How to Read a Weather Forecast

By Josh Patrick; Updated April 24, 2017
Understanding weather forecasts is an important skill.

The weather forecast is often the most important factor in deciding what to wear. The weather also has an impact on outdoor activities. Knowing how to read a weather forecast is a skill that many people take for granted. However, some symbols and abbreviations are not intuitive at first glance.

Scan the page to get a feel for how the forecast is laid out. Some forecasts are arranged in boxes running left to right, while others are composed of text that runs top to bottom.

Find the forecast box with today's date. There will be two numbers. The higher number is the forecast maximum temperature for the day. The lower number is the minimum temperature.

Take note of the forecast weather conditions. Symbols like sunshine or lightning are self-explanatory.

Note the chance of precipitation, which is given as a percentage. If there is no mention of rain or snow, then chances are zero.

Look at the next day's forecast. Pay attention to any departures from the current day's forecast.

Look at the remainder of the forecast. Think about your weekly activities, and if the weather has a chance of altering those activities.


A weather forecast is never set in stone. The further out in time a forecast goes, the less reliable it becomes. Always be prepared for the unexpected.


Severe weather forecasts should be taken seriously. Stay off the road during blizzards. Likewise, don't go outdoors if a tornado watch is in effect.

About the Author

Josh Patrick has several years of teaching and training experience, both in the academy and the private sector. He presented original work at the 20th Century Literature Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Patrick worked for three years on the editorial board for "Inscape," his alma mater's literary magazine. He holds a Master of Library and Information Science.