This question is not about how to decode METARs or what software or tools can be used to decode METARs. It is about why we are still using METARs today.
Given that we have smartphones with video messaging capability, cloud services with machine learning today, I struggle to understand why we are still reading METARs:
- It is difficult to read. Sure it is not hard to learn, but the fact that you have to learn it means it's not intuitive
- It is designed at an age when text are transmitted by telegraph and every character counts
- It is trivial to program a parser and render more friendly messages
For me I always feel that METARs are meant for machines; there has got to be something better for pilots which happens to be human. Instead of having this on my flight plan:
KSFO 111456Z 16015KT 9SM RA FEW012 SCT030 OVC070...
Why not just:
Time: Mar 11 14:56 UTC
Wind: 160 degrees, 15 knots
Visibility: 9 statue miles
Weather condition: rain
Clouds: few at 1,200 feet; scattered at 3,000 feet; overcast at 7,000 feet
The problem is not about decoding them. Most pilots can read them, and by the time a new pilot completes his PPL training he should have no trouble reading either. The point is everybody around the world is reading them, today, in the 21st century!
I don't know if I'm the only one, but processing the METAR string during flight prep takes a couple of instruction cycles away from my brain (and I have a tendency to check whether the software got it right if I happen to be using one, so I will be processing it anyway, which is a good habit I suppose). I am sure some of that brain power can be better spent somewhere else: reading section charts, route planning, picking an alternate, etc. Scaling this to the global scale? It means every pilot is paying more attention to other things, as opposed to reading coded weather strings which really is the job of a machine. The result? Better flight safely.
So, why haven't we began the move?