Reading a Weather Map

We see weather maps everywhere! Whether on the news, online, or on an app, there are always places to identify what the weather is doing. This month, we want to familiarise you with weather maps and what the dashing lines, cryptic numbers, and curves mean. Before leaving your boat, you must check for any warnings, especially if wind changes or storms are predicted. 

A weather map represents the weather patterns at the earth’s surface. The diagram to the right shows us the symbols on a map and their meaning.


Isobars are the plain black lines across the weather map that indicate airflow around weather systems. They connect points with the same mean sea level air pressure. The more detailed charts will have numbers showing the value in hectopascals (hPa). The winds are most potent when the isobars are closest together. Therefore, it is lighter where the isobars are widely spaced. 

Cold Front 

A cold front is a borderline between warm air and relatively more relaxed air. The symbol representing a cold front is a blue line with small blue triangles (chosen due to the similarity to little icicles.) As the two different air temperatures mix, the warm air rises, cools, and condenses into cold droplets. This is where we can expect to see a blanket of clouds on the leading edge of the cold front, which can form rain. A change in wind direction or drop in temperature can also be associated with cold fronts. 

Warm Front 

The symbol of a warm front consists of a red line with semi-circles (chosen due to the similarity of a sun rising, bringing warmth). Warm fronts steadily take over the position from the cool air. Even though they bring warmer air, it doesn’t mean better weather conditions. Rainfall and grey skies with humid conditions are a possibility.  

Click the button below to view the Bureau of Meteorology interactive and wave forecasting map, which will give you a preview of the upcoming weather forecast once played.

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