Meteorology – About ATPL Subjects

Meteorology is the scientific study of the air environment including weather, climate, and atmosphere.

In an ATPL theory course, you learn about these atmospheric factors and how they affect flight.

This is only meant as a guide to the Meteorology subject as it applies to the Bristol Groundschool ATPL theory course.


Meteorology Topics

Below is a look at the individual topics the Bristol Groundschool ATPL course breaks Meteorology into and some of the things you’ll learn about in each topic.


The Atmosphere

The composition of the atmosphere, pressure, temperature, density, mesosphere, stratosphere and flight in the stratosphere.


Pressure setting and Q codes, barometric errors, temperature errors, the relationship between QNH and QFF, temperature correction, drift and altimeter errors and airflow over high ground.


Heat and temperature, latent heat, energy release, insolation, solar radiation, the greenhouse effect, conduction, convection, short and long wave radiation, advection and surface temperature.

Moisture and Convection

Saturated air, humidity mixing ratio, the effect of altitude, relative humidity, measurement of humidity, unstable and stable air, cloud formation, calculation of cloud base and thermodynamic diagrams.

Triggers and Inversions

Orographic triggers, thermal triggers, effects of thermal triggers, frontal convergence, turbulence, dissipation, inversions, surface cooling, turbulence inversions and valley inversions.

Geostrophic and Gradient Winds

Geostrophic winds, Coriolis force and effect, Buys Ballot’s law, measuring geostrophic wing, geostrophic wind scale and gradient winds.

Topographic Effects and Sea Breezes

Surface winds, boundary layers, local topographic effects, föhn winds, calculating the temperature rise, katabatic winds, anabatic winds and land and sea breezes.

High Level Winds

Influence of surface pressure on high level winds, contour charts, global distribution of upper winds, jet streams and flying at the level of the jet core.

Cloud Types

Classification of clouds, high, medium and low level clouds, special clouds, noctilucent clouds, contrails and polar lights.

Precipitation, Thunderstorms and Tornadoes

Precipitation, rain, snow, hail, ice pellets, air mass thunderstorms, hazards, types of thunderstorms and tornados.


Windshear, temperature inversions, clear air turbulence, jet stream CAT, turbulence at fronts, troughs and hazards near thunderstorms.

Microbursts and Standing Waves

Microbursts and detecting them, tornadoes, standing waves, rotor streaming, wake turbulence and avoidance.


Airframe icing, rime ice and clear ice, icing in clouds, hoar frost, high altitude ice crystal icing, engine intake icing and ice avoidance techniques.


Poor visibility and hazards, runway visual range, radiation fog, advection fog, arctic smoke, dust and sandstorms.

Pressure Systems

Convergence and divergence, anticyclones or highs, warm and cold anticyclones, thermal lows, cold lows, ridges, troughs and cols.

Air Mass Weather

Air mass, maritime polar cold air, continental polar cold air, continental tropical warm air, maritime polar warm air, equatorial air mass, cold air outbreaks and cold pools.

Polar Front Depressions

Global circulations, rotation of the earth, the North Atlantic pillar front, formation of depressions, the westerly wave, movement of the depression and front.

Global Weather – Patterns and Temperatures

Surface air temperature and the ITCZ, sea temperatures, advection fog and El Niño.

Global Weather – Low Level Winds, Fronts and the ITCZ

Surface pressure, low level winds, artic and polar fronts, the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the ITCZ, cloud clusters and cold air outbreaks.

Tropical Revolving Storms

The conditions required for the formation of a tropical revolving storm, cross-section, the eye of the storm, development stages and tropical revolving storm seasons.

Upper Winds, Monsoons and Climate Classification

Upper winds, monsoons and local seasonal winds, local wind summary, Köppen’s climate classification.


Meteorology Exams

The exam for Meteorology lasts 2 hours. You’ll have 84 multiple-choice questions to answer during this time, with the pass rate being 75%.


An Example of a Meteorology Exam Question

This is an example of the type of question you may have in a meteorology exam. For more questions like this one, visit the BGSonline question bank to start revising with over 15,000+ ATPL, CPL, IR and PPL questions. Subscriptions start from £23 for one month for access to ATPL/CPL questions.

Question: Which of the following statements concerning jet streams is correct?

A) In the Northern Hemisphere both westerly and easterly jet streams occur

B) In the Northern Hemisphere only westerly jet streams occur

C) In the Southern Hemisphere no jet streams occur

D) In the Southern Hemisphere only easterly jet streams occur

Click to reveal the answer

The answer is A, In the Northern Hemisphere, both westerly and easterly jet streams occur.

An Easterly jet stream occurs only in the northern hemisphere, at approx. 45000 ft north of the equator in the summer.


Need Help Revising for your ATPL or CPL Exams?

BGSonline question bank has you covered – it’s an excellent preparation tool.