What do weather symbols mean on your favorite app's screen

What do weather symbols mean on your favorite app's screen


The weather symbols are part of the universal language of pictograms or icons as we call them today, which is spoken and understood by the majority of the world's population. Moreover, the language of signs is the oldest written language on the planet.

It came before the first alphabet or hieroglyphs, and all other kinds of writings. Most of these symbols like the "No Walk" road sign or the "Wi-Fi" are very simple and could be understood without special knowledge. But not all, though.

From this article, you learn what do the symbols on the weather app mean and how to read them in the weather forecast for today and tomorrow.

What are the weather symbols?

The weather symbols are symbols with which meteorologists show various atmospheric and natural conditions on special weather maps: temperature, wind, precipitation, or the percentage of cloud coverage of the sky. These maps used to be paper maps, but today they are digital.

You can count quite a few of these signs. They can be easier or harder to understand and differ from app to app, from source to source.

We will cover the complex signs soon in an article on how to read the weather map. In this one, we will explain what the easiest weather symbols mean, which tell us about general weather conditions. For example, a cloud with one and two raindrops and other weather signs you've definitely already seen on your favorite weather app's screen.

How to read weather signs?

In order to read weather signs correctly and quickly, you need to know three basic things:

  • There are dozens of weather symbols — as well as various atmospheric and natural phenomena. Meteorologists have described roughly all weather patterns. But that doesn't mean you'll see them all at once — usually no more than a dozen.
  • The weather icons are further divided into four types: sunny, cloudy, overcast, and different kinds of precipitation, which in turn come in three main types: rain, sleet (a mixture of snow and rain), and snow. But, rain, sleet, and snow could be different. For example, there are blowing and scattered types of snow.
  • Finally, each of the weather signs can show the weather by day or by night. When it's daytime it is usually the sun or clouds, at night it is a crescent moon.

Important: weather icons shows current and forecasted weather conditions for general understanding of the weather, so in addition to signs it is always better to look at the numbers: temperature degrees, the rain quantity in mm/h, wind speed in beaufots, and so on. Also, the forecast can change for the better or for the worse or it can remain as it is in the weather report.

So what do the weather symbols mean and how do you read them? Let's take Windy.app as an example. There are a total of 13 basic symbols (from left to rignt):

What do weather symbols mean. Valerya Milovanova / Windy.app

Sunny at daytime

A clear sunny day without clouds, which every outdoor enthusiast dreams of. In clear weather the view of the horizon is better, it is further visible from the tops of mountains. At the same time, clear weather is considered worse for outdoor photography, especially the sun in the middle of the day, so the photographers love the clouds.

Sunny at daytime weather symbol / Windy.app

Partly cloudy

The sky is covered with clouds, but not the whole sky, just a part of it. There may be more clouds than clear skies, or vice versa, or about the same.

Partly cloudy weather symbol / Windy.app

Cloudy (Overcast)

The sky is completely clouded. Usually, it is an overcast day, although in different parts of the world, where the weather changes more frequently, even fully overcast skies can become clear in a matter of minutes.

Cloudy (Overcast) weather symbol / Windy.app

Light rain

The weather with light rain when the sky is completely covered with clouds. Light rain is a rain with least 0.1 mm/h of precipitation.

Light rain weather symbol / Windy.app


Overcast weather with rain. Rain is 0.5 to 1 mm/h of precipitation.

Rain weather symbol / Windy.app

Heavy rain

Overcast weather with heavy rain compared to the previous two conditions. Heavy rain means at least 1 mm of precipitation in an hour. But usually more.

Heavy rain weather symbol / Windy.app

Light sleet

Sleet is a mixture of snow and rain. One can change into the other or happen at the same time. The precipitation values for light sleet are the same as for light rain.

Light sleet weather symbol / Windy.app


A mixture of rain and snow in the same values as rain.

Sleet weather symbol / Windy.app

Light snow

Small ice crystals that fall from the sky. The values for light snow are the same as for light rain and light sleet.

Light snow weather symbol / Windy.app


It is snowing quite heavily — that is, more snow is falling than when you see the previous icon — and usually for several hours or more. Again, the numbers are the same.

Snow weather symbol / Windy.app

Heavy snow

A heavy snowfall, which can also usually be quite long in time. In the Alps, for example, snowfalls can last up to 24 hours in a row or more. A month's worth of precipitation can fall in a day, blocking traffic on mountain passes or even a whole city. So now you know what do different snow signs mean in weather app.

Heavy snow weather symbol / Windy.app

Partly cloudy at night

Overcast at night. There may be more or fewer clouds or clear skies.

Partly cloudy at night weather symbol / Windy.app

Clear sky at night

There are no clouds in the sky at all — it is completely clear like during the sunny day in the first icon from out list, or there are very few clouds in the sky.

Clear sky at night weather symbol / Windy.app

Additional weather signs

There may be more weather icons, depending on the app or other source you are using, describing much more weather conditions. For example, in the standard iOS weather app, you can find such signs as frigid temperature, windy, drizzle, hail, haze, fog, smoke, dust, mist, storm, thunderstorm, tornado, hurricane, and some others. On the other hand, you don't need all weather forecast symbols, because you probably don't have tornadoes or frequent fogs in your area, and so on.

Where to find weather symbols in Windy.app?

You can find weather symbols directly in two places:

On the Home screen

To do this, activate the Weather Widgets in the Settings for all your favorite spots and for the closest spot to your current location. This can also be any point on the map of your choice.

Weather widget for Helsinki in the Windy.app for iOS

Then, configure the widgets to show air temperature or precipitation.

Units in the Windy.app for iOS

On the spot screen

Let's take as an example a city with usually sunny weather: Los Angeles, USA, and a city with usually cloudy weather, Oslo, Norway:

Weather symbols on the Lite Weather Profile Widget in the Windy.app for iOS

To see the different weather signs, select the Lite Weather Profile by the icon with an umbrella sign to the right of the weather models. Now the symbols the meaning of which we explained in this article are on the first line in the weather forecast table.

For the current day, they are also duplicated on the widget at the top of the screen.

Weather symbols on the Lite Weather Profile Widget in the Windy.app for iOS

Additional weather symbols in the Windy.app

In addition to the basic weather signs, there are some important signs in the app that explain different states of nature, not weather. To see them, select other weather profiles. For example, in the Fishing Pro Weather Profile, you can see five additional useful parameters for anyone who is into fishing.

Read the compelete Guide to weather symbols and icons used in the Windy.app.


Text: Ivan Kuznetsov, an outdoor journalist, editor and writer from the Dolomites, Italy, and Karelia, Finland, with eight years of professional experience. Read his other articles.

Cover photo: Yann Allegre / Unsplash

You will also find useful

Guide to weather parameters used in Windy.app

How to read a weather map like an expert. Wind, precipitation, fronts, and more

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