top of page

EZTip No. 15 - Area Forecast Discussions in EZWxBrief

The EZAirport view in EZWxBrief provides access to the most recent area forecast discussion for each airports located in the the conterminous U.S. These are available within the EZAirport view. To visit the EZAirport view, find the airport icon on the EZMap or EZRoute Profile. Selecting this icon (shown by the red arrow below) will take you to the EZAirport view where you can enter the FAA or ICAO airport identifier of interest.

Once the airport has been entered (KCLT in the example below), then click or tap on the menu icon (shown in the red circle) to list the options for the airport. This includes a selection for Discussion in the dropdown menu.

Just to clear up any initial confusion, the area forecast discussion is not a discussion describing the aviation area forecast (FA) issued by meteorologists at the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) and was retired back in October 2017. The AFD is a product of forecasters located at each of the local Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) that are scattered throughout the U.S. as shown below. The same forecaster at the WFO that issues the TAFs for their county warning area (CWA) is also responsible, in part, for issuing the corresponding AFD. The CWA is “area” they are discussing. Shown here are the boundaries of the CWAs for the conterminous U.S.

The AFD is not a two-way conversation. Instead, it is a vehicle that the forecaster can document his or her technical reasoning behind the forecast they just issued. Shown below is a forecaster located at the Greenville-Spartanburg weather forecast office in Greer, South Carolina. In other words, it’s a way for a pilot to know what the forecaster is thinking about the current trends in the forecast. Also, this is the method the forecaster can use to quantify their uncertainty. It allows them to let the reader know what could go wrong or describe alternate scenarios. There are dozens of errant terminal forecasts; however, there have been very few forecast discussions that didn’t somehow confront the potential of a busted forecast before it happened. If you are not reading the AFDs and only looking at the TAFs, you are potentially missing out on half the forecast guidance.

The good news is that AFDs are written in a plain English format. The bad news is that there’s a lot of jargon used. This is because the AFD is designed as a forecaster-to-forecaster memorandum so it might be quite technical at times. Be prepared for dozens of terms that may be unfamiliar. If you are still a bit perplexed after reading an AFD, visit which may help unravel some of the mystery of the jargon used.

Unlike a TAF that has a standard coded format required under NWS directives, forecasters do not have strict guidelines to follow when issuing an AFD. This means the AFD issued by a forecaster at the Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina WFO will not necessarily have the same format and organization as the one issued by the Flagstaff, Arizona WFO. It’s not total chaos though; you will notice a similar look and feel. Forecasters are free to write whatever they want (in a professional tone, of course) in as few or as many words as they care to offer.

Over the last few decades reading thousands of forecast discussions, there are some excellent ones and some mediocre ones. Unfortunately, some forecasters treat the AFD as an afterthought while other forecasters spend the time and draft a comprehensive analysis. This often depends on how busy the forecaster is at the time. When there’s significant weather impacting the CWA, don’t expect too many details.

Lastly, every AFD has a section dedicated to aviation. This section, like the one shown above in EZWxBrief, is specifically created to address the most recent terminal forecasts issued by the WFO that fall within their county warning area. This is generally written using jargon or terms familiar to pilots. While some of the discussions are fairly short, the forecaster will often quantify their uncertainty here. For example, in the aviation section below issued by the Greenville-Spartanburg WFO in Greer, South Carolina, it’s clear that thunderstorms are expected across the area, but it’s not certain if they will impact the Charlotte Douglas (KCLT) terminal area. So the forecaster is adding a placeholder for showers in the vicinity (VCSH) in the KCLT TAF to cover the convective threat. In most cases, the AFD may also provide an aviation outlook beyond the typical 24 or 30-hour forecast period.

Interested in learning more about the Skew-T? You can order your copy of The Skew-T log (p) and Me book today in soft cover or eBook format.

Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise

Dr. Scott Dennstaedt

Weather Systems Engineer

Founder, EZWxBrief™

CFI & former NWS meteorologist

50 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page