How Bad is Denver’s Snowstorm? Learn to Read METAR


snow As you can see by the picture on the right, Denver is completely and totally snowed in today. Ok, maybe that’s just a white square, but I bet that is what the city looks like right now.

If you go to the FAA’s website, you’ll see a dreaded black dot under the Denver airport. That means that the airport has been officially closed as of 245p Mountain Time. They are unable to clear the runways fast enough.

If you’d like to see actual conditions at the Denver Airport, you can go to the National Weather Service’s weather page where they have the METAR. The acronym apparently stands for something in French, but it’s basically the aviation weather report.

Right now, the Denver METAR shows this:
KDEN 202131Z 34028G34KT 1/4SM R35L/1400V1800FT +SN BLSN FZFG VV002 M04/M06 A2984 RMK AO2 P0000 $

For those who don’t speak airline/weather dork, it basically means this:

  • KDEN – The four letter ICAO airport code for Denver’s Airport
  • 202131ZThe report came at 20:21:31 zulu time (GMT) The report came on the 20th day of the month at 21:31 Zulu time which is usually equal to GMT
  • 34028G34KT – Winds are 28 knots gusting to 34 knots and they’re coming from 340 degrees (north northwest)
  • 1/4SM – Visibility is 1/4 of a statute mile
  • R35L/1400V1800FT – Runway Visual Range (RVR) – so on runway 35L, you can see between 1,400 and 1,800 feet ahead of you depending upon where you are on the runway
  • +SN BLSN FZFG – Snow, Blowing Snow, and Freezing Fog
  • VV002 – Since you’re in the fog, there is no real ceiling, but you can only see 200 ft above your head
  • M04/M06 – Temperature is -4C and the dewpoint is -6C
  • A2984 – That’s the barometric pressure

The rest of it doesn’t really matter, but you get the point. This is some horrendous weather. BTW, for a full tutorial on how to read METAR, here’s a great resource from Weather Underground.

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3 comments on “How Bad is Denver’s Snowstorm? Learn to Read METAR

  1. nice ability to read a METAR from a novice. Almost got it right…

    202131Z = 20th day of the month and the time was 21:31 universal time (which is basically GMT but need to be careful around daylight savings which occurs on different dates in different parts of the world).

    BTW – METAR stands for METeorological Aviation Report

  2. Ah, I was so close on that. Bummer. Thanks for the update, I’ll edit the post to make it correct.

    On your second point, I pulled this directly from the NOAA site:

    “METAR is the international standard code format for hourly surface weather observations which is analogous to the SA coding currently used in the US. The acronym roughly translates from French as Aviation Routine Weather Report.”

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