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7 METAR Codes You Only See In Summer

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Each season of flying introduces new weather phenomenon, and with it, new acronyms. While you might see these codes outside of summer, the hot weather months are where these are the most common.

1) Dust storm (DS) / Sand Storm (SS)

The term dust storm is used when finer particles are blown a long distance, while you'll hear the term Sand Storm used when larger particles are blown in a desert. Dust storms and Sand Storms can limit your visibility to almost zero, so if you see DS or SS on a METAR it should warrant further investigation.


Summer showers bring thunderstorms so you'll want to understand how different types of lightning strikes are depicted on METARs. If lightning is striking from a thunderstorm to the ground you'll see CG in the weather report (cloud to ground).

CA indicates that lightning is striking from the thunderstorm to the surrounding air (cloud to air), and CC tells you the lighting in between clouds (cloud to cloud).


3) Funnel Clouds (FC)

A funnel cloud is a rotating cloud that drops from a supercell. A supercell is a severe thunderstorm that has begun to rotate.

Over the ground, a funnel cloud is called a Tornado, and over water, it's called a Water Spout.

Wikipedia / Justin Hobson

4) Dust Devil (PO)

Dust devils are not as dangerous as funnel clouds, because they are not attached to severe weather systems, but do require some caution. Dust devils are a common sight across the southwestern united states.

While dust devils are usually not dangerous on the ground, it is not ideal to fly through one, the turbulent air can upset your aircraft's attitude especially if you are flying a smaller aircraft. The strongest dust devils have rotational winds recorded up to 80 knots.


5) Towering Cumulus (TCU)

Towering cumulus, scientifically known as Cumulus congestus clouds are cumulus clouds with extensive vertical development. These clouds can produce heavy rain and given the proper conditions are on their way to becoming a thunderstorm.

Wikipedia / Robert Myers

6) Hail (GR)

If you see GR on a METAR you can expect severe thunderstorms in the vicinity, with large potentially dangerous, and damaging ice balls. Hailstones form when water droplets of a thunderstorm are frozen in the cool updraft currents of a thunderstorm, and they start to fall when they become too heavy for the upward wind current's to continue to carry them.


7) Smoke (FU)

With peak wildfire season in the summer through fall, large wildfires can distribute smoke up into the atmosphere and thousands of miles away. Smoke can obviously reduce visibility, and it can also increase wear on your engine.


Can you decode this real METAR? Comment your translation to plain English.

KPIT 161937Z 17007G32KT 5SM R28R/3500VP6000FT -TSRA FEW012 SCT028 BKN038CB OVC150 21/18 A3005 RMK AO2 PK WND 23032/1928 WSHFT 1915 LTG DSNT NE AND SW RAB17 TSB1858 OCNL LTGICCG NE-SE-SW TS NE-SE-SW MOV E P0017 T02110178 $

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Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a flight instructor from Southern California. He is currently studying aviation at Purdue University. He's worked on projects surrounding aviation safety and marketing. You can reach him at

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