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. Some good examples are the app 'SkyMET' and website 'SkyVector.com'.
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 their visual products:
|LIFR - Low Instrument Flight Rules||Magenta||below 500 feet||less than 1 nm|
|IFR - Instrument Flight Rules||Red||500 to below 1000 feet||1 nm to 3 nm|
|MVFR - Marginal Visual Flight Rules||Blue||1000 to below 3000 feet||3 nm to 5 nm|
|VFR - Visual Flight Rules||Green||greater than 3000 feet||greater than 5 nm|
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 put this together and create a distance/height table with visibility and ceiling values we get the following result:
|> 3000 ft|
|< 3000 ft|
|< 1000 ft|
|< 500 ft|
|< 1 nm||< 3 nm||< 5 nm||> 5 nm|
This table shows the LIFR, IFR, MVFR and VFR limits in a very easy to understand and remember layout. Click the next link for a downloadable image of the METAR/TAF Colors.
These uniformed guys/gals with their fast aircraft use a slightly different color coding with more resolution in the lower 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 and/or precipitation are not included and you need to set your own limits for those circumstances.