlight GA, one image is available
automatically, so wont usually appear in the per hour. The major advantage of visible
image that gets displayed on MetFlight GA. imagery is that you can see where the
Meteorological radar can detect insects, clouds actually are. This should help when
particularly around sunset. Also, smoke you read an ARFOR. If the ARFOR says
from fires has been detected. Radar returns AREAS BKN CUSC 2000 TOPS 5000,
from these can be used by forecasters to track you dont really know where the AREAS
wind shifts, in the absence of precipitation. BKN are. Is there cloud on the pass I want
to fly through? By taking a look at the most
The key point is that you need to use radar
recent visible satellite image you will be able
in conjunction with other information, such
to answer this question. Of course, by the
as satellite imagery, reports and forecasts.
time you get there, the situation may have
changed! Using a loop of a series of visible
Satellite Imagery
satellite images will help determine if areas
Satellite images come from a geostationary
of cloud are dissipating or growing.
satellite orbiting the earth at approximately
You can also gather information about the
36,000 km. Geostationary means it stays in
type of cloud. Stratiform cloud appears
the same position relative to the earth, so is
smooth, while cumuliform appears lumpy.
always looking at the same area. The satellite
measures emitted or reflected radiation from Remember, these images tell you nothing
the earths surface, clouds, precipitation, about cloud bases or tops you need to look
water vapour and other components of the at other information, such as METAR AUTOs,
atmosphere. Modern satellites measure many TAFs and ARFORs.
different channels of the electromagnetic The major limitation of visible satellite
spectrum, but what we are interested in imagery is that it is only available during
here are the visible (shorter wavelength) daylight hours.
and infrared (longer wavelength) channels.
Visible Imagery In the image on page 19, dark areas are
Incoming solar radiation is reflected by the cloud free. There is a solid area of cloud in
earths surface or cloud and bounces back the western Bay of Plenty, you can see it
out to space where it is detected by the along the eastern side of the Kaimai Range.
satellite. The images produced show albedo There is also cloud around Taranaki, although
(how good a surface is at reflecting light) of there appear to be breaks in it. Cloud is

Infrared Satellite Imagery
Some of the incoming radiation from the
sun is absorbed by the earth, and re-radiated
at longer wavelengths. Much of this infrared
radiation is absorbed by clouds and water
vapour in the troposphere, and is then
re-radiated. Satellite radiometers measure
the radiance of the emitting surface.
Radiance is the rate of emission of
electromagnetic energy per unit area of a
surface, and it depends on the temperature
of the surface. A simple way of thinking
about this is the difference between white
hot and red hot the object that is white
hot has a higher temperature.

When we are looking at infrared satellite

also along the South Island West Coast, images, what we are really looking at is
but there are gaps in the cloud in northern the temperature of the emitting surface.
Westland and Buller. Most of the east of the The surface could be cloud, land or
South Island is cloud free. ocean, but what is important is cloud top
The red arrow indicates an area of very temperatures. Note that its the temperature
smooth looking cloud. This is actually stratus. of the cloud tops that will be measured.
Because the temperature of the atmosphere
We cant be totally sure of that from the
at different levels is known, the tops of the
satellite image, so other information is
clouds can be calculated. No information
needed. In this case, the Christchurch
about cloud bases can be determined from
METAR AUTO reported BKN008. It would
infrared satellite images.
also be worthwhile looking at the Kaikoura
cloud base. The images are usually coloured to make
them easier to use, with darker colours
The yellow arrow indicates an area of cirrus,
usually indicating warmer cloud tops and
although we cant be sure of that from this
brighter colours indicating cold cloud tops.
image alone. We can tell there is cloud in
the area, and that its thin enough to see the On MetFlight GA, one satellite image is
ground below. The Dunedin METAR AUTO available per hour. These images are available
may help, but the infrared satellite image is 24 hours per day, because the earth continues
the real key in this case (see below). to emit long wave radiation at night.

In the bottom image, we can see that there
is an area of colder cloud tops (around -40C)
over the south of the South Island, but
there is no information about the depth of
the cloud layer. We can also see an area
of relatively warm cloud tops along the
South Islands West Coast, and what
appears to be a cloud-free area off the
Canterbury coast. One of the major
limitations of infrared satellite imagery
is that if the cloud tops are a similar
temperature to the land or sea, they will
not be easy to distinguish. A particular
example of this to be aware of is when
there is fog or stratus. This will be a
relatively thin layer, with a temperature
very close to the surface below (sea or
land). At night, when fog and stratus are
more common, its presence cannot be
determined from infrared images alone.
However, once the first visible satellite image
is available, the areas will become obvious.

Putting it all Together

Both of these images are from 2200Z (UTC).
The image at the top is the visible image
and the bottom image is the infrared. Reports and Forecasts
Now we need to look at the reports and
Note the area of stratus identified earlier
forecast you should be getting to make sure
off the Canterbury coast (red arrow) doesnt
you know about the weather you can expect
appear in the infrared image.
to encounter on your flight.
If all you looked at was the infrared image,
Again, we recommend the aviation-specific
you might think there was a lot of cloud
products available from MetService, they
over Dunedin. However, the visible image
are specifically designed for your needs.
shows this to be a thin layer of cloud.
It must be cirrus because the tops are Before you can understand aviation
so cold in the infrared image. meteorology products you need to know

how to decode them. The CAA has produced SIGMET (Significant
a number of resources to help you do this: meteorological information)
the Met section on our web site SIGMETs provide information on observed
which is regularly updated: or forecast hazardous weather conditions, particularly thunderstorms, severe
the WX Matters online course turbulence, volcanic ash, tropical cyclones,
at severe icing, and severe mountain waves.

the Met Decoder app available from the They are issued for an FIR region, are valid
Apple Store or Play Store (for Android) for four hours (or six hours for volcanic ash
this tool will decode the information you and tropical cyclones), and are reviewed
paste into it from MetFlight GA after three hours or when further information
is available, especially from PIREPs and
the Met Info poster which has
AIREPs. They are sequentially numbered so
abbreviations and ARFOR areas
it is easy to work out whether you have the
the New Zealand Cloud Types poster most current SIGMET or not.
which explains different cloud types
The height of SIGMET phenomena included
the Weather Card which contains in SIGMETs is given in feet above mean
abbreviations, UTC converter, and sea level.
aviation weather products, this will
fit in your AIP Vol 4

the VFR Met Minima card which

graphically explains visibility distances
when flying under VFR Met rules, this
will also fit in your AIP Vol 4.

You can order any of these products free A guide to the abbreviations used in this booklet is on
by emailing page 46.

NZZC SIGMET 3 VALID 170028/170428 NZKL-
NZZC NEW ZEALAND FIR SEV ICE FCST WI S4130 E17448 S3927 E17540 - S4329
E17200 - S4130 E17448
7000FT/FL180 MOV E 10KT WKN

To make the affected areas easy to understand, a graphical version of current SIGMETs,
called a Graphical SIGMET Monitor (GSM), is expected to be available in April 2015.

ARFOR (Area forecast)

TA: issued 07-22:29 UTC VALID 2200 TO 1100 UTC

1000 03030
3000 02025 01040
5000 01025 PS09 35035
7000 35025 PS07 34030
10000 34025 PS03 32035
FZL 11500FT.

Typical ARFOR for Tamaki (TA) area.

Area forecasts are for a specific region. The ARFORs are the primary source for
They are intended for domestic VFR flights enroute weather conditions, particularly
below 10,000 feet, and are issued twice visibility and cloud. They also provide
daily between 0530 and 0610, and between forecast winds and temperatures at altitude
1130 and 1210 local time. Cloud base and to help you choose cruising levels, and cloud
freezing level are forecast in feet above base and tops to give you an indication of
mean sea level and wind direction is in the Met conditions for VFR flight. General
degrees true and wind speed in knots. weather conditions are set out and any
Temperatures are in degrees Celsius. expectation of ice and turbulence is stated.
Interpret this information with the local
There are 17 ARFOR areas, and they are
terrain in mind, considering its effect on
designated by a two letter code. A map
the forecast weather.
of the ARFOR areas is also included on
the MetFlight GA web site, and in
AIP New Zealand, Vol 1, GEN 3.5.

The 17 ARFOR Areas

FN Far North


ED Edgecumbe
TA Tamaki TA

TK Te Kuiti ED
CP Central Plateau MH
CP MH Mahia

SA Sanson
DV Dannevirke
TN Tasman
TN ST Straits

WW Windward WW KA
KA Kaikouras

PL PL Plains

FD Fjords
AL Alps
CY Clyde
GE Gore

Aerodrome Forecasts and visibility information contained in the

There are two types of aerodrome forecast, forecast is only applicable to the aerodrome

a TAF and a TREND. and a small area around it. It should not
be used for assessing visibility in the
TAF wider geographical area or even between

A TAF is an aerodrome forecast provided two aerodromes.

for a specific aerodrome and presented in A TAF can have the terms TEMPO, BECMG,
code. Cloud base is forecast in feet above FM, TIL or PROBxx to indicate a change in
aerodrome level and wind direction is in conditions within the forecast time.
degrees true and speed in knots.
The TEMPO when used in a TAF is used to
An aerodrome forecast applies only to describe expected temporary fluctuations in
an area within 8 km of the centre of the the meteorological conditions, which reach or
aerodrome. Practically, this means the cloud pass specified threshold values and last for a

TAF Flowchart

TAF or
TAF AMD or Location Issue time Validity Wind
Visibility Wx

TAF NZGS 182022Z 1820/1911 33005KT 30KM

This flowchart shows the elements that make up a TAF, with an example.

TAF NZGS 182022Z 1820/1911 33005KT 30KM FEW040

BECMG 1822/1824 16010KT
PROB30 TEMPO 1900/1903 6000 SHRA
2000FT WIND 20010KT
QNH MNM 1009 MAX 1018

period of less than one hour in each instance.
Such fluctuations take place sufficiently
infrequently for the prevailing conditions
to remain those originally forecast.
Aerodrome VC

8 km 8 16 km
A TREND is a forecast, valid for two
hours, attached to the end of the METAR
(NZWP and NZOH only) and in METAR
AUTO for NZAA, NZWN and NZCH only.
It states any significant changes from those
described in the METAR. While the TREND This diagram shows the horizontal
is valid it supersedes the aerodrome TAF. extent of Met forecasts and reports,
and the area covered when the term
VC (vicinity) is used (see page 26).

Significant Significant
changes to variations RMK QNH MAX
mean from mean and MIN
Cloud conditions conditions

FM or 2000FT QNH
(30 or 40%) WIND MNM 1009
20010KT MAX 1018

1822/1824 Validity TEMPO TEMPO

16010KT Wind 1900/1903 Validity


6000 Visibility


Aerodrome Reports There are a number of aerodrome reports

An aerodrome report applies only to an area used for aviation. Generally, there are

within 8 km of the centre of the aerodrome, four types, METAR, METAR AUTO, ATIS

except when VC (in vicinity of aerodrome) is landing and takeoff reports issued by ATC,

used, when it refers to the area between 8 and basic weather reports (BWR).

and 16 km from the aerodrome.

METAR (Meteorological aerodrome report)
If you are standing on the earths surface
A METAR is a routine meteorological report,
and can see the horizon, then the horizon
compiled manually, provided for a specific
will be approximately 12 km away.
aerodrome, and presented in code. Cloud
Therefore, observations made from the
base is reported in feet above aerodrome
surface cannot account for low cloud or fog
level and wind direction in degrees true and
any further away than 12 to 16 km.
speed in knots. Temperatures are reported
This is one of the reasons reports and in degrees Celsius and air pressure (QNH)
forecasts cannot be accurate any further in hectopascals (hPa).
away than this.

METAR Flowchart

Location Date / time AUTO Wind

METAR NZAA 232200Z 03020G30KT

This flowchart shows the elements that make up a METAR, with an example.

METAR NZWP 232200Z 03020G30 6000 2000W SHRA SCT006 OVC010 19/17 Q1014

The only aerodromes that still issue manual and NZCH). This indicates that the visibility
METAR are Whenuapai (NZWP), Ohakea reported is the visibility at the measuring
(NZOH) and Milford Sound (NZMF). station, and it cannot be assumed to be the
same for the entire area.
METAR AUTO (Automatic meteorological
A METAR AUTO doesnt include cloud type.
aerodrome report)
They do include present weather at the
A METAR AUTO is a routine meteorological
aerodrome, but cannot report weather in
report provided by an automatic weather
the vicinity of the aerodrome (between 8
station for a specific aerodrome, also
and 16 km away). However, if lightning is
presented in code. A METAR AUTO is
detected in the vicinity of the aerodrome
issued every 30 minutes (on the hour
then VCTS (thunderstorm in the vicinity of
and half-hour) day and night.
the aerodrome) will be included.
The visibility figure in a METAR AUTO will
At aerodromes where METAR AUTO are
have NDV (no directional variation available)
issued, no SPECI reports are provided
added to it. However, NDV is not included
because METAR AUTO are issued every
30 minutes.

Temp /
Dew point
Wx Cloud

SCT006 TEMPO 2000

SHRA 19/17 Q1014

SPECI (Aerodrome special routine ATIS (Automatic Terminal
meteorological report) Information Service)
The only remaining aerodromes that issue The ATIS is a continuous plain language
manual METAR, and consequently SPECI, broadcast of the current conditions at
are Whenuapai, Ohakea, and Milford Sound. an aerodrome, on a discrete frequency.
ATIS reports are the New Zealand version
A SPECI is a METAR issued outside
of a routine landing and takeoff report.
the routine issue time of a METAR.
The presence of a SPECI should alert ATIS are issued by ATS at controlled
you to changing conditions generally aerodromes. Cloud base is reported in
worsening. But dont rely on worsening feet above aerodrome level and wind
conditions automatically leading to a SPECI direction in degrees magnetic.
if the change coincides with a routine
METAR issue time, then there will just be
a new METAR and no SPECI.

BWR (Basic Weather Report) A BWR doesn't, and isn't intended, to meet
A Basic Weather Report is a verbal international standard reporting formats.
weather report, or comment, on present Examples of a BWR are:
weather conditions intended for aviation
an aircraft operators ground staff
use. The person providing a BWR is
passing a landing report to their
required to have been trained to provide
incoming aircraft at an aerodrome
them. The holder of any pilot licence,
unattended by air traffic services
or similar qualification, is considered
appropriately trained for this. an individual, normally working outside
aviation, conveying current information
about local weather to an aircraft
operator or aircrew

a pilot advising another pilot

about weather conditions observed
or experienced.

Interpreting Webcams

Webcam photographs at Taupo Airport taken over the course of a day. (

There is a large number of public webcams Webcam image quality and usability varies
available on the internet that, when used considerably depending on type of camera
carefully and in conjunction with aviation and lens used.
weather forecasts and METARs and METAR
AUTOs, can help VFR pilots form an overall Tips and hints:
weather picture. Some of these cameras Always check imagery times to make
are at airports (eg, Taupo) while others sure they are current. Some sites may
such as the Desert Road cameras at update infrequently and some may can provide display old images for long periods when
useful enroute information. either the cameras or the communication
links have failed.
MetService is progressively installing
webcams at aerodromes to assist with Where there are webcams on the routes
its aviation forecasting, and provides or aerodromes you use regularly, look
images from some of these on MetFlight at the imagery frequently (even on days
Commercial and MetJet only at this stage. youre not flying) so that you become

familiar with the hills and other landmarks Be wary of cameras that only point
you might want to use to assess visibility in one direction. It may look like a
and cloud base. If youre unfamiliar with beautiful day, but there could be
the aerodrome, or route, the images a front approaching from right behind
may also help you build a picture of local the camera. Web sites with cameras
terrain and aerodrome layout. pointing in several directions, or with
cameras that you can manipulate
Learn to recognise when some cameras
yourself, are the best. For example,
switch to infrared mode at night and has multiple
note the different appearance of these
cameras showing views in multiple
images. Although infrared images
directions and an interactive live video
provide useful night-time imagery it can
camera, that allows you to select from
be more difficult to assess visibility and
20 preset views and watch while the
the state of the sky.
camera moves to that view.
Be conscious of the effect of different
Depth of field characteristics sometimes
lens types (wide and narrow angle)
mean that mist, light rain, or low visibility
on your assessment of terrain, cloud
dont show up in the picture.
amounts, bases, and visibility.
Personally assess each web site on
When using airport webcams, always
its merits dont just rely on the
verify cloud bases with those reported
recommendations of others.
in METAR and METAR AUTO reports
(where available).

Bookmark webcam sites on your phone

or tablet so that you can quickly access
them during stops (and note that if you
keep your MetFlight GA briefing open,
you will be able to quickly refresh it
without having to log on again).

The previous sections have been about It takes continual practice and experience to
gathering the data. Now we want to develop your skill in evaluating and applying
enhance your understanding and help weather information. We encourage you to
you to think ahead. take every opportunity to learn about how
the weather affects your local area and the
Were getting into the GUTS of it now!
areas you fly in.
To understand your weather you need:
Lets look at what creates weather and how
some basic understanding about
it affects your flight, then look at collating
national, regional and local weather
the data using tables, and then creating a
patterns, which you now have from
picture with that data.
the previous sections and your
own research,

a way to organise the data to aid

analysis, and

the ability to make a picture a mental

one or an actual one.

Photo courtesy of Sally Coltart

Understanding Weather There are example weather briefings for you
to use to fill in the tables, or alternatively you
When you have gathered all the Met
can enter the data for your flight. We also
information you need, and spent time
have a blank version if you would like to
understanding the weather, then its a
print it off and fill it in by hand.
good idea to spend a little more time to
build a picture of what you can expect You can use this tool to prepare for any of
on your flight. your flights, then print out your tables and
take them with you.
Initially transferring the information from the
reports and forecasts into a table can help to Once you have done that, you can then
show you patterns and trends. We are going move on to building the picture.
to show you how to take it a step further Now we are going to show you how to create
and turn this into a picture. a picture of the expected weather over time,
Firstly we have developed a tool to help you or for a flight. Weve called it a GARFOR.
collate your Met information into tables
Met Planning Tables, available on the
WX Matters section of the CAA web site at, or at the back of
this booklet.

What is a GARFOR?
A GARFOR (a term we've made up) is a
graphical representation that you draw
yourself from the information in an ARFOR.
It will show what conditions you can expect
on your flight. Its a way of turning the coded
weather reports and forecasts into a picture to
help visualise what the weather will be like for
your flight.

From the ARFOR and forecasts you can enter

the wind at altitude, the surface winds, your
minimum safe heights, the cloud base, tops
and type, any present weather, and SIGMETs.

If you are filling it out on the WX Matters

course or on our app, there are symbols to
represent weather and cloud, just select
which one you want, where to put it, and
move it around if you need to. The wind is
depicted graphically so you can easily see its
direction and speed. There is a plain template
you can print off the web site to draw your
own weather onto if you prefer.

Treat it like you are putting a briefing package

together for your flight. Start with the big
picture information and work your way down
to the local conditions.

It does not have to be accurate, just getting

some information down and then using it
will help you to visualise the weather, and
the more you use it the better you will get.
Any discrepancies should be evaluated after
the flight to work out where you can improve.

We have shown you one here we made from

the information for the Tamaki (TA) ARFOR
area from page 22. The GARFOR tool is also
available as an app for your mobile device.

Before You Go
Cloud Base and Visibility Given the speed of the aircraft, expected
You should be thinking about visible light conditions, terrain, cloud base and
moisture all the time. Ask yourself the alternates available, are the reported and
following questions about cloud base forecast visibility conditions sufficient for
and visibility: this trip?

Do I have reliable cloud base Are there conditions that could reduce
information? visibility during the planned flight?
Look for a small and/or decreasing
If I have to fly lower to remain clear
temperature/dew point spread.
of clouds, will terrain be a factor?
Are cloud base and visibility values
If I do, how much ground clearance
above my personal or club minimums?
will I have?

How much airspace do I have between Turbulence

the cloud base and the terrain along Review wind conditions for departure
my route? Do I need to change my aerodrome, the cruise, and destination.
planned altitude? You will also need a mental picture of
Will I be over mountainous terrain, vertical wind profiles, so you can select the
where the weather can change rapidly? best altitude(s) for cruise flight, the best
flight path to mitigate turbulence, and to
What visibility can I expect? Will it be
determine whether wind shear is present.
affected by haze, showers, rain etc?




Typical mountain wave and associated turbulence.

Consider the wind direction and the effect significantly limit your options. More fuel
terrain will have on the winds behaviour. means access to more alternatives.
A small angular change in the direction the Having plenty of fuel also spares you
wind is striking terrain can make a significant the worry (and distraction) of fearing fuel
difference to turbulence, making it greater exhaustion when weather has already
or lesser. Are the winds at departure and increased your cockpit workload.
destination likely to be affected by a sea or
The GAP booklet, Fuel Management,
land breeze?
has a lot of good information about fuel
Also take into account surface heating planning and management, and a Time in
leading to convective turbulence. This will Your Tanks planning card is also available.
be particularly noticeable on warmer days. Email for a copy of these.
Some important questions about turbulence:

Are the wind conditions at departure and

destination aerodromes within the gust
and crosswind capabilities of both you
and your aircraft?

What is the manoeuvring speed

(VA) of your aircraft at the expected
weight? Remember that VA is lower
if you are flying at less than maximum
gross weight.

Escape Options
Always have some escape options.
Know where you can find good weather
that is within your aircrafts range and
endurance capability. Where is it?
Which way do you turn to get there?
Terrain Avoidance
How long will it take to get there?
Know how low you can go without
Reserve Fuel encountering terrain and/or obstacles.

Knowing where to find good VFR weather Consider a terrain avoidance plan for any

doesnt do you any good unless you flight that involves:

have enough fuel to get there. Taking weather at or below the mountain
only minimum legal reserve fuel could tops or ridge lines

a temperature-dew point spread of Passenger Plan
4 degrees C or less There is a real danger in focusing on the
any expected precipitation gain of reaching your destination compared
with the losses associated with not going,
operating at night.
or turning back. For example, extra costs,
All visual navigation charts have maximum
missed appointments, disappointed
elevation figures (MEFs) in each quadrangle
passengers. Dont fall into this trap look
(see picture below). The MEF is determined
for the gains from the alternative action
by locating the highest obstacle (natural
being alive and safe with an intact aircraft
or man-made) in each quadrangle, and
(with probably very relieved passengers),
rounding up to the nearest 100 feet.
having avoided the potential major loss
Ensure your training has included terrain (and cost) of bent metal, injuries, or worse.
awareness or mountain flying if considering
For this reason, your weather planning
operating in the mountains. See the
should include briefing your passengers
Mountain Flying GAP booklet.
(and anyone waiting at your destination).
In addition, many GPSs include a feature
If you jointly plan for weather contingencies,
showing the minimum safe altitude, enroute
and brief your passengers before you board
safe altitude, or minimum enroute altitude,
the aircraft, you will be less vulnerable to
relative to the aircrafts position. If you have
the pressure to continue in deteriorating
access to such equipment, be sure you
weather conditions.
understand how to access and interpret
Discuss the vagaries of light aircraft trips
the information about safe altitudes.
with your passengers, in particular:
Most importantly, make sure any database
Departure and arrival times cannot be
that your GPS uses to convey safe altitudes
guaranteed the weather may have
is clearly maintained and certificated or
other plans.
approved by an aviation regulatory authority.
The weight of baggage they can bring is
limited anything over the limit will be
left behind.

Turning back, taking an alternative route,

or diverting, is always a possibility.

What your contingency plans will be

if you are delayed, diverted or have
to cancel.

Inflight Decision Making
Remember its all about getting some GUTS In these situations, pilots need to be wary
which we explained on page 6. of complacency because it can negatively
influence the decision making process of
There are many variables that can influence
even the most capable aviators. A common
the successful outcome of any flight and
action that often leads to an accident is
hinder sound decision making. For example:
the determination to continue with a bad
the compressed time-frame when
landing approach, rather than going around
travelling at speed
and setting up again.
the changeable nature of the weather
In any stage of flight, you need to:
the challenges of a pilots own currency
Gather, Understand, Think Ahead and then
a homing pigeon-like instinct to Self-Review.
return home.
As pilots, we gather information by
These can and do undermine the decision- scanning the environment, we understand
making process. Their combined pressure information by comparing the information
can grow with each passing minute and with our mental models, and we use those
every drop of fuel consumed, all the while models to make decisions, take action and
taxing the human mind. then importantly, review.

Post Flight
After a challenging flight, you may want Pilots sometimes fly into bad weather simply
nothing more than to go home and unwind, because they lack relevant experience and
but immediately after the flight is the best do not recognise weather cues that identify
time to evaluate how good your weather a flight safety hazard. Make it a point to learn
decision making was. This sort of evaluation something from every weather encounter.
can increase your weather knowledge At the end of a challenging flight, take a few
and understanding. minutes to mentally review the flight and reflect
on what you learned from this experience.

What weather conditions/hazards existed, and how did they affect the flight?

Turbulence / Winds

Cloud Base / Visibility

Aircraft Performance

How did the conditions compare Which source(s) of enroute weather
with the information you got in the information proved most useful,
preflight briefing? most accurate, or most relevant

Which source(s) of preflight weather for this flight?

information proved most useful, What do the weather forecasts and

most accurate, or most relevant reports say now? Do they reflect
for this flight? what you saw?

Practice Makes Perfect
Another way to develop your weather As your cloud-reading skill develops, start
experience and judgment is simply to trying to correlate the temperature, dew
observe and analyse the weather every day. point, humidity, and time of day to the types
Constant practice will help improve your of clouds that have formed. Take note of
judgement and interpretation skills. the wind and try to visualise how it wraps
around the tree or whips around the corner
When you look out the window or go
of a building. This exercise will help you
outside, watch the clouds. What are they
become more aware of wind at critical
doing? Why are they shaped as they are?
points in your flight.
Why is their altitude changing? This simple
habit will help you develop the ability to Weather is a fact of life for pilots.
read clouds, and understand how shape, Developing your weather knowledge and
colour, thickness, and altitude can be expertise is well worth the time and effort
valuable weather indicators, and help you you put into it, because weather wisdom
anticipate and predict likely flying conditions. will help keep you and your passengers
comfortable and safe in the skies.
The NewZealand Cloud Types poster is an
excellent resource. This is available at most We have developed an app, the Weather
aero clubs or training organisations, Diary, to help you focus on the weather for
or order your own copy from the CAA, up to 10 days before you go flying. You can
email: get this for free from the Apple Store or the
Play Store (for Android).

Weather wisdom will

help keep you and your
passengers comfortable
and safe in the skies.

Rules of Thumb

Local Winds
New Zealand meteorology is strongly dominated by local
wind effects, for example, anabatic winds (uphill), katabatic
winds (downhill), sea and lake breezes, and venturi effects.
Try and understand any effect that enhances a katabatic
or anabatic wind, for example a sea or land breeze.
Monitor the surface wind you never know when you
might need to know it!

150 160 170 E 180 W

Forecast Accuracy

H A forecast is just that it is NOT a guarantee. Apply some

common sense and a margin to the forecast. The conditions
1023 could be better or worse than forecast.
997 1008

If the forecast indicates bad weather is on the way,


the issue may be one of timing rather than severity.

1000 991 L

140 150 160 170 E 180 W 170 160 50

Pilot Reports
Pilot reports are a very useful, but underutilised, report.
If you come across weather that is different from forecast,
and that can be better or worse, give an AIREP over the
FISCOM frequency. You could be someone who benefits
from anothers AIREP. Typically they include information
on hazardous conditions like windshear or turbulence.

QNH Changes
Rapid decreases in QNH, either actual or forecast, normally
mean strong winds and bad weather is on the way. A rapid
increase can indicate an imminent improvement.

Similarly, a significant QNH difference between two near

locations normally means strong winds.

Temperature Dew Point Split

The temperature dew point difference (split) is an indication
of the amount of water vapour in the air.
When they are the same or close, it normally means low
cloud/fog/precipitation. The smaller the split, the lower the
cloud base. Pay particular attention late in the day when
temperatures can drop rapidly, especially in winter.

2000 ft Wind
The 2000 foot wind is a good indicator of the gradient flow.
A significant difference between the surface wind and the
2000 foot wind can indicate local wind effects, possible
turbulence, and possible windshear.

True or Magnetic
Make sure you know which reports and forecasts use
degrees true, and which use magnetic to report wind
direction. As a general rule, anything provided directly
by an air traffic controller will be in magnetic.

Quick Reference Met Info
//* Weather not detected due sensor COR Corrected
temporarily inoperative CU Cumulus
///* Cloud is detected D Downward tendency (RVR)
(unable to determine TCU/CB) DP Dew point temperature
////* Visibility not reported DR Low drifting
Light DS Dust storm
Moderate DU Dust
(blank (when included before
DZ Drizzle
space) a weather phenomenon)
EMBD Embedded
+ Heavy
END Stop-end (RVR)
9999 Visibility 10 km or more
FC Funnel cloud
ABT About
FCST Forecast
AC Altocumulus
FEW Few (12 oktas)
AGL Above ground level
FG Fog (visibility less than 1000 m)
AIP Aeronautical Information Publication
FIR Flight information region
AIREP Routine air report from
aircraft in flight FISB Flight information service broadcast
AIREP Special (non-routine) FL Flight level
SPECIAL air report from aircraft in flight FM From
AMD Amended FRQ Frequent
AMSL Above mean sea level FU Smoke
ARFOR Area forecast FZ Freezing
AS Altostratus FZL Freezing level
ATIS Automatic terminal information G Gusts
service GR Hail (5 mm or more)
ATS Air traffic services GS Small hail (smaller than 5 mm)
AWS Automatic weather station HVY Heavy
BC Patches HZ Haze (visibility less than 5000 m)
BECMG Becoming IC Ice crystals
BKN Broken (57 oktas) ICAO International Civil Aviation
BL Blowing Organisation
BLW Below ICE Icing
BR Mist (10005000 m visibility) IFR Instrument flight rules
BTN Between IMC Instrument meteorological
BWR Basic weather report conditions
CAT Clear air turbulence INTSF Intensifying
CAVOK Cloud and visibility OK ISOL Isolated
CB Cumulonimbus KM Kilometres
CLD Cloud KT Knots

LYR Layer SIG Significant
M Metres SIGMET Significant meteorological
METAR Aerodrome routine meteorological information
report (issued for NZWP, NZOH, SKC*** Sky clear
and NZMF only) SN Snow
METAR Automatic aerodrome routine SPECI Aerodrome speci meteorological
AUTO meteorological report report (issued for NZWP, NZOH,
MI Shallow and NZMF only)
MID Mid-point (RVR) SQ Squall
MOD Moderate SS Sandstorm
MOV Moving ST Stratus
MS Minus STNR Stationary
MTW Mountain waves T Temperature, in degrees Celcius
N No distinct tendency (RVR) TAF Aerodrome forecast
NC No change TC Tropical cyclone
NCD* No cloud detected TCU Towering cumulus
NDV**** No directional variation available TDZ Touchdown zone (RVR)
NM Nautical miles TEMPO Temporarily
NOSIG No significant change TIL Until
NOTAM Notice to airmen TL Till
NS Nimbostratus TREND Trend forecast
NSC No significant cloud TS Thunderstorm
NSW Nil significant weather TURB Turbulence
NZZC New Zealand FIR U Upward tendency (RVR)
NZZO NZ Oceanic FIR UTC Coordinated universal time
OBSC Obscured V Variations from mean
OCNL Occasional wind direction
OVC Overcast (8 oktas) VA Volcanic ash
PIREP Pilot report (AIREP) VAA Volcanic Ash Advisory
PL Ice pellets VAG Volcanic Ash Graphic
PO Dust/sand whirls VC Vicinity of the aerodrome
PR Partial (between 8 and 16 km from
aerodrome reference point)
PROB Probability
VFR Visual flight rules
PS Plus
VIS Visibility
QNH Altimeter sub-scale setting
VMC Visual meteorological conditions
RA Rain
VRB Variable
RE Recent
VV Vertical visibility
RMK Remark
WKN Weakening
RVR Runway visual range
WDSPR Widespread
SA Sand
WS Windshear
SC Stratocumulus
WX Weather
SCT Scattered (34 oktas)
Z Coordinated universal time
SEV Severe
SFC Surface *used in METAR AUTO only.
**used only in METAR/TAF for NZAA, NZWN, NZCH
SG Snow grains
***not used in METAR/TAF for NZAA, NZWN, NZCH
SH Shower
**** used in METAR AUTO except at NZAA, NZWN, NZCH
Met Code
Terminology Meaning/Description
BECMG Used to describe changes where the conditions are expected to reach, or
(when used pass through, specified values at a regular or irregular rate, within a period.
in a TAF) Example: BECMG 0104/0109
The changes will occur on the 1st between the 0400 and 0900 UTC.

BECMG Used to describe changes where the meteorological conditions are expected
(when used to reach, or pass through, specified threshold values at a regular or irregular
in a TREND) rate, with such changes expected to occur throughout the 2-hour validity of
the TREND.
Example 1: BECMG FM0500
The changes are expected to occur from 0500 UTC.
Example 2: BECMG TL1800
The changes already occurring are expected to be complete by 1800 UTC.
Example 3: BECMG AT2130
The change in conditions is expected to occur at 2130 UTC.

CAVOK** The following occur simultaneously:

Visibility is 10 km or more
No cloud with a base below the highest minimum sector altitude, which is:
5000 feet at NZAA
6500 feet at NZWN
7000 feet at NZCH
There is no significant weather
No CB or TCU present.

FM Used when one set of prevailing weather conditions is expected to change

significantly and more or less completely to a different set of conditions, with
the change expected to occur at the time indicated.
Example: FM2230The time of the change is 2230UTC.

NOSIG No significant change to the conditions reported in the METAR/SPECI*

If NOSIG is appended to a SPECI reporting poor visibility and/or low cloud,
the conditions at that aerodrome are forecast not to change during the
two hours following the issue time of the SPECI.

Terminology Meaning/Description

NSC** No significant cloud, and no CB or TCU present.

No cloud with a base below the highest minimum sector altitude, which is:
5000 feet at NZAA
6500 feet at NZWN
7000 feet at NZCH

PROB Used to indicate the probability of the occurrence of an alternative forecast

element over a specified time period.
Example: PROB40 TEMPO 0102/0106 3000 +TSRA BKN018CB
There is a 40 percent chance that temporarily on the 1st between 0200 and
0600 UTC, the visibility will reduce to 3000 m in heavy thunderstorms and
rain, with broken cumulonimbus cloud at 1800 feet above aerodrome level.

TEMPO Used to describe expected temporary fluctuations in the meteorological

(when used conditions, which reach or pass specified threshold values and last for a
in a TAF) period of less than one hour in each instance. Such fluctuations take place
sufficiently infrequently for the prevailing conditions to remain those
originally forecast.
Example: TEMPO 0102/0107
The temporary fluctuations are expected to occur on the 1st between
0200 and 0700 UTC.

TEMPO Used to describe expected temporary fluctuations in the meteorological

(when used conditions, which reach or pass specified threshold values and last for
in a TREND) the time of the METAR*/METAR AUTO** or SPECI*, and to take place
sufficiently infrequently for the prevailing conditions to remain as
those originally.
Example 1: TEMPO FM2300
The temporary fluctuations are expected to occur from 2300 UTC.
Example 2: TEMPO TL0400
The temporary fluctuations are already occurring and are expected
to cease from 0400 UTC.

* Whenuapai and Ohakea aerodromes only

** Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch aerodromes only.

Key Information
Issued as required, valid for four hours and reviewed after three hours
Issue times or when further information is available

Volcanic ash and tropical cyclone SIGMET are valid for 6 hours

Feet above mean sea level up to 10,000 feet and flight levels
at and above FL 100

Area of applicability New Zealand (NZZC) and Auckland Oceanic (NZZO) FIRs

Issue times 0530 and 1130 local time

Heights Feet above mean sea level

Area of applicability Within the named area, eg TA (Tamaki)

Knots, with gusts indicated where they exceed

Speed the mean wind speed by 10 knots or more

Wind Calm is indicated by 00000KT

Degrees true
VRB indicates variable, eg VRB02KT

Up to 9999 metres, visibility is forecast in metres, eg 7000

Above 9999 metres, visibility is forecast in kilometres, eg 20KM

Type AS, AC, NS, SC, ST, TCU, CB


Temperature Degrees Celsius

Cumulonimbus cloud (CB) included in meteorological information implies there may be associated thunderstorms and the
occurrence of severe icing, turbulence, and hail.

Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch: 2300, 0500, 1100,
and 1700 UTC

Issue times All other aerodromes: 0230, 0930, and 1400 local time

TAF will be amended when appropriate, and will then

be annotated AMD

Height reference 100s of feet above aerodrome level

Within 8 km of the aerodrome reference point.

Area of applicability When the term VC is used, it refers to the area
between 8 and 16 km from the aerodrome.

Knots, with gusts indicated where they exceed the

mean wind speed by 10 knots or more

Speed Gust information follows the mean wind speed

separated by the letter G, eg 24015G30KT
Calm is indicated by 00000KT

Degrees true
VRB indicates variable, eg VRB02KT

Up to 9999 metres, visibility is forecast in metres, eg 7000

Above 9999 metres, visibility is forecast in kilometres, eg 20KM

The terms CAVOK and 9999 are used at NZAA, NZWN,
and NZCH.

Type CB, TCU


Temperature Degrees Celsius

Cumulonimbus cloud (CB) included in meteorological information implies there may be associated thunderstorms and the
occurrence of severe icing, turbulence, and hail.

METAR* issued hourly, on the hour
SPECI* issued when required and will
Issue times have issue time other than on the hour
METAR AUTO issued every half hour, 24 hours a day
Heights 100s of feet above aerodrome level
Within 8 km of the aerodrome reference point
Area of applicability When the term VC is used this applies to the area between
8 and 16 km from the aerodrome reference point
Knots, with gusts indicated where they exceed
the mean wind speed by 10 knots or more
Speed Gust information follows the mean wind speed
separated by the letter G, eg 24015G30KT
Calm is indicated by 00000KT
Degrees true
VRB indicates variable, eg VRB02KT
When the direction varies by 60 degrees or more the
extreme directions are given, separated by the letter V,
eg 260V330
Up to 800 metres, rounded down to the nearest 50m; between 800
and 5000 metres, rounded down to the nearest 100 metres; between
5000 and 9999 metres, rounded down to the nearest 1000 metres,
eg 9999 metres reported as 9000. Above 9999 metres, visibility is
reported in kilometres (except at NZAA, NZWN & NZCH), eg 20KM
Where there is a marked variation in the visibility, the direction of the
minimum visibility is added, eg 2000SW. A second group may
be added in very poor visibility conditions, eg 1200SW 7000E.
Variation in visibility is not reported in METAR AUTO.
9999 (visibility 10km or greater) is used at NZAA, NZWN & NZCH only
METAR AUTO visibility reports are limited by the upper limit of the
measuring equipment, and they vary between aerodromes.
A table listing the AWS capabilities is included in the help section
of the MetFlight GA web site.
Runway visual range (RVR) is reported in metres at NZAA and NZCH
during fog events.

Type CB, TCU
Temperature Degrees Celsius

Cumulonimbus cloud (CB) included in meteorological information implies there may be associated thunderstorms and the
occurrence of severe icing, turbulence, and hail.

Issue times ATIS issued when conditions change

Heights 100s of feet above aerodrome level

Knots, with gusts indicated where they exceed the

mean wind speed by 10 knots or more

Speed Gust information follows the mean wind speed

separated by the letter G, eg 24015G30KT

Wind Calm is indicated by 00000KT

Direction Degrees magnetic

When the direction varies by 60 degrees or more the

extreme directions are given, separated by the letter
V, eg 260V330

Up to 4999 metres, visibility is reported in metres, eg 3000

Above 5000 metres, visibility is forecast in kilometres, eg 20KM

Type CB, TCU


Temperature Degrees Celsius

Cumulonimbus cloud (CB) included in meteorological information implies there may be associated thunderstorms and the
occurrence of severe icing, turbulence, and hail.

Planning Tables
Area Forecasts
ARFOR Freezing
Altitude Wind T Temp Visibility Cloud (amsl) / Weather
area Level

Aerodrome Forecasts
Place UTC Time local Wind T Visibility Weather Cloud (agl) Forecast QNH
METAR/SPECI Conditions
Place Type Time Wind T Visibility Weather Cloud (agl) Temp-DP QNH

Feel free to photocopy this page for your own use.

PO Box 3555
Wellington 6140
Tel: +64 4 560 9400
Fax: +64 4 569 2024

VFR Met was revised in February 2015.

See our web site,, for details of more CAA safety publications.