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Weather Charts – Significant Weather Prognostic Charts

by Flight Learnings

in Aviation Weather Services

Significant weather prognostic charts are available for low-level significant weather from the surface to FL 240 (24,000 feet), also referred to as the 400 mb level, and high-level significant weather from FL 250 to FL 600 (25,000 to 60,000 feet). The primary concern of this discussion is the low-level significant weather prognostic chart.

The low-level chart comes in two forms: the 12– and 24–hour forecast chart, and the 36- and 48-hour surface forecast chart. The first chart is a four-panel chart that includes 12– and 24–hour forecasts for significant weather and surface weather. Charts are issued four times a day at 0000Z, 0600Z, 1200Z, and 1800Z. The valid time for the chart is printed on the lower left corner of each panel.

The upper two panels show forecast significant weather, which may include nonconvective turbulence, freezing levels, and IFR or MVFR weather. Areas of moderate or greater turbulence are enclosed in dashed lines. Numbers within these areas give the height of the turbulence in hundreds of feet MSL. Figures below the line show the anticipated base, while figures above the line show the top of the zone of turbulence. Also shown on this panel are areas of VFR, IFR, and MVFR. IFR areas are enclosed by solid lines, MVFR areas are enclosed by scalloped lines, and the remaining, unenclosed area is designated VFR. Zigzag lines and the letters “SFC” indicate freezing levels in that area are at the surface. Freezing level height contours for the highest freezing level are drawn at 4,000-foot intervals with dashed lines.

The lower two panels show the forecast surface weather and depicts the forecast locations and characteristics of pressure systems, fronts, and precipitation. Standard symbols are used to show fronts and pressure centers. Direction of movement of the pressure center is depicted by an arrow. The speed in knots is shown next to the arrow. In addition, areas of forecast precipitation and thunderstorms are outlined. Areas of precipitation that are shaded indicate at least one-half of the area is being affected by the precipitation. Unique symbols indicate the type of precipitation and the manner in which it occurs.

Figure 12-19 depicts a typical significant weather prognostic chart as well as the symbols typically used to depict precipitation. Prognostic charts are an excellent source of information for preflight planning; however, this chart should be viewed in light of current conditions and specific local area forecasts.

Figure 12-19. Significant weather prognostic chart and legend (inset).

Figure 12-19. Significant weather prognostic chart and legend (inset).

The 36- and 48-hour significant weather prognostic chart is an extension of the 12- and 24-hour forecast. It provides information regarding surface weather forecasts and includes a discussion of the forecast. This chart is issued twice a day. It typically contains forecast positions and characteristics of pressure patterns, fronts, and precipitation. An example of a 36- and 48-hour surface prognostic chart is shown in Figure 12-20.

Figure 12-20. 36- (top) and 48-hour (bottom) surface prognostic chart.

Figure 12-20. 36- (top) and 48-hour (bottom) surface prognostic chart.

515G+mn0RuL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about aviation weather with Weather Flying by Robert Buck. Regarded as the bible of weather flying, this aviation classic not only continues to make complex weather concepts understandable for even the least experienced of flyers, but has now been updated to cover new advances in technology.


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