Last Update: at 11:23


Record air pressure over Europe amazes pilots and ATC

Air pressure data are important for reliable altitude information. In Europe these values are currently remarkably high.

Simeon Lüthi/aeroTELEGRAPH

Flugzeugcockpit: Piloten müssen den Höhenmesser mit dem Luftdruck kalibrieren.

EGLL 192020Z AUTO 31003KT 9999 NCD 03/01 Q1049 NOSIG.

Do you know what that means? Don’t worry if you don’t. These cryptic characters are what’s called a metar. It stands for Message d’observation météorologique régulière pour l’aviation – standardized weather reports for pilots. The example shows the data for London Heathrow airport last Sunday.

Anyone who is able to decipher this weather report, however, will notice something special. The Q1049 shows the air pressure in hectopascals. Pilots need this data before every flight. With the value called QNH, they have to adjust their altimeter, as it measures the flight altitude based on the air pressure. And this QNH rose to record levels in Europe in the last few days.

Record broken in Belgium

According to the site Wetteronline, the air pressure in the United Kingdom rose to 1050 hectopascals, the highest value since 1992, and could even exceed the record of 1053 hectopascals set in 1902. In Belgium, the QNH of 1048 already broke an 88-year record.

«Possibly the highest QNH I have ever seen,» a British A320 pilot posted on Twitter. Other pilots in Europe also took to social media to voice their surprise on the social network. Even the European air traffic control authority Eurocontrol spoke up: «To all aviation enthusiasts – do you remember an air pressure higher than this?»

Milder weather

Barometers in Germany also rose to similarly high levels. Usually the average value in January is about 1013 hectopascals. Currently, it has dropped slightly again and now lies at around 1030 hectopascals.

The high air pressure does not affect air traffic. On the contrary: it causes mild winter weather.

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