Area Forecast


  • An Area Forecast (FA) is a forecast of Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC), clouds, and general weather conditions over an area the size of several states
  • FAs cover ten areas throughout the United States whose validity times allow for advanced planning for regional flights
  • Details provided result in a categorical outlook which allow for determining regions experiencing Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), Low IMR, Visual Flight Rules (IFR), and marginal VFR conditions
  • FAs can be found on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website at:
Area Forecast Coverage
Figure 1: Area Forecast Coverage

Issuance & Validity:

  • Issued 3 times daily (times vary by area)
  • Valid for 12 hours forecast and 6 hours outlook (18 total)
  • Data is forecasted
  • Issued for: [Figure 1]
    • Boston (BOS)
    • Chicago (CHI)
    • Salt Lake City (SLC)
    • San Francisco (SFO)
    • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
    • Miami (MIA)
    • Gulf of Mexico (GULF)
    • Hawaii
    • Alaska
    • Caribbean Areas

Categorial Outlooks:

  • Categorical outlook terms, describing general ceiling and visibility conditions for advanced planning purposes are used only in area forecasts
  • LIFR (Low IFR):

    • Ceiling less than 500 feet and/or visibility less than 1 mile
  • IFR:

    • Ceiling 500 to less than 1,000 feet and/or visibility 1 to less than 3 miles
  • MVFR (Marginal VFR):

    • Ceiling 1,000 to 3,000 feet and/or visibility 3 to 5 miles inclusive
  • VFR:

    • Ceiling greater than 3,000 feet and visibility greater than 5 miles; includes sky clear
  • The cause of LIFR, IFR, or MVFR is indicated by either ceiling or visibility restrictions or both
  • The contraction "CIG" and/or weather and obstruction to vision symbols are used
  • If winds or gusts of 25 knots or greater are forecast for the outlook period, the word "WIND" is also included for all categories including VFR
  • Examples:
    • LIFR CIG: low IFR due to low ceiling
    • IFR FG: IFR due to visibility restricted by fog
    • MVFR CIG HZ FU: marginal VFR due to both ceiling and visibility restricted by haze and smoke
    • IFR CIG RA WIND: IFR due to both low ceiling and visibility restricted by rain; wind expected to be 25 knots or greater
Area Forecast Header Example
Figure 2: Area Forecast Header Example

Area Forecast Reports:

  • Area forecasts are reported using four elements:
  • Standard AIRMET Statement
    Figure 3: Standard AIRMET Statement
  • Communications and Product Header:

    • 000 does not apply to the forecast
    • FA indicates an Area Forecast with a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) header [Figure 2]
      • FAUS41: Boston Area
      • FAUS42: Miami Area
      • FAUS43: Chicago Area
      • FAUS44: Dallas, Ft. Worth Area
      • FAUS45: Salt Lake City Area
      • FAUS46: San Francisco Area
    • The issuing agency will be listed:
      • KKCI: Aviation Weather Center (AWC)/Meteorological Watch Office (MWO) in Kansas City
      • PAWU: Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU)/MWO in Anchorage
      • PHFO: Honolulu Weather Forecast Office (WFO)/MWO in Honolulu
    • An Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) ID will be included which corresponds with the WMO header
      • The ID is now replaced with the WMO header but is left there to be clear for those who are used to an older system
        • FA1: Corresponds with FAUS41
        • FA2: Corresponds with FAUS42
        • FA3: Corresponds with FAUS43
        • FA4: Corresponds with FAUS44
        • FA5: Corresponds with FAUS45
        • FA6: Corresponds with FAUS46
    • The area the forecast applies to is listed again (clearly) but with a "C" appended, which indicates clouds and weather forecast
      • BOSC: Boston (clouds and weather forecast)
      • MIAC: Miami (clouds and weather forecast)
      • CHIC: Chicago (clouds and weather forecast)
      • DFWC: Dallas, Ft. Worth (clouds and weather forecast)
      • SLCC: Salt Lake City (clouds and weather forecast)
      • SFOC: San Francisco (clouds and weather forecast)

    • Issued date: day of the month and time; valid time begins 15 minutes later
      • 101745: Issued on the 10th day of the month at 1745 Zulu (Z)
        • Valid time begins on the hour at 1800Z

    • "SYNOPSIS AND VFR CLDS/WX" is a standard line for all forecasts

    • Validity times are listed last for the synopsis, clouds and weather, and outlook:
      • SYNOPSIS VALID UNTIL 111200: valid until the 11th day of the month at 1200Z
      • CLOUDS/WX VALID UNTIL 110600: valid until the 11th day of the month at 0600Z
      • OTLK VALID 110600-111200: valid between the 11th day of the month from 0600Z to 1200Z
  • Area Forecast Synopsis Example
    Figure 4: Area Forecast Synopsis Example
  • Precautionary Statements:

    • Part of all area forecasts [Figure 3]
    • See AIRMET Sierra and IFR conditions and mountain obscuration
    • Thunderstorms imply possible severe or greater turbulence, severe icing, low-level wind shear, and instrument conditions
    • Heights which are not Mean Sea Level (MSL) are noted by the letters AGL (above ground level) or CIG (ceiling)
  • Synopsis:

    • Contains many abbreviations that are found on various weather reports [Figure 4]
      • Brief description of the location and movement of fronts, pressure systems, and circulation patterns
    • Valid for 18 hours or until the date time group (DTG) in the same format as the issue DTG
      • SYNOPSIS VALID UNTIL 251400: Synopsis valid until the 25th day at 1400Z
  • VFR Clouds and Weather Example
    Figure 5: VFR Clouds and Weather Example
  • VFR Clouds and Weather:

    • Section contains a 12-hour specific forecast followed by a 6-hour categorical outlook for a total of 18 hours [Figure 5]
    • Usually several paragraphs in length
    • The breakdown may be by several states or known geographical areas
    • The specific forecast section gives a general description of clouds and weather which cover an area greater than 3,000 square miles and are significant to VFR flight operations
    • Clouds and Weather are valid until date time group in the same format as the issue DTG
      • CLDS/WX VALID UNTIL 250800: Clouds and weather valid until the 25th day at 0800Z
    • Outlook valid from the DTG to the DTG listed
      • OTLK VALID 250800-251400: Outlook valid from the 25th day from 0800 to 1400Z the same day
    • The next line is the encompassing states covered by the report
      • NC, SC, GA, FL AND CSTL WTRS E OF 85W: North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and coastal waters east of 85°W Longitude
    • An amended FA will have an AMD or COR in the heading of the forecast