Ceiling (cloud)

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Not to be confused with Cloud top.

In aviation, ceiling is a measurement of the cloud base height relative to the ground. Ceiling is reported as part of the METAR (METeorological Aviation Report) used for flight planning by pilots worldwide. A ceiling listed as "unlimited" means either that the sky is mostly free of cloud cover, or that the cloud is high enough not to impede Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operation. In a METAR, the lowest "BKN" or "OVC" layer specifies the cloud ceiling.[1]


The height above the ground or water of the base of the lowest layer of cloud below 6000 meters (20,000 feet) covering more than half the sky.
United Kingdom 
The vertical distance from the elevation of an aerodrome to the lowest part of any cloud visible from the aerodrome which is sufficient to obscure more than one half of the sky.[2]
United States 
The height above the Earth's surface of the lowest layer of clouds or obscuring phenomena that is reported as broken, overcast, or obscuration, and not classified as thin or partial.[3]


  1. ^ METAR
  2. ^ UK Air Navigation Order
  3. ^ Section 1.1 14 CFR Part 1 - Definitions - Federal Air Regulations