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6 Answers

How to determine the tops + Thickness of clouds

Asked by: 3592 views Instrument Rating

When a METAR/TAF/FA reports the clouds to be at: BRK003 FEW027  SCT 060 .... How do I determine the thickness and tops of the clouds? Are the bases of them at 003 extending up to 060? Where can I find a depiction/ picture of what the sky looks like with (FEW, SCT, BRK) Thank you

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6 Answers

  1. Best Answer


    Jim F. on Oct 23, 2013

    “Are the bases of them at 003 extending up to 060?” No, that’s the floor of that layer. So in your example, there are 3 layers starting at those heights. There’s really no good way to determine them much in advance. The best and only real accurate method is via PIREPS and talking to ATC.

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  2. AKcitabriaflyr on Oct 23, 2013

    If they say SCT090, theres really no way besides PIREP and asking ATC how high that SCT cloud layer extends upwards?? That Cloud layer could possibly extend up to 15,000, right?

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  3. Brent on Oct 23, 2013

    METARs never have tops information, but some other weather products do. You can sometimes find information on tops in area forecasts and prognostic charts, for example.

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  4. Chris Modiano on Oct 24, 2013

    The only places to get an idea of tops that I know of is the area forecast, and PIREPS. I have two ways to get a very rough idea of tops, but I’m not a CFI, only have 202 hours, and have never really tested these thoroughly, but you can also look at an infrared satellite image, get the temp of the cloud tops, and then compare that to winds/temps aloft, and you can also look at soundings at http://rucsoundings.noaa.gov/ and note when the temp/dew point diverge.

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  5. David Hooper on Oct 25, 2013

    Do a Google on SkewT charts and read up on how to interoperate them. Then go to rucsoundings.noaa.gov . There you will see when the temperature begins to deviate from the dew point and this will give you an idea of where the tops might be.

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  6. AKcitabriaflyr on Oct 25, 2013

    Thanks all for the advice!

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