Severe weather terminology (United States)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from High wind watch)
Jump to: navigation, search

This article describes severe weather terminology used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the United States. The NWS defines precise meanings for nearly all of its weather terms. This article describes NWS terminology and related weather scales used by the agency. Some terms may be specific to certain cities or regions.

Definitions of severe weather alerts[edit]

The NWS divides severe weather alerts into a few types of hazardous weather/hydrologic events:

  1. Severe local storms - These are short-fused, small-scale hazardous weather or hydrologic events produced by thunderstorms, including large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes, and flash floods.
  2. Winter storms - These are weather hazards associated with freezing or frozen precipitation (freezing rain, sleet, snow) or combined effects of winter precipitation and strong winds.
  3. Fire Weather - Weather conditions leading to an increased risk of wildfires.
  4. Flooding - Temporary inundation of land areas not normally covered by water.
  5. Coastal/Lakeshore Hazards - Including high surf and coastal or lakeshore flooding, as well as rip currents.
  6. Marine Hazards - Including hazardous seas and freezing spray.
  7. Other hazards - Weather hazards not directly associated with any of the above including extreme heat or cold, dense fog, high winds, river flooding, and lakeshore flooding.

Severe local storms[edit]

An example of weather advisories displayed on a national map.
  • Tornado Watch (red box) - Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in and close to the watch area. These watches are issued for large areas by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, and are usually valid for five to eight hours.[1]
    Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch - Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing destructive tornadoes in and close to the watch area. These watches are occasionally issued, and usually mean that a major tornado outbreak is possible, where the potential for multiple violent (EF-4 and EF-5) tornadoes exists. These watches are usually valid for a longer period of time and issued for a larger area by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma than a typical Tornado Watch. This type of watch is usually only reserved for forecast "high-end" severe weather events.[2]
  • Tornado Warning - Strong rotation in a thunderstorm is indicated by Doppler weather radar or a tornado is sighted by Skywarn spotters or other persons, such as local law enforcement. These warnings are currently issued on a polygonal basis.[3]
    Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Warning - A large tornado has been confirmed to be producing damage and is moving into and through the warned area. It is usually issued as the initial tornado warning or as a complete re-issuance of the previous tornado warning. These may also include wording for a Tornado Emergency. This type of warning was initially issued only by National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices in Wichita and Topeka, Kansas, and Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City/Pleasant Hill, Missouri; it was expanded to include 33 additional National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices within the Central Region Headquarters in 2013, and then to eight additional offices within the Eastern, Southern and Western Regions in the spring of 2014.[4]
    Tornado Emergency - Sent as a "severe weather statement" or a complete re-issuance of the tornado warning, this is an unofficial, high end tornado warning issued when a violent tornado is expected to impact a heavily populated area. Such warnings have been issued for the F5-rated 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado, the 2007 EF5 tornado that destroyed much of Greensburg, Kansas, the 2011 EF4 tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the May 20, 2013 EF5 tornado that affected southern portions of the Oklahoma City area but mostly affected Moore, and the May 31, 2013 tornado system that went over the Oklahoma City area through an extremely densely populated area. This enhanced form of a tornado warning is issued mainly by Weather Forecast Offices within the National Weather Service's Central and Southern Region Headquarters; a tornado emergency is the highest level of a three-tiered Impact Based Warning system for tornadoes used by all WFOs within the Central Region Headquarters, and eight others within the Eastern, Southern and Western Regions.[4]
  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch (yellow box or blue box) - Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. A severe thunderstorm contains large damaging hail of 1 inch (2.7 cm) diameter or larger, and/or damaging winds greater than 58 mph (95 km/h or 50 knots) or greater. Isolated tornadoes are also possible but not expected to be the dominant severe weather event. These watches are issued for large areas by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, and are usually valid for five to eight hours.[5]
    Particularly Dangerous Situation Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. Isolated tornadoes are possible but not expected to be the dominant severe weather event, hence these watches are very rarely issued. An expected severe wind event (derecho) is the mostly likely reason for a PDS Severe Thunderstorm Watch to be issued, with widespread winds greater than 90 mph (150 km/h or 80 knots) possible. These watches are usually valid for a longer period of time and are issued for a larger area by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma than a typical Severe Thunderstorm Watch. This type of watch is usually only reserved for forecast "high-end" severe weather events.[2]
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning - A severe thunderstorm is indicated by Doppler weather radar or sighted by Skywarn spotters or other persons, such as local law enforcement. A severe thunderstorm contains large damaging hail of 1 inch in diameter or larger, and/or damaging winds of 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater. These warnings are currently issued on a polygonal basis.[6]
  • Significant Weather Advisory - A strong thunderstorm is indicated by Doppler weather radar, containing small hail below 1 inch (2.5 cm) diameter, and/or strong winds of 39–57 miles per hour (63–92 km/h). These advisories are usually issued on a county by county basis. These are issued as special weather statements written in the style of severe thunderstorm and other short-fused warnings, rather than being an official product itself. Some areas use an entirely different format (most notably WFOs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic), noting where in each county the thunderstorm will affect.
  • Flash Flood Watch (green box) - Conditions are favorable for (flash) flooding in and close to the watch area. These watches are issued by the Weather Forecast Office and are usually issued six to 24 hours in advance of expected flood potential. In Canada, a Heavy Rainfall Warning has a similar meaning.
    Particularly Dangerous Situation Flash Flood Watch - Conditions are favorable for an extremely elevated level of severe and life-threatening flash flooding beyond the level of a normal flash flood watch in and close to the watch area. These watches are usually issued for a smaller area by the local WFOs than typical Flash Flood Watches, which often span multiple county warning areas, and are usually valid for a longer period of time. This type of watch is usually only reserved for forecast "high-end" flash flood events.
  • Flash Flood Warning - Flash flooding is occurring, imminent, or highly likely. A flash flood is a flood that occurs within six hours of excessive rainfall and that poses a threat to life and/or property. Ice jams and dam failures can also cause flash floods. These warnings are issued on a county by county basis by the local Weather Forecast Office and are generally in effect for two to six hours, although particularly during tropical cyclones a warning may last for a longer period of time, and occasionally last shorter than two hours.[7]
  • Special Marine Warning - A warning to mariners of hazardous thunderstorms or squalls with wind gusts of 34 knots (39 mph or 63 km/h) or more, hail 1 inch (2.7 cm) diameter or larger, or waterspouts.[8]

Winter storms[edit]

  • Blizzard Warning - Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph (56 km/h) or greater, considerable falling, and/or blowing snow reducing visibility frequently to 1/4 mile (0.4 km) or less for a period of three hours or more. There are no temperature criteria in the definition of a blizzard but freezing temperatures and 35 mph (56 km/h) winds will create sub-zero (below -18 °C) wind chills.[9]
  • Blizzard Watch - Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph (56 km/h) or greater, considerable falling, and/or blowing snow reducing visibility frequently to 1/4 mile (0.4 km) or less for a period of three hours or more are possible generally within the next 48 hours.
  • Winter Storm Warning - Hazardous winter weather conditions that pose a threat to life and/or property are occurring, imminent, or highly likely. The generic term, winter storm warning, is used for a combination of two or more of the following winter weather events; heavy snow, freezing rain, sleet, and strong winds.[10] The National Weather Service has deprecated the Heavy Snow Warning and Sleet Warning products in favor of issuing a Winter Storm Warning for Heavy Snow or a Winter Storm Warning for Heavy Sleet, respectively.
  • Winter Storm Watch - Hazardous winter weather conditions including significant accumulations of snow and/or freezing rain and/or sleet are possible generally within 48 hours. These watches are issued by the National Weather Service Forecast Office.[11]
  • Winter Weather Advisory - Hazardous winter weather conditions are occurring, imminent, or likely. Conditions will cause a significant inconvenience and if caution is not exercised, may result in a potential threat to life and/or property. The generic term, winter weather advisory, is used for a combination of two or more of the following events; snow, freezing rain or freezing drizzle, sleet, and blowing snow.[12] The National Weather Service has deprecated the Snow Advisory and Blowing Snow Advisory products in favor of issuing a Winter Weather Advisory for Snow or a Winter Weather Advisory for Snow and Blowing Snow, respectively.

The following event-specific warnings are issued for a single weather hazard[edit]

Freezing Rain/Ice[edit]

  • Ice Storm Warning - Heavy ice accumulations are imminent and the criteria for amounts vary over different county warning areas. Accumulations range from 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 to 12 mm) or more of freezing rain. In Canada, these are known as Freezing Rain Warnings.[13]
  • Freezing Rain Advisory - A trace to 1/4 inch (1–6 mm) of expected freezing rain is needed in any county warning area to prompt a freezing rain advisory.[14]
  • Freezing Drizzle Advisory - A trace to 1/4 inch (1–6 mm) of expected freezing drizzle is needed in any county warning area to prompt a freezing rain advisory.[15]
  • Freezing Fog Advisory - Widespread dense fog reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile (400 m) that occurs in a sub-zero environment, leaving a thin glazing of ice.

Lake-Effect Snow[edit]

  • Lake-Effect Snow Warning - Very Heavy lake-effect snowfall amounts of generally 6 inches (15 cm) in 12 hours or less or 8 inches (20 cm) in 24 hours or less are imminent or highly likely. Lake-effect snow squalls can significantly reduce visibilities with little notice.[16]
  • Lake-Effect Snow Advisory - Heavy lake-effect snowfall amounts of generally 4 inches (10 cm) in 12 hours or less or 6 inches (15 cm) in 24 hours or less are imminent or highly likely. Lake-effect snow squalls can significantly reduce visibilities with little notice.
  • Lake-Effect Snow Watch - Very Heavy lake-effect snowfall amounts of generally 6 inches (15 cm) in 12 hours or less or 8 inches (20 cm) in 24 hours or less are possible generally within 48 hours. Lake-effect snow squalls can significantly reduce visibilities with little notice.

Windchill[edit]

  • Wind Chill Warning - Extreme wind chills that are life-threatening are imminent or occurring; the criteria varies significantly over different county warning areas.[17]
  • Wind Chill Advisory - Dangerous wind chills making it feel very cold are imminent or occurring; the criteria varies significantly over different county warning areas.[18]
  • Wind Chill Watch - Extreme wind chills that are life-threatening are possible; the criteria varies significantly over different county warning areas.

Deprecated[edit]

  • Heavy Snow Warning - Heavy snowfall amounts are imminent and the criteria for amounts vary significantly over different county warning areas.[19]
  • Sleet Warning - Heavy sleet accumulations of 2 inches (5 cm) or more in 12 hours or less are imminent. Usually issued as a winter storm warning for heavy sleet.[20]
  • Snow Advisory - Moderate snowfall amounts are imminent and the criteria for amounts vary significantly over different county warning areas.[21]
  • Blowing Snow Advisory - Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 25 to 35 mph (40 to 56 km/h) accompanied by falling and blowing snow, occasionally reducing visibility to 1/4 mile (0.4 km) or less.[22]
  • Extreme Cold Watch - Dangerously low temperatures are possible for a prolonged period of time. Frostbite and hypothermia are likely if exposed to these temperatures.
  • Extreme Cold Warning - Dangerously low temperatures are expected for a prolonged period of time. Frostbite and hypothermia are likely if exposed to these temperatures.

Fire Weather[edit]

  • Fire Warning - A fire is currently burning in the area and evacuation is recommended.
  • Red Flag Warning - A warning issued when conditions are favorable for the rapid spread of wildfires.
  • Fire Weather Watch - Conditions are expected to become favorable for the rapid spread of wildfires.

Flooding[edit]

  • River Flood Warning - Flooding of streams or rivers is occurring, imminent, or highly likely. These warnings are issued on a county by county basis by the local Weather Forecast Office and are generally in effect for a couple of days or longer.
  • Areal Flood Warning - General or areal flooding of streets, low-lying areas, urban storm drains, creeks, and small streams is occurring, imminent, or highly likely. Flood warnings are usually issued for flooding that occurs more than six hours after the excessive rainfall, or when flooding is imminent/occurring but is not rapid enough to prompt a flash flood warning. These warnings are issued on a polygonal basis by the local Weather Forecast Office and are generally in effect for six to twelve hours.[23]
  • River Flood Advisory - Streams or rivers reaching action stage is occurring, imminent, or highly likely. These advisories are issued on a county by county basis by the local Weather Forecast Office and are generally in effect for a couple of days or longer.
  • Areal Flood Advisory - Minor general or areal flooding of streets, low-lying areas, urban storm drains, creeks, and small streams is occurring, imminent, or highly likely. These advisories are issued on a polygonal basis by the local Weather Forecast Office and are generally in effect for three to six hours.
  • Urban and small stream flood advisory - Another form of the areal flood advisory, where ponding of water of streets, low-lying areas, highways, underpasses, urban storm drains, and elevation of creek and small stream levels is occurring or imminent. Urban and small stream flood advisories are issued for flooding that occurs within three hours after the excessive rainfall. These advisories are issued on a polygon basis by the local Weather Forecast Office and are generally in effect for three to four hours (however, the polygon does not appear on the NWS website).[24]

Coastal/Lakeshore Hazards[edit]

  • Coastal Flood Warning - Coastal flooding that is occurring or is imminent in the next 12 hours, which poses a serious threat to life and/or property.
  • Coastal Flood Watch - Coastal flooding that is possible in the next 24 hours, which would pose a serious threat to life and/or property.
  • Coastal Flood Advisory - Minor coastal flooding that is occurring or is imminent in the next 12 hours, which poses a threat to life and/or property.
  • Storm Surge Warning (proposed) - Localized heavy flooding due to a tropical cyclone's storm surge.[25]
  • Lakeshore Flood Warning - Lakeshore flooding that is occurring or is imminent in the next 12 hours, which poses a serious threat to life and/or property.
    Seiche Warning - Rapid, large fluctuations in water level in the Great Lakes (similar to the sloshing in a bath tub) caused by storms or high winds, resulting in both lakeshore flooding and critically low water levels at different times. Issued as a Lakeshore Flood Warning with mention of being a Seiche Warning.
  • Lakeshore Flood Watch - Lakeshore flooding that is possible in the next 24 hours, which would pose a serious threat to life and/or property.
  • Lakeshore Flood Advisory - Minor lakeshore flooding that is occurring or is imminent in the next 12 hours, which poses a threat to life and/or property.
  • High Surf Warning - Destructive, pounding surf poses a danger to those in and near the water and may damage property near the shoreline.
  • High Surf Advisory - Pounding surf poses a danger to those in the water.
  • Rip Current Statement - Describes a risk of rip currents present in the specified area (may be issued as a beach hazards statement).
  • Beach Hazards Statement - Issued for rip currents, chemical hazards, or biological hazards in lake or ocean waters.

Marine Hazards[edit]

  • Heavy Freezing Spray Warning - Usually issued for shipping interests when conditions are favorable for the rapid freezing of sea spray on vessels at a rate of more than 2 centimetres (0.79 in) per hour.
  • Freezing Spray Advisory - Usually issued for shipping interests when conditions are probable for the freezing of sea spray on vessels.[26]
  • Hazardous Seas Warning - Issued when rough surf is expected, but strong winds are not.
  • Hazardous Seas Watch - Issued when rough surf is possible, but strong winds are not expected.
  • Low Water Advisory - Issued when critically low water levels present a navigation hazard.
  • Marine Weather Statement - The equivalent of a special weather statement at sea.

Temperature[edit]

See also Windchill section above.

  • Excessive Heat Warning - Extreme Heat Index (HI) values forecast to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least two days. Specific criteria varies among local Weather Forecast Offices, due to climate variability and the effect of excessive heat on the local population. Typical HI values are maximum daytime temperatures above 105 to 110 °F (41 to 43 °C) and minimum nighttime temperatures above 75 °F (24 °C).[27][28]
    • Excessive Heat Watch - Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.[27]
  • Extreme Cold Warning - Forecast shelter temperature of −50 °F (−46 °C) or colder and air temperature remains below −40 °F (−40 °C) up to the 700-mb level for three or more consecutive days. Only issued in Alaska. Elsewhere, an Extreme Cold Warning can be issued by local Weather Forecast Offices as an experimental product using locally appropriate thresholds, usually with little or no wind.[27]
    • Extreme Cold Watch - Conditions are favorable for an extreme coldevent to meet or exceed local Extreme Cold Warning criteria. Operational in Alaska only.[27]
  • Freeze Warning - Widespread sheltered temperatures at or below 32 °F (0 °C) during the growing season. A freeze may occur with or without frost.[27][29]
    • Freeze Watch - Conditions are favorable for a freeze event to meet or exceed Freeze Warning criteria in the next 12 to 48 hours during the locally defined growing season.[27]
  • Frost Advisory - Minimum sheltered temperature forecast to be 33 to 36 °F (1 to 2 °C) during the locally defined growing season on nights with good radiational cooling conditions (e.g., light winds and clear skies). Widespread frost can be expected.[27][30]
  • Hard Freeze Warning - Widespread temperatures at or below 28 °F (−2 °C) during the growing season. A hard freeze may occur with or without frost.[27]
  • Heat Advisory - High Heat Index (HI) values forecast to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for one or two days. Specific criteria vary over different county warning areas, due to climate variability and the effect of excessive heat on the local population. Typical HI values are maximum daytime temperatures above 100 to 105 °F (38 to 41 °C) and minimum nighttime temperatures above 75 °F (24 °C).[27][31]

Aviation[edit]

The following advisories are issued by the National Weather Service Aviation Weather Center (except for Alaska) or Alaska Aviation Weather Unit. Atmospheric ash plume advisories/warnings are also issued by the United States Geological Survey (Aviation Color Codes).

  • Center Weather Advisory - Advisories issued when conditions just below severe (SIGMET) criteria. CWAs are issued for: thunderstorms, turbulence, icing, and ceiling & visibility limits (IFR)[32]
  • SIGMET (Significant Meteorological Information) - Advises of weather that is potentially hazardous to all aircraft and is affecting or is forecast to affect at least 3,000 square miles (8,000 km2).[32]
    • Convective SIGMET - A convective SIGMET implies severe or greater turbulence, severe icing, and low level wind shear. Issued for severe surface weather (including surface winds greater than or equal to 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph), hail at the surface greater than or equal to 34 inch (19 mm) in diameter, or tornadoes); embedded thunderstorms; line of thunderstorms; thunderstorms greater than or equal to VIP level 4 affecting 40% or more of an area at least 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2).[32]
    • Non-Convective SIGMET - These SIGMETs may be issued for: severe icing; severe or extreme turbulence; dust storms and/or sand storms lowering visibilities to less than 3 miles (5 km); or volcanic ash. SIGMET advisories are issued for 6 hours during hurricanes and 4 hours for other weather-related events.[32]
  • Volcanic Ash Advisories - Advisory issued for all ash plumes detected by satellite imagery, including the location of the volcano, location/description of ash plume, forecast (at 6, 12, & 18 hours), and a graphic of the ash plume location/forecast. VAAs are issued by Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers in Anchorage (Alaska) and Washington (Contiguous United States, Caribbean, Central America, most of the North Pacific, and South America north of 10°S) [33]

VAAs are standardized worldwide by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Other hazards[edit]

  • Air Stagnation Advisory - Atmospheric conditions stable enough to cause air pollutants to accumulate in a given area. Criteria developed in conjunction with the local or state EPA and the product issued at their request.[27]
  • Ashfall Advisory - Airborne ash plume resulting in ongoing deposition at the surface. Ashfall may originate directly from a volcanic eruption or from the re-suspension (by wind) of a significant amount of relic ash.[27]
  • Blowing Dust Advisory - Strong winds and considerable blowing sand or dust reducing visibilities.[27]
  • Dense Fog Advisory - Widespread or localized fog reducing visibilities to 14 mi (0.4 km) or less.[27][34]
  • Dense Smoke Advisory - Widespread or localized fog reducing visibilities to 14 mi (0.4 km) or less.[27]
  • Dust storm warning - Widespread or localized blowing dust reducing visibilities to 14 mi (0.4 km) or less. Sustained winds of 25 mph or greater are usually required.[27]
  • Special Weather Statement - An advisory issued when a hazard is approaching advisory level. In some areas, also used in lieu of a significant weather advisory.[27]

Wind and Tropical Cyclones[edit]

Wind alerting is classified into groups of two beaufort numbers, beginning at 6-7 for the lowest class of wind advisories. The last group includes three beaufort numbers, 14-16. The actual alerts can be categorized into three classes: maritime wind warnings, land wind warnings, and tropical cyclone warnings. Advisory-force and gale-force winds will not trigger a separate wind advisory or warning if a Blizzard warning is already in effect. However, as seen with Hurricane Sandy, if widespread high wind warnings are in effect prior to the issuance of a blizzard warning, the high wind warnings may be continued.

Wind alert terms and signals[edit]

Wind speed Marine or Beach Hazard Warning Land Warning Tropical Cyclone Warning(s) Flags Lights Beaufort force
25 to 38 mph (22 to 33 knots) Small craft advisory[35] Wind Advisory Wind Advisory or Small craft advisory Small craft warning (USA).jpg Smallcraftlights.gif 6-7
39 to 54 mph (34 to 47 knots) Gale warning[36] High wind warning Tropical storm warning* Gale warning (USA).jpg Galelights.gif 8-9
55 to 73 mph (48 to 63 knots) Storm warning[37] High wind warning Tropical storm warning Storm warning (USA).jpg Stormlights.gif 10-11
74-110 mph (64 to 99 knots) Hurricane Force Wind Warning[38] High wind warning Hurricane warning Hurricane warning (USA).jpg Hurricanelights.gif 12-13
Over 110 mph (100+ knots) Hurricane Force Wind Warning Extreme wind warning Hurricane warning and Extreme wind warning none none 14-16

* Tropical Storm Warning flags and lights will always be displayed the same as Storm Warning flags and lights.
A tropical storm with winds in this range is sometimes referred to as a "severe tropical storm".
The Extreme Wind Warning is issued shortly before the eyewall makes landfall

Hazardous weather risks[edit]

The various weather conditions described above have different levels of risk. The National Weather Service uses a multi-tier system of weather statements to notify the public of threatening weather conditions. These statements are used in conjunction with specific weather phenomenea to convey different levels of risk. In order of increasing risk, these statements are:

  • Outlook - A Hazardous Weather Outlook is issued daily to indicate that a hazardous weather or hydrologic event may occur in the next several days. The outlook will include information about potential severe thunderstorms, heavy rain or flooding, winter weather, extremes of heat or cold, etc., that may develop over the next seven days with an emphasis on the first 24 hours of the forecast. It is intended to provide information to those who need considerable lead time to prepare for the event (emergency management agencies, Skywarn spotters, etc.).[39]
  • Advisory - An advisory is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, imminent, or likely. Advisories are for "less serious" conditions than warnings that may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised could lead to situations that may threaten life or property. The National Weather Service may activate weather spotters in areas affected by advisories to help them better track and analyze the event.[40]
  • Emergency - An Emergency is issued when an event that by itself cannot pose a threat to life or property, but may indirectly cause other events to happen that may pose a threat to life or property. An example of this would be a power outage. A power outage does not directly pose a hazard, but may threaten public safety and critical services. The only existing exceptions to this are the tornado emergency and flash flood emergency, which are to get the attention of the public to a major tornado or flash flood.[41]
  • Watch - A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set their plans in motion can do so. A watch means that hazardous weather is possible. People should have a plan of action in case a storm threatens and they should listen for later information and possible warnings especially when planning travel or outdoor activities. The National Weather Service may activate weather spotters in areas affected by watches to help them better track and analyze the event.[42]
  • Warning - A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, imminent, or likely. A warning means weather conditions pose a threat to life or property. People in the path of the storm need to take protective action. The National Weather Service may activate weather spotters in areas affected by warnings to help them better track and analyze the event.[43]
  • Statement - A statement is either issued as a follow-up message to a warning, watch, or emergency, that may update, extend, or cancel the message it is following up or a notification of significant weather for which no type of advisory, watch, or warning exists.[41]

Media distribution[edit]

Hazardous weather forecasts and alerts are provided to the public using the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards system and through news media such as television and radio. Many local television stations have overlay graphics which will either show a map or a list of the affected areas. The most common NWS weather alerts to be broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio using SAME technology are described in the following table:

Common NWS weather alerts
Event name Code Description
Tornado Watch TOA Also known as a red box. Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms producing tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Watches are usually in effect for several hours, with six hours being the most common (also automatically indicates a Severe Thunderstorm Watch).
Tornado Warning TOR Tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by storm spotters. The warning will include where the tornado is and what towns will be in its path (also automatically indicates a Severe Thunderstorm Warning).
Severe Thunderstorm Watch SVA Also known as a yellow box or blue box. Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. Watches are usually in effect for several hours, with six hours being the most common.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning SVR Issued when a thunderstorm produces hail 1 inch (27 mm) or larger in diameter and/or winds which equal or exceed 58 mph (93 km/h). Severe thunderstorms can result in the loss of life and/or property. Information in this warning includes: where the storm is, what towns will be affected, and the primary threat associated with the storm. Tornadoes can also and do develop in severe thunderstorms without the issuance of a tornado warning.
Severe Weather Statement SVS Issued when the forecaster wants to follow up a warning with important information on the progress of severe weather elements.
Special Marine Warning SMW Issued when a thunderstorm over water produces hail 1 inch (27 mm) or larger in diameter, causes winds which equal or exceed 39 mph (63 km/h), or is capable of producing or currently producing a waterspout. Information in this warning includes: where the storm is, what waters will be affected, and the primary threat associated with the storm.
Flood Watch FLA Issued as either a Flood Watch or a River Flood Watch. Indicates that flooding is possible in and close to the watch area. Those in the affected area are urged to be ready to take action if a flood warning is issued or flooding is observed.
Flood Warning FLW Issued as either a Flood Warning or a River Flood Warning. Indicates that flooding is imminent or occurring in the warned area.
Flash Flood Watch FFA Also known as a green box. Indicates that flash flooding is possible in and close to the watch area. Those in the affected area are urged to be ready to take quick action if a flash flood warning is issued or flooding is observed.
Flash Flood Warning FFW Signifies a dangerous situation where rapid flooding of small rivers, streams, creaks, or urban areas are imminent or already occurring. Very heavy rain that falls in a short time period can lead to flash flooding, depending on local terrain, ground cover, degree of urbanization, degree of man-made changes to river banks, and initial ground or river conditions.
Blizzard Watch BZA An announcement for specific areas that blizzard conditions are possible.
Blizzard Warning BZW A warning that sustained winds or frequent gusts 30 kn (35 mph or 56 km/h) or higher and considerable falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibilities to 1/4 mile or less are expected in a specified area. A blizzard warning can remain in effect when snowfall ends but a combination of strong winds and blowing snow continue, even though the winter storm itself may have exited the region (also automatically indicates a Winter Storm Warning for Heavy Snow and Blowing Snow).
Tropical Storm Watch TRA An announcement for specific areas that tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
Tropical Storm Warning TRW A warning that sustained winds within the range of 34 to 63 kn (39 to 73 mph or 63 to 117 km/h) associated with a tropical cyclone are expected in a specified area within 36 hours or less.
Hurricane Watch HUA An announcement for specific areas that hurricane conditions are possible, and tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
Hurricane Warning HUW A warning that sustained winds 64 kn (74 mph or 118 km/h) or higher associated with a hurricane are expected, and tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours in a specified area. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force (also automatically indicates a Tropical Storm Warning).

Related weather scales as defined by the NWS[edit]

The NWS uses several scales in describing weather events or conditions. Several common scales are described below.

Hail diameter sizes and updraft speed needed to create them[edit]

Main article: Hail
Hailstone size Measurement (in) Measurement (cm) Updraft Speed (mph) Updraft Speed (m/s)
pea 0.25 0.6 40 18
penny 0.75 1.9 44 20
quarter* 1.00 2.5 49 22
half dollar 114 3.2 54 24
walnut 112 3.8 60 27
golf ball 134 4.4 64 29
hen egg† 2.00 5.1 69 31
tennis ball 212 6.4 77 34
baseball 234 7.0 81 36
tea cup 3 7.6 84 38
grapefruit 4 10.1 98 44
softball 412 11.4 103 46

* Begins hail sizes within the severe hail criterion.
Begins hail sizes within the Storm Prediction Center's significant severe criterion.

Beaufort wind scale[edit]

Main article: Beaufort scale
Wind Category Beaufort number Wind speed Conditions
Advisory-force 6 25 to 31 mph (40 to 50 km/h) Large branches in motion; whistling in telephone wires.
Advisory-force 7 32 to 38 mph (51 to 62 km/h) Whole trees in motion; inconvenience felt walking against wind.
Gale-force 8 - 9 39 to 54 mph (63 to 88 km/h) Twigs break off trees; wind generally impedes progress. Tropical storm criteria begin.
Storm-force 10 - 11 55 to 73 mph (89 to 117 km/h) Damage to chimneys and television antennas; pushes over shallow-rooted trees. Severe thunderstorm criteria begin (58 mph (93 km/h)).
Hurricane-force 12 - 13 74 to 112 mph (118 to 181 km/h) Peels shingles off roofs; windows broken if struck by debris; trees uprooted or snapped; mobile homes severely damaged or overturned; moving cars pushed off road. Hurricane criteria begin.
Major hurricane-force
Extreme wind
14 - 16 113 to 237 mph (182 to 381 km/h) Roofs torn off houses; cars lifted off ground; trees defoliated and sometimes debarked. Major hurricane criteria begin.

:Beaufort levels above 12 are non-standard in the United States. Instead, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (Category 1, Category 2, etc.) is used.

Enhanced Fujita tornado intensity scale[edit]

Main article: Enhanced Fujita scale

The Enhanced Fujita Scale, an updated version of the original Fujita Scale that was developed by Ted Fujita with Allen Pearson, assigns a numerical rating from EF0 to EF5 to rate the damage intensity of tornadoes. EF0 and EF1 tornadoes are considered "weak" tornadoes, EF2 and EF3 are classified as "strong" tornadoes, with winds of at least major hurricane force, where EF4 and EF5 are categorized as "violent" tornadoes, with winds corresponding to category 5 hurricane winds and rising to match or exceed the strongest tropical cyclones on record. The EF scale is based on tornado damage (primarily to buildings), which makes it difficult to rate tornadoes that strike in sparsely populated areas, where few man-made structures are found. The Enhanced Fujita Scale went into effect on February 1, 2007.

EF number Wind speed Comparable hurricane winds Damage Examples
0 65–85 mph (105–137 km/h) Severe tropical storm – Category 1 Light damage. Peels surface off some roofs; some damage to gutters or siding; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over. Philadelphia (1999), Jacksonville (2004), St. Louis (2007), Windsor, Ontario (2009), Minneapolis (2009)
1 86 to 110 (138 to 178 km/h) Category 1-2 Moderate damage. Roofs severely stripped; mobile homes overturned or badly damaged; loss of exterior doors; windows and other glass broken. Houston, (1992), Miami (1997), Bronx NYC (2010), Brooklyn&Queens NYC (2010), Minneapolis, (2011)
2 111 to 135 (179 to 218 km/h) Category 3 Considerable damage. Roofs torn off well-constructed houses; foundations of frame homes shifted; mobile homes completely destroyed; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; cars lifted off ground. Salt Lake City (1999), Brooklyn (2007), Atlanta (2008), Vaughan, Ontario (2009), Mobile (2012)
3 136 to 165 (219 to 266 km/h) Category 4-5 Severe damage. Entire stories of well-constructed houses destroyed; severe damage to large buildings such as shopping malls; trains overturned; trees debarked; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown; structures with weak foundations blown away some distance. St. Louis (1871), Miami (1925), Pine Lake, Alberta (2000), Springfield (2011), El Reno, OK (2013)
4 166 to 200 (267 to 322 km/h) Strong category 5 Devastating damage. Well-constructed houses and whole frame houses completely leveled; cars thrown and small missiles generated. St. Louis (1896), Regina, Saskatchewan (1912), Worcester (1953), Jackson (2003), Tuscaloosa&Birmingham, AL, (2011)
5 >200 (>322 km/h) None Explosive damage. Strong frame houses leveled off foundations and swept away; automobile-sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 m (300 ft); steel reinforced concrete structures badly damaged; high-rise buildings have significant structural deformation; incredible phenomena will occur. Waco (1953), Birmingham (1977), Moore, OK (1999), Joplin, (2011), Moore, OK (2013),

Saffir-Simpson hurricane category scale[edit]

Category Sustained winds Storm surge Central pressure Potential damage Example
Saffir-Simpson Category 1.svg 33–42 m/s

74–95 mph
64–82 knot
119–153 km/h

4–5 ft

1.2–1.5 m

28.94 inHg

980 mbar

No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.[44] Bess (1974)

Jerry (1989)
Ismael (1995)
Danny (1997)
Gaston (2004)

Saffir-Simpson Category 2.svg 43–49 m/s

96–110 mph
83–95 kt
154–177 km/h

6–8 ft

1.8–2.4 m

28.50–28.91 inHg

965–979 mbar

Some roofing material, door, and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected anchorages may break their moorings.[44] Carol (1954)

Diana (1990)
Erin (1995)
Marty (2003)
Juan (2003)

Saffir-Simpson Category 3.svg 50–58 m/s

111–130 mph
96–113 kt
178–209 km/h

9–12 ft

2.7–3.7 m

27.91–28.47 inHg

945–964 mbar

Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtainwall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.[44] Alma (1966)

Alicia (1983)
Roxanne (1995)
Fran (1996)
Isidore (2002)

Saffir-Simpson Category 4.svg 59–69 m/s

131–155 mph
114–135 kt
210–249 km/h

13–18 ft

4.0–5.5 m

27.17–27.88 inHg

920–944 mbar

More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.[44] "Galveston" (1900)

Hazel (1954)
Iniki (1992)
Iris (2001)
Charley (2004)

Saffir-Simpson Category 5.svg ≥70 m/s

≥156 mph
≥136 kt
≥250 km/h

≥19 ft

≥5.5 m

<27.17 inHg

<920 mbar

Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.[44] "Labor Day" (1935)

"Mexico" (1959)
Camille (1969)
Gilbert (1988)
Andrew (1992)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  2. ^ a b National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  3. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  4. ^ a b National Weather Service (2014). "Impact Based Warnings". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  5. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  6. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  7. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  8. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  9. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  10. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  11. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  12. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  13. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  14. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  15. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  16. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  17. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  18. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  19. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  20. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  21. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  22. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  23. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  24. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  25. ^ National Hurricane Center (September 2012). "National Hurricane Center’s views on the use of scales to communicate the storm surge hazard". National Hurricane Center’s views on the use of scales to communicate the storm surge hazard. Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  26. ^ National Weather Service (2010-10-14). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "WFO NON-PRECIPITATION WEATHER PRODUCTS SPECIFICATION" (PDF). NWS Directives System. National Weather Service. 18 November 2011. pp. 6–7. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  28. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  29. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  30. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  31. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  32. ^ a b c d "ADDS SIGMET Help". Aviation Weather Center. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  33. ^ "Washington, DC VAAC - Introduction". NOAA Satellite Information Service. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  34. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  35. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  36. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  37. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  38. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  39. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  40. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  41. ^ a b National Weather Service (2005-10-11). "Emergency Alert System (EAS) Event Codes/ NWR Specific Area Message Encoding (NWR-SAME) Codes". Emergency Alert System (EAS) Event Codes/NWR Specific Area Message Encoding (NWR-SAME) Codes. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  42. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  43. ^ National Weather Service (2009-06-25). "National Weather Service glossary". National Weather Service glossary. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  44. ^ a b c d e National Hurricane Center (June 22, 2006). "Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Information". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2007-02-25.