It's inevitable. At some point during your weather briefing, some underpaid, underappreciated briefer will say "Pilot reports are requested." and you'll say "Certainly, my good sir or madam! Why, the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is the chance to help my fellow aviators!" and then you won't make one.

But let's say that you do make a non-urgent pilot report. Briefers will give that information to pilots, but what about the meteorologists who actually make the forecasts? Supposedly, they're interested in the information as well...

"NBAA is excited about the new electronic submission form that should streamline the PIREP process, and allow the information to get to the FAA air traffic controllers and the NWS Aviation Weather Center (AWC) forecasters sooner," noted John Kosak, program manager, weather, NBAA Air Traffic Services. [1]

but what are they used for once they're submitted?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: Do You PIREP? Here’s Why You Should. PIREPs are used to validate high altitude weather forecasts. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ PIREPs explain localized weather phenomena, typically along a path at a specific altitude in a specific location. Weather forecasters don't work that localized. They won't issue a forecast with "light to moderate turbulence experienced between 5000 and 7000 over the GRB VOR". They use weather balloons, radar, and other instrumentation to make the area forecasts. So while not an answer, I don't believe meteorologists use PIREPs at all, at least currently. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer -- my understanding is the primary use of PIREPs is to validate or refute forecasts -- hard to know if you got it right if you have no observations telling you what's actually up there! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 2:18

1 Answer 1


This NOAA newsletter lists a number of specific ways that PIREPs are used by meteorologists:

  • To "assess the strength and position of the jet stream"
  • For thunderstorm and snow level forecasting
  • For forecast discussions of regional weather phenomena, like "downslope wind storms in the lee of the Sierra Nevada"
  • To "determine the likelihood of clouds thinning or burning off"

Their summary is:

Better reports and observations, not only from PIREPS but also storm spotters, Webcams and road weather networks help improve the picture of what’s going on in the atmosphere. Automated temperature, wind and humidity reports from MDCRS and the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System in commercial aircraft also get incorporated into computer models. All of these observations lead to improved forecasts and warnings.

There are a few very generic references out there too. A 2014 edition of FAA Safety Briefing says:

The information will then be added to the distribution system to brief other pilots, help generate inflight advisories like AIRMETs and SIGMETs, as well as updates to the Current and Forecast Icing Products (CIP/FIP), and improve overall forecast accuracy.

And an AOPA article has a brief mention:

when the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) receives a pirep, meteorologists use it to verify that their weather forecast is correct or amend it if the pirep contradicts the forecast.

Finally, PIREPs (and AIREPs) are shown on the NOAA website, although that probably isn't what you had in mind by meteorologists 'using' the information.


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