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Display basic weather information -- U.S. only

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1       Introduction 

Display basic weather information -- U.S. only 

In this topic, you learn how to display basic weather information such as NWS bulletins, SIGMETs, AirMETs, current surface fronts, and PIREPs on the map. You need only review this topic if you are flying in U.S. airspace. 

We estimate that this will take 15 minutes to complete.

2       Detailed explanation 

Basic weather information

The basic weather package is the global standard weather package that you receive with an N-Tracking subscription. Basic weather options that focus on North America include:


        Current METAR Weather Depiction: Current METAR observations at an airport

        NWS (National Weather Service) Bulletins: Active weather bulletins for various areas

        Infrared satellite: Cloud coverage for different regions worldwide

        Visible satellite: Current visible satellite data available over US and Europe 

        TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions)

        Airmets: (Airmen's Meteorological Information) -- concise descriptions of actual or predicted weather phenomena localized along an air route and which may affect aircraft safety

        SIGMETs: (Significant Meteorological Information) -- detailed descriptions of actual or predicted weather phenomena which may affect aircraft safety

        METAR for airports:  Routine weather report issued at hourly or half-hourly intervals; describes meteorological elements observed at an airport at a specific time

        TAF for airports:  (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast) -- a concise statement of the expected meteorological conditions at an airport during a specified period (usually 24 hours)

        Current Surface Fronts: images of fronts between warm, cold, dry or moist air

        PIREPS: pilot report of actual weather conditions encountered in flight

In this example, the various colors you see on the screen indicate several weather layers that have already been enabled.

Notice the ACTIVE LAYERS panel on the right of the map. This panel helps you to know, at a glance, which weather layers you have enabled.

The panel is currently closed. To open it, click the Show/Hide icon on its right. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Show/Hide icon.

You can work with the ACTIVE LAYERS panel open or closed -- according to your preference. For the purposes of this example, close the panel again. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Hide/Show icon.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Layers button.

You can adjust the Brightness slider on the General tab to change the contrast between the land and water features on the map. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the BASIC tab.

NWS bulletins display National Weather Service (NWS) information for affected zones at a glance. N-Tracking displays a summary of all alerts issued by the National Weather Service in effect for a given county.

NWS bulletins are color coded on the map, as follows:

        Red -- warnings

        Yellow or orange -- watches

        Purple -- advisories

Best practice is to read the bulletin contents by enabling the NWS slider. The alerts could mention snow or heavy rainfall that might cause flight disruptions. 

As two of the options for NWS bulletins are already enabled, let's enable Warnings AMI (area of maximum impact).

All of the sliders work the same way: click to enable them; click again to disable them.


Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Warnings AMI slider.

Areas subject to NWS weather watches display in yellow. 

Areas subject to NWS warnings display in red. 

Areas subject to NWS advisories display in purple. 

Interaction 1

To hone in on one of the areas subject to NWS advisories, watches or warnings, you can click the Zoom in icon or use the scroll wheel on your mouse. 

Interaction 1 Click Zoom in  (+).

In this example, none of the aircraft you are tracking are flying near areas affected by weather bulletins.

Hover your mouse over any NWS warning that may be of concern to you. These warnings may not be relevant to flight conditions.

In this example, this NWS bulletin displays a flood warning for Baton Rouge.

If you click on the area on the map, N-Tracking displays the information in a separate pane on the right side of the screen.

All of the weather layers work this way. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the highlighted area.

While the text in these columns is less readable, you can use this pane to capture the text into your clipboard: triple-click on a column or use click, drag to highlight the text and then press Ctrl + c to capture its text.

Interaction 1

Close the Weather pane after you review the information. 

Interaction 1 Click the Close (X) button.

Let's move on and explore the NWS bulletins' Advisories AMI (area of maximum impact) information displayed by N-Tracking. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Layers button.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Advisories AMI slider.

For this example, N-Tracking displays information about both the NWS advisory and the area of maximum impact related to that advisory.

As you learned earlier, this weather advisory may not be relevant to a given flight, unless its arrival airport is located in the affected area. 

Hover your mouse over the highlighted purple area outlined with a white, dashed border.

Click on the map in the same area. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the highlighted purple area.

The Weather pane displays the same information that previously popped up on the map.

Use the scroll bar at the bottom of the Weather pane to view additional columns.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Close (X) button.

For this part of the example, show the active weather layers. 

Interaction 1

Click the Show/Hide icon on the ACTIVE LAYERS panel. 

Interaction 1 Click Show/Hide.

In this example, one of the HAZARDS weather layers (EDR Turbulence NAM) is active. (It was active at the beginning of this exploration.) The four NWS bulletin weather layers that you enabled also display in the list. 

Showing the active weather layers means you never need to second-guess whether or not you have enabled a particular weather layer.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Layers button.

Disable the NWS bulletins "global" slider to disable all its subordinate weather layers. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the NWS bulletins slider.

TFRs (Temporary Flying Restrictions) are issued for the U.S. only and are updated every five minutes. TFRs are a type of NOTAM and can be issued at any time. The areas of restricted air travel could be due to a hazard, a special event, or simply a general waring about the associated airspace.

They are indicated on the map with colored flags, indicating the following:

        Orange - fire

        Red - nuclear facility

        Blue - VIP

        Green - stadium

        Grey - other

When you see TFRs on the map, best practice is to click on the TFR and read the text to familiarize yourself with the restriction.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the TFRs slider.

The newly selected weather layer appears in the ACTIVE LAYERS list. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Hide/Show icon.

A 100 nm zoom level is probably the best to use to explore TFRs. Adjust your zoom as required. 

Hover your mouse over the highlighted red flag on the coast of Texas.

N-Tracking indicates that this is a South Texas nuclear power plant. 

In this example, if you hover the mouse over the highlighted orange flag, N-Tracking identifies flying restrictions 30 NM west of Miami, FL.

The red flag on the south Florida coast advises of airspace restrictions related to the Homestead-Miami speedway. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Layers button.

Disable the TFRs slider.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the TFRs slider.

Airmets information provides concise descriptions of actual or predicted weather along an air route which may have an impact on the safety of the aircraft. Airmets are routinely issued for six-hour periods.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Airmets slider.

Airmets are issued at discrete times; three hours apart for a period of 12 hours into the future.

Like the NWS bulletins, Airmets has subordinate controls for US Icing and US Turbulence. If you want to disable both of these layers, you can do so by disabling the Airmets "global" slider. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the US Icing slider.

The area outlined with a blue dashed line indicates icing conditions. 

        ZULU Airmet is the name given to the Airmet describing icing conditions. It provides details on heights of icing and freezing levels.

        TANGO Airmets deal with turbulence.

        SIERRA Airmets inform you about IFR conditions and/or extensive mountain obscuration).

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the US Turbulence slider.

In this example, the North American turbulence forecast layer is also active, so the pop-up information also displays details of that forecast . 

Hover your mouse over the yellow outline of the highlighted Airmet. (A yellow outline indicates an area of turbulence.)

N-Tracking displays the text of this "TANGO" Airmet.

Hover your mouse in the area that interests you and N-Tracking displays information for both the icing (ZULU) and the turbulence (TANGO) Airmets active for the area. 

The completes your brief tour of Airmets. Access the Layers pane again to disable this weather layer. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Layers button.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Airmets slider.

Next, enable the Sigmets weather layer. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Sigmets slider.

The Sigmets layer contains options for both American and global SIGMETs.

For this example, explore the US Convective option only.

SIGMETs are issued for convection over the U.S. They are issued for an area of:

        embedded or severe thunderstorms expected to occur for more than 30 minutes

        a line of thunderstorms at least 60 miles long

        thunderstorms affecting at least 3,000 square miles

Convective SIGMETs are valid for two hours and are issued hourly.

For more details on global SIGMETs, consult the topic, Display EU MetNet bulletins, infrared or visible satellite images, and global SIGMETs weather layers.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the US Convective slider.

Hover your mouse over the highlighted purple oval with a dashed outline. It represents an area of convection. 

N-Tracking displays SIGMET details in an on-screen pop-up.


As you learned previously, if you want to capture the raw text of the message, you can click on the purple oval to open the Weather pane on the right of the screen to access that text.

Try that out now by clicking the purple oval north-east of the area of convection that you just explored.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the highlighted purple oval.

With the Weather pane open, you can triple-click the Convective sigmet text column to capture that text to your clipboard.
You can use the vertical and horizontal scroll bars on this pane to review all of the information.

Close the Weather pane after your review.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click Close (X).

Access the weather layers again and let's explore a different layer -- Current Surface Fronts. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Layers button.

As needed, scroll down to view Current Surface Fronts. It is one of the last options in the Layers pane. 

This weather layer displays fronts and troughs and is updated every three hours.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Current Surface Fronts slider.

A red line represents a warm front -- a transition zone between a mass of warm air and the cold air it is replacing.

A blue line represents a cold front -- a zone separating two air masses, of which the cooler, denser mass is advancing and replacing the warmer air. 

A line combining both blue and red represents a stationary front -- a front between a warm and cold air mass that is moving very slowly. 

A dark brown or gray dashed line represents a trough -- an area of relatively low atmospheric pressure 

There is one other front that may be depicted on the N-Tracking map. The occluded front displays as a bumpy purple line. It represents a composite of two fronts, formed as a cold front overtakes a warm front.

Let's move on from here to look at PIREPS (Pilot reports). 

For a clearer view of PIREPS, disable the Sigmets layer. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the Sigmets slider.

Interaction 1

Disable the Current Surface Fronts layer also.

Interaction 1 Click the Current Surface Fronts slider.

PIREPs provide pilot reports of weather encountered by an aircraft in flight. They are transmitted in real-time by radio to a ground station. The location of the report is based on distance and direction to a known navaid, such as VOR.

Enable the PIREPS layer. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the PIREPS slider.

To provide better visibility for the PIREPS symbols, for this next part of this exploration, the North American turbulence forecast layer has been disabled. 

To further improve the display, let's also zoom in to the 50 nm level.

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click Zoom in (+).

PIREPS use a variety of symbols to indicate weather information. Hover your mouse over any of the symbols and N-Tracking displays the provided information on-screen.

Some of the PIREPs symbols include:


Hover your mouse over any of the displayed PIREPS symbols and N-Tracking displays information on when the PIREP was issued, the relevant latitude and longitude, the flight level (if known) and other details.

If you click the symbol, instead of hovering over it, the Weather pane opens in the upper right corner of the screen -- and the details display there. 

Interaction 1

Interaction 1 Click the highlighted PIREP symbol.

Interaction 1

You can triple-click on the text in the Pirep text column to select it to your clipboard, if you want to copy the text into a communication. Close the Weather pane after you review the information.

Interaction 1 Click the Close (X) button.

Congratulations! You have completed your examination of PIREPS and in fact, of all the basic weather layers that are used in the U.S. only.

At this point, you know how to apply the different basic weather layers and interpret the information they show for:

        NWS bulletins




        Current surface fronts and


Other topics that provide more information on displaying weather information on the N-Tracking map include

        Regional weather information

        Weather hazards

        EUMetNet Meteo Alarm bulletins

        Visible and infrared satellite images

        METAR and TAF for airports. 

Be sure to review all the different weather layer topics that are applicable for your airline.


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