Weather Symbols
Pack A Lot Of Punch!

Weather symbol for heavy thunderstorm with hail.

There are 99 weather symbols used in meteorology, to indicate - pictorially - what present weather was occurring at a given weather station, at the time the observation was taken.

For example, the symbol shown at the beginning of the first paragraph on this page means:

"Thunderstorm, heavy, with hail at time of observation."

These weather symbols are plotted immediately to the left of the weather station circle. They are an important part of the significant data reported by the station. All the observed data is tightly plotted on the geographical location of each weather station on a surface analysis map.

The symbols are the "short hand" method used by meteorologists to quickly reveal the "instantaneous" weather story, over a given region, at a given time.

Note: To fully understand the weather story behind the symbols, I recommend Meteorology: An Introduction to the Wonders of the Weather!

When more than one weather phenomenon is occurring at observation time, only the most significant is reported and, therefore, plotted on the map. For example, if there is haze present, but lightning is visible in the distance with no discernable thunder, then . . .

Weather symbol for lightning. . . . will be reported and plotted instead of . . . Weather symbol for haze.

In the above example, I am sure you will understand that it is more important to report lightning than haze!

Here are 18 of the most common, or generic forms of weather symbols you will find plotted on surface weather analysis maps ... beginning with the most significant!

Weather symbol for tornado. Funnel cloud(s) or Tornado(s) during the preceding hour or at time of observation.
Weather symbol for heavy thunderstorm with hail. Thunderstorm, "heavy", with hail at time of observation.
Weather symbol for thunderstorm with rain. Thunderstorm, slight or moderate lightning activity, - without hail - but with rain and or snow at time of observation.
Weather symbol for thunder. Thunder heard, but no precipitation at the station.
Weather symbol for hail. Shower(s) of hail, with or without rain or rain and snow mixed - not associated with thunder - and of light intensity.
Weather symbol for ice pellets or sleet. Ice pellets (sleet).

Weather symbol for moderate to heavy freezing rain Freezing rain, moderate or heavy (one dot only will mean intensity is light).
Weather symbol for freezing drizzle, moderate to heavy. Freezing drizzle, moderate or heavy (one "comma" only means light intensity).
Weather symbol for light rain shower. Rain shower(s), light in intensity.
Weather symbol for light snow shower. Snow shower(s), light in intensity.
Weather symbol for light continuous snow. Light snow falling (continuous) at time of observation.
Weather symbol for fog depositing rime. Fog, depositing rime ice, or ice fog, sky obscured.
Weather symbol for fog. Fog, sky obscured (no appreciable change during the preceding hour).
Weather symbol for heavy blowing snow. Heavy blowing snow (generally above eye level). Notice the vertical arrow pointing upward.
Heavy drifting snow (generally below eye level). Notice the vertical arrow pointing downward.
Weather symbol for rain shower, past hour. Shower(s) of rain ended in the past hour. NOTE: Any weather symbol with a right bracket, means that the phenomenon ended in the past hour.
Weather symbol for haze. Haze.
Weather symbol for smoke. Smoke reducing horizontal visibility. Note that "smog" is not reported, as such. When both fog and smoke are present, fog will most likely be reported and plotted on the map … unless smoke is definitely the predominant phenomenon!

I believe the above table of the most common forms of weather symbols will help you recognize the reported weather, as plotted on surface analysis maps, such as those that you can access via this site.

In the sample cutout of a surface weather analysis below, you can see how weather data is plotted closely around each observing station.

Example of weather symbols plotted on a map.

Stay tuned, and keep a sharp weather watch!


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