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This question was originally closed as being off-topic. It has now finally been reopened.

The closing of the question caused some discussion in the comments, which has led to the question, when are weather related question on topic?

This is from the Aviation SE help centre:

If you have a question about…

Flying technique, maneuvers, navigation, procedures, etc.
Air Traffic Control
Aviation Weather
Aviation Regulations
Aerodynamics (related to aircraft)
Aviation Safety

…then you're in the right place to ask your question!

"Aviation Weather" is clearly defined as on-topic for this site. But what exactly is aviation weather?

Every pilot and air traffic controller receives meteorology lessons as a part of their basic training. To me, any meteorology topic that somehow influences aviation is to be considered "aviation weather". But apparently some people don't feel clouds are aviation weather. So where should we draw the line?

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    $\begingroup$ To me it's how the weather affects aviation. If you want to know how the weather works I'd recommend heading to Earth Science. $\endgroup$ – Notts90 supports Monica Feb 19 '17 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ I still do not see what's "aviation" in that question (and even less in the answer). If anyone would like to explain me, I'm available in chat. $\endgroup$ – Federico Feb 19 '17 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico which is exactly why I opened this meta question, so we can discuss what is on topic and what isn't. $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Feb 19 '17 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ Advisory Circular 00-6B $\endgroup$ – casey Feb 20 '17 at 2:24
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    $\begingroup$ @casey For someone who doesn't speak FAA, please enlighten me $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Feb 20 '17 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard You do not need to speak "FAA"; Advisory Circular 00-6B is the title of an actual document pertaining to the specific topic of "Aviation Weather". It supersedes 00-6A. The full document is here. $\endgroup$ – Jason C Feb 20 '17 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @JasonC If that document should be our definition, then it seems the linked question is well within the scope of aviation weather (chapter 11) $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Feb 20 '17 at 18:27
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It has to relate to aviation.

Aviation · Weather

It has to relate to how a pilot, a controller, or a manufacturer would factor that into flying. It has to be applied in aviation.

Some questions which are not related to aviation but weather only:

  • How are typhoons formed?
  • What is the electricity power of a lightning strike?
  • How high can cumulus clouds be?

Some questions which are related to aviation:

  • Do pilots receive typhoon warnings in their briefings?
  • How does an helicopter handle a lightning strike?
  • Can commercial airliners fly above cumulus clouds?
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    $\begingroup$ The electricity power of a lightning strike is "Just enough to fry your avionics bus and magnetize the steel parts in your engine." $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Feb 21 '17 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that cumulous cloud tops is very much an aviation topic. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Mar 3 '17 at 17:28
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I agree with kevin's answer as a general approach. In this specific case it seemed to me that the question is actually very useful and relevant for pilots: knowing how and where clouds form is very valuable for flight planning, especially longer VFR cross-countries. I edited the question to make an aviation connection and it was re-opened so I assume that some others agreed.

My point is that rather than simply closing a 'pure' weather question as off-topic, it may be more useful for everyone to edit it and make it aviation-related. That might not work in every case, but I think we should at least try to do that where possible, so that we keep useful information on this site.

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    $\begingroup$ the thing about "editing to make it fit" is that it may lead to answers that do not interest the OP (and they might no be aware about the rollback, being new users) $\endgroup$ – Federico Feb 20 '17 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico Conversely if the question doesn't fit here - or the answers to a suitably framed one wouldn't be interesting to the OP - they're probably looking for an Earth Science answer where our network's weather experts tend to hang out :) $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Feb 21 '17 at 18:02
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  1. Initial intention: "Aviation weather" is not simply "weather", that could mean the group of people who created this site had a particular view on this.

  2. Rules can be challenged. This is a living site, rules are not engraved in stone. We may want to adjust our use of the initial rules, because the shared opinion is this will make the site better, or clarify the rules.

  3. Closure official reason is only the one with majority, but that doesn't mean all reviewers provided this reason. This happens to me from time to time, rather than closing for "off-topic", I use "too broad", but it doesn't appear at the end. Misfortune never comes one at a time, it's difficult to retrieve the reason one has used (I was not able to see for this question). The two closure reasons don't send the same message to the OP. "Too broad" just invites the OP to reduce the scope so that answers can be provided and compared (and one can be selected as the best one, as this is how SE works).

  4. Having past examples of similar questions not closed doesn't tell whether the question those question are in scope or not, it just says that we may also want to re-process the other questions when we'll have a common opinion about closure as "off-topic" or any other reason.


That said, cloud formation is undoubtedly part of "aviation weather", and taught in any flight training program. Cloud formation is associated with wind and temperature, which are of first interest for the pilot. So it can be seen as in-topic as long as the question is closed enough, and not asking for a complete course about meteorology of clouds.

In that case a delay can be granted to monitor answers provided. If they clearly go off-scope, the question can then be held as "too broad" to refocus future answers.

If the answers bring value in the aviation domain, then, as @Ben has explained, the goal of the site is likely achieved. To me the current answer is an interesting one which adds value.

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I first found this website when I was studying a few weeks out from my PPL theory exam. I was trying to find some specific information about the workings of piston engines, and I found a wonderful answer here which helped me in the exam. Since then I have been of the opinion that this is a great site for student pilots.

Surely, everything that a student pilot needs to know is, by definition, 'aviation related', and has a place on this site. As far as I am aware, every regulator requires that student pilots understand how clouds are formed, making this question definitely on topic. The FAA thinks that this question falls under aviation weather, so why can't this site?

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While the question might be on the broad side, with the edit made by Pondlife, I think this is actually a good question for this site. Cloud formation is a very important concept to pilots. Sure, one could ask about cloud formation on Earth Sciences, but a pilot is going to be more familiar with the kinds of conditions that pilot specifically are looking for when making flight plans and when flying that could lead to cloud formation.

Earth Sciences could probably provide a more exhaustive answer about the details of how clouds form, but could well end up placing more emphasis on things that aren't as important to flying and less on the factors that pilots need to watch for.

Also, my understanding is that, in general, a question is not considered off-topic on an SE site just because it might also be on-topic or even more centrally-related to the topic of another SE site. I think this is a good example of why that's a good thing. While both sites are likely able to answer the question, the perspective and focus will likely be different.

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