We used to have something called “area forecasts”. Don’t worry, you’re not missing out on much. They were several pages long of coded information you had to try and decipher to figure what kind of weather there was out there and where it was (imagine a METAR or TAF that was 3 pages long, yuck!). Now with this tool from the FAA we can see on a map where the weather is, which makes a lot more sense.
Why we use this tool is to fill in the blanks between airports when we are trying to figure out the forecast. While we might be able to check the TAF in our local area to get an idea of the weather, the TAF is only good for a 5nm radius around the airport. We need something to tell us what the weather is doing in between the two airports we want to fly between. Enter the Graphic Forecast Area Tool.
The Graphic Forecast Area Tool IS THE ONLY WAY TO SEE WHAT THE WEATHER WILL BE LIKE BETWEEN TWO AIRPORTS!
Now you may disagree with the above statement. There are a lot of other weather products out there that help us paint the complete weather picture which is correct. However, if you used every other weather product on the FAA website and neglected to look at the Graphic Forecast Area, you would be missing some pertinent information. Don’t tell the FAA examiner doing your checkride you would just check The Weather Channel to see what was happening between airports!