Like TAF reports, reading a METAR is not very difficult: they both use the same format. It takes some time to get used to reading these abbreviations but this learning process will happen very quickly.
Color coding of METAR and TAF reports are now used throughout several Internet weather services, applications and products like maps. We also see them in mobile device apps too. A good example are Sky MET and the website SkyVector.
As not everyone might be in the know what these colors exactly mean, we created this page for you to learn about it or use it as a refresher. Keep in mind that color coding only refers to ceiling and visibility and not to high wind or gust situations.
METAR and TAF use the following table as the basis for the color coding scheme in visual products:
|LIFR - Low Instrument Flight Rules||Magenta||below 500 feet AGL||and/or||less than 1 mile|
|IFR - Instrument Flight Rules||Red||500 to below 1000 feet AGL||and/or||1 mile to less than 3 miles|
|MVFR - Marginal Visual Flight Rules||Blue||1000 to 3000 feet AGL||and/or||3 to 5 miles|
|VFR - Visual Flight Rules||Green||greater than 3000 feet AGL||and||greater than 5 miles|
In text: By definition, IFR is ceiling less than 1000 feet AGL and/or visibility less than 3 miles while LIFR is a sub-category of IFR. By definition, VFR is ceiling greater than or equal to 3000 feet AGL and visibility greater than or equal to 5 miles while MVFR is a sub-category of VFR.
If we take these numbers and create a colored coded table with visibility and ceiling we see the following result:
|1 mile||3 mile||5 mile||>5 mile|
This table shows the LIFR, IFR, MVFR and VFR limits in a very easy to understand and remember layout.
These guys use a slightly different color coding with more resolution in the altitudes. The image below shows it clearly.
As already said above: keep in mind that these tables only look at visibility and ceiling. High winds are not included and you need to set your own limits for that.