Weather is one of the most challenging elements of real-world flying. You often don't know exactly what conditions you'll find along the route or at your destination. You may break out of a thick cloud layer on an instrument approach only to confront a driving snowstorm, or you may breathe a sigh of relief as the clouds open up, allowing an easy visual approach.
Flight Simulator weather gives you the option of choosing preset weather conditions (Themes), downloading weather from the Web (Real-world weather), or specifying your own custom conditions (User-defined weather).
The easiest way to set weather in Flight Simulator is to choose one of the weather Themes. Themes are pre-built weather systems that are centered on the current location of your aircraft. To learn about using Themes, see Using Weather Themes.
When using the weather-rate slider on the Weather tab (in the Display Settings dialog box), atmospheric conditions in Flight Simulator affect the formation or dissipation of clouds, the onset of precipitation, and the movement of frontal systems. For the first time, you can set time-changing conditions along your route, making clouds form and move across the sky with the wind. To learn more, see Weather Settings.
You can now have real-world data automatically updated every fifteen minutes as you fly! A greater variety of cloud types are created based on data downloaded from the Web, and turbulence is deduced from atmospheric conditions. To learn about using Real-world weather, see Using Real-World Weather.
The Weather Dialog Box
Think of the Weather dialog box as "weather central," the place where you choose the method you'll use to create weather. Weather themes allow you to choose from prebuilt weather systems and offers a fast path to complex weather settings. Real-world weather downloads real-world weather from Jeppesen. User-defined weather brings up a secondary dialog box where you can select your own custom weather. You can use the User-Defined Weather dialog box to make quick, broad changes to weather conditions for specific weather stations, or for the entire world.
For details on each of these choices, read the articles in the Related Links section at the top of this article.
Weather Stations in Flight Simulator
In the real world, weather information is gathered by all kinds of measuring devices at weather stations. In Flight Simulator, the locations of the real-world weather stations are replicated, but instead of just reporting the weather there, Flight Simulator creates weather around those locations. In other words, if you select the weather station at London's Heathrow airport and change weather settings, the weather conditions that you set will only apply within an area of a few miles around Heathrow. If you select several stations around Heathrow and set those same weather conditions, the area in which the conditions appear becomes larger. You can set specific conditions at a specific weather station or group of stations, or set weather for all the stations in the world at one time. See Using User-Defined Weather for detailed instructions on how to set custom weather conditions.
The image below depicts the approximate distribution of weather stations around the world.