A red rescue helicopter moving in blue sky.

HeliBrief® SAR

Welcome to HeliBrief®SAR

Welcome to HeliBrief® SAR, our mobile and tablet accessible weather briefing product for Search and Rescue Helicopter Operators. This product is regulated by the CAA.

We have developed this product to be accessible from all mobile devices (optimised for an iPad mini), as well as on a desk top in the control room setting.

Below, you will find some content which we hope will provide you with guidance around some of the new features in the product. We have created a User Guide and one will be provided to each SAR base, along with access credentials.

There is a feedback button in the product, but you can also provide feedback by email at productfeedback@metoffice.gov.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.

For 24/7 product support, please ring 0370 900 0100 or email enquiries@metoffice.gov.uk.

Jump to:

Colour States
Triggered Lightning
Significant Wave Height
UK Low-Level Significant Weather Charts
Aerodrome Actual Weather - METAR Decode
Aerodrome Forecast - TAF Decode

Colour States

Colour states are a good way of quickly ascertaining the conditions over an area without viewing the full observation. A colour state provides a convenient way to assess the observed visibility, cloud base, and amount of cloud at a location, as reported in the locations METAR. Poorer conditions are highlighted by red or yellow symbols; good conditions are highlighted by blue symbols.

The table below lists the conditions that determine the colour state to show.

Colour State Visibility Range 1

Cloud Base Range2, 5/8 or more BKN/OVC

Blue 10km or more 1500ft or more
White 5000m to 9km 1200ft to 1400ft
Green 4000m to 4900m 600ft to 1100ft
Amber 500m to 3900m 200ft to 500ft
Red Less than 500m Less than 200ft

No METAR currently available: Either there is no METAR available, the METAR could not be decoded automatically, or the latest METAR is more than 2 hours old.

1Visibility is reported to the nearest 50m up to 500m, 100m between 500m and 4900m, and the nearest 1 km for 5000m or greater.

2Cloud base is reported to the nearest 100 feet.

The colour states are regularly updated to reflect the latest METARs available to HeliBrief®.

Poorer flying conditions are prevalent at those locations highlighted by red and amber colours, whilst good conditions are highlighted by blue colours. Grey symbols indicate that the latest METAR is unavailable or cannot be decoded.

Return to top

Triggered Lightning

The triggered lightning layer shows areas where there is high, medium, or low risk of triggered lightning. Forecasts are provided in 1 hour time steps out to 6 hours ahead. If there is no forecast risk of lightning strike, then there will be no colour visible for this layer.

Triggered lightning risk is forecast using an algorithm based on total surface precipitation rate (rain and snow); the average temperature of the model levels between 2000ft and 3000ft; and the height of the freezing level above 750 feet.

Return to top

Significant Wave Height

The significant wave height layer shows areas where wave height is above 2.5, 4, or 6 metres. Forecasts are provided in 1 hour time steps out to 6 hours ahead. If there are no waves forecast above 2.5 metres, no colour is visible for this layer.

Visible Satellite imagery

The structure of clouds in satellite images can inform pilots a lot about the weather, and animated sequences can tell pilots about the movement of these weather systems.

Bands of cloud often indicate the presence of weather fronts, whilst individual clouds are likely to provide detail on the location of convective clouds. Both frontal and convective cloud information is useful to pilots because each are often accompanied by potential weather hazards such as icing, turbulence, hail, and lightning. Gaps in the cloud cover can also reveal the location of snow fields.

Infrared imagery

Satellites also measure the temperature of the clouds and the surface with an infrared sensor. This results in infrared satellite imagery.

The thermal contrast between land and cloud tops allows the position of clouds to be revealed during the hours of darkness. The brightest clouds are those with the greatest thermal contrast, i.e. those with the highest tops such as CBs. Those with little contrast with the land have similar thermal differences so are most likely low cloud like stratus, or fog.

Return to top

UK Low-Level Significant Weather Charts

UK Low-Level Significant Weather Charts

Return to top

Aerodrome Actual Weather - METAR Decode

Aerodrome Actual Weather - METAR Decode

Return to top

Aerodrome Forecast - TAF Decode

Aerodrome Forecast - TAF Decode

Return to top



Return to top

HeliBrief® SAR Overview

Supported Devices

Desktop Platforms

· Windows 7 with the latest versions of Chrome, IE11, or Firefox.

Mobile Platforms

· iOS9 or later, using Safari, with a minimum screen size of 320×568dp (this is equivalent to the 4" screen of the iPhone5)

· Android 4.4 or later, using Chrome, with a minimum screen size of 320×568dp.

Features Included

  • HeliBrief® SAR is designed for use on tablet devices and smart phones (the supported platforms section provides further details).
  • Default map extents configurable to the base selected on the home page.
  • Home page displays an overview of:
    • Colour states (civilian)
    • Precipitation rate
    • Surface visibility
    • Wind FL020
    • Significant wave height
    • Triggered lightning
    • Links to other resources
    • Links to print packs
  • Print packs for each base, containing:
    • T0 North Atlantic surface pressure chart
    • T+24 North Atlantic surface pressure chart
    • British Isles analysis chart
    • 2000ft wind charts
    • F215 low level significant weather chart
    • TAFs and METARs
    • Route wind and temperature tables
  • Weather shown on interactive map:
    • Colour states - similar METAR colour state categories to OHWeb (note: these are different to military colour states).
    • Aerodrome warnings
    • Cloud and visibility
      • Surface visibility
      • Cloud, fog, and surface pressure
      • Visible satellite
      • Infrared satellite
    • Lightning
      • Triggered lightning.
      • Lightning (this weather layer includes both observations and forecast)
    • Wind
      • Wind surface
      • Wind FL020
      • Wind FL050
    • Precipitation
      • Precipitation rate (this weather layer includes both radar observation and forecast)
      • Precipitation type
    • Ground state
      • Visible satellite
      • Snow false colour satellite
    • Sea conditions
      • Significant wave height.
      • Sea surface temperature
      • Surface current
    • Map Overlays
      • Lat/Long Grid
  • Text content of TAFs, METARs, and aerodrome warnings, where available, can be displayed in a dynamic list alongside the map, with contents based on locations displayed on the map.
  • TAF, METAR, and aerodrome warnings lists. You can filter these lists by TAFs only, METARs only, Warnings only, or a combination of the three.
  • Charts
    • Wind and temperature tables
    • Liquid water content tables
    • Regional pressure settings
    • Surface pressure
    • F215 low level significant weather
    • F214 spot winds
    • Lee wave and rotors
    • British Isles analysis chart
  • Reports
    • London CTA Helicopter Forecast
    • TAFs, METARs and Warnings
    • SIGMETs
    • Regional pressure settings
    • Volcanic ash advisories
  • Notices - system notices are accessible from the page header.
  • PDF User Guide.
  • Feedback email via menu link.

Known issues

The following items are known to exist and may be addressed in future releases of HeliBrief™ SAR. There is no need to contact the Met Office if you encounter any of the issues listed here. All other issues identified should be reported to the Met Office using the feedback link email in the Menu.

  • The map weather layer picker does not work for a specific version of Internet Explorer (IE 11.0.9600.16672). Updating to the current version from Microsoft will correct this.
  • The logout button in the menu will not log out the user, but will return the user to the Met Office My Services page, from where the user can log out.
  • If the internet connection is lost when using the map, cached images will be displayed when available. "Site Data Unavailable" and "Aerodrome Warnings Unavailable" messaging will appear on the next five minute auto-refresh to indicate that there is a problem.
  • On rare occasions when switching from a forecast time-step back to "latest" on the Overview page tiles the Precipitation Rate title does not return to show the most recent radar image, and instead shows the next forecast time-step. This will be corrected on the next five minute auto-refresh.

Return to top