ICAO location codes

2 minute read Published 5 September 2021

What they are and where to get them

METAR is a common weather report format used by airports around the world.

Each station has a unique four letter location code assigned by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The first letter identifies which part of the world the station is in. For instance, all codes beginning with K are within the continental United States.

Mercator projection map of world regions classified according to the first letter or two of the ICAO location code Hytar CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Now you might ask: given an ICAO location code, how do I find the station it corresponds to? ICAO provides a list of all the assigned codes in Doc 7910: a $257 PDF. Programmatic access to the API for Doc 7910 costs at least $400 🤑

Fortunately, there is a much more cost effective (read: free) alternative. Greg Thompson at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) maintains a comprehensive list of stations: stations.txt. The format is pretty straightforward:

...
WASHINGTON         21-OCT-20
CD  STATION         ICAO  IATA  SYNOP   LAT     LONG   ELEV   M  N  V  U  A  C
WA SEATTLE/METRO    KSEA  SEA   72793  47 27N  122 19W  115   X     U     A    0 US
...

The file is split into sections by US state, Canadian province, and other countries. Each 83-character entry contains a station’s:

I’ve mapped the stations with OpenLayers below:

Click on a station for its name, location, and ICAO + IATA codes.

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