Why are area forecasts, METARs, and TAFs written in an abbreviated manner? I understand that in the beginning, each digit or symbol costs money. However, that is no longer the situation. Why not make an area forecast as clear as possible? Aviators kill themselves because they do not understand the weather. Is there a reason the FAA continues to do this? Can the community of aviators change this?

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    $\begingroup$ "Aviators kill themselves because they do not understand the weather." I don't believe that is true, they kill themselves because they underestimate the weather and overestimate the equipment or skills. I don't believe any aviator died because they didn't understand a METAR or TAF and headed out anyway, they died because they either didn't read it at all or couldn't handle the conditions. Either way, reading a METAR or TAF is second nature to most airmen now, usually you get that in training. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 7, 2016 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ For the same reason computer code is written in a language that isn't English, French, Spanish or other "natural" spoken language. It's confusing to the laymen but it's very well understood by those who have learned it. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 7, 2016 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


The language of aviation is terse, compressed and intended to leave minimum room for interpretation or misapprehension.

It makes heavy use of formulas, themselves intended to to be unambiguous, but which are not always obviously and immediately meaningful to those who are unfamiliar with the language.

This is the norm for potentially critical communication in all fields that I'm aware of - the military, medicine and throughout the transportation industry.

The users of this language are trained in it; being familiar with it is an essential part of their competence.

Language, interfaces, procedures and tools in aviation don't need to be user-friendly, they need to be utterly precise, be usable in difficult circumstances, and on every occasion they're used have exactly the same outcome.

It's possible that an aviator has failed to understand a weather forecast and died as a result, but a weather reports that allowed themselves the liberty of free expression would kill a lot more than that.

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    $\begingroup$ It should also be noted that many weather observing stations like ASOS/AWOS are automated and report via low speed communication networks like dial-up, satellite, etc. The systems that report these are not complicated, often running small-scale microprocessors without a lot of memory. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 7, 2016 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ Precisely, Ron Beyer. In addition, even when you've got (effectively) unlimited computing power, actually writing the code to extract the data is easier when you're looking for "OVC" instead of "Overcast", or "12012MPS" instead of "twelve metres per second from one hundred and twenty degrees". $\endgroup$
    – The Geoff
    Jun 7, 2016 at 20:19

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