Occasionally you will run across the term “AUTO” in a METAR report. Is this relevant to you as a pilot?
Yes and no.
The information contained in the METAR report is more important than where the METAR came from, but it’s a good idea to know the validity of the METAR. The absence or presence of “AUTO” will help you make better weather decisions.
So, what does AUTO mean?
A weather report without human supervision will say “AUTO.”
When a human (ie. ATC) interacts or supervises the weather reporting system, the AUTO will disappear from the METAR.
In order to know whether an airport will have AUTO in it’s METAR, you must understand where your weather reports come from.
Weather reports come from ASOS or AWOS stations. Some ASOS stations take it a step further and produce an ATIS.
For example, check out these different airports in Oregon:
Here are the same airports with the types of weather reporting stations:
The ATIS and ASOS stations both have an operating tower (with a real human) but KCVO does not have a tower, which is why you see “AUTO.
You can find out the different reporting stations in your State by going to this FAA website: Surface Weather Observation Stations
There is an exception to the rule that most airports with towers will monitor the METAR and that is when a tower shuts down at night.
At night the system will lose its human interaction (because the tower guys will go home) and the METAR will say AUTO. So, during the day, you won’t see AUTO, but then at night, you will see a METAR with AUTO in it.
Most of the time AWOS systems will not have any human interactions. You will usually find AWOS systems at nontowered airports.
I know the difference between these systems can be a bit confusing, so I wrote a more in-depth article on the difference between AWOS, ASOS, and ATIS. Check out this article for more information:
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