Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Weather Service eyes change in warnings

The National Weather Service is launching a three-month test on changes in the wording of its winter weather advisories and warnings.

The test is the result of a study showing that some people are confused by exactly what is meant by a Winter Weather Advisory, Winter Storm Watch, and Winter Storm Warning.

The goal is to make the headlines a bit clearer, so people get an idea of what type of winter weather threat is possible, and when it might happen.

Basically, a Winter Weather Advisory is issued when relatively minor amounts of snow, ice or sleet are expected. In an advisory situation, we're told that the wintry precipitation will be a nuisance, but not enough to cause a major problem.

The Winter Storm Watch is much like a Tornado Watch or a Hurricane Watch.  It's notification that a potentially significant winter storm is possible, although meteorologists aren't certain enough to issue a warning.

And the Winter Storm Warning is used when a significant amount of snow, sleet and/or freezing rain is expected in an area soon.

Here are some examples of how it would change.

For advisories ...

Current: "The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for snow."

Change: "The National Weather Service advises caution for light snow."

For watches ...

Current: The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch."

Change: The National Weather Service forecasts the potential for heavy snow."

For warnings ...

Current: The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning."

Change: The National Weather Service has issued a warning for a dangerous snow and sleet storm."

The experiment will take place until March 31 at 26 National Weather Service offices across the country. The Charlotte region is served by four offices.  Greer (S.C.) oversees Charlotte and most other area counties. Raleigh oversees Anson, Richmond, Stanly and Montgomery counties in the Charlotte region. Columbia handles Lancaster and Chesterfield counties in our area. And the Blacksburg (Va.) office oversees Watauga, Ashe and Wilkes counties in the Charlotte region.

Blacksburg is the only Charlotte-area office asked to participate in the experiment this winter.

But if the Weather Service likes what it sees, we all could be getting our winter weather advisories, watches and warnings a new way next year.


Anonymous said...

These changes make sense. I wish that for summertime warnings, they would go back to only issuing tornado warnings when an actual cyclone has been detected. I hate this mess they do now where they issue a tornado warning when it looks like maybe, possibly, in the oft chance a cyclone might come down, start screaming "TORNADO WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LIFE IS ABOUT TO END!!!!!!!!!".

Now here's hoping we actually have to use these notices for some real snow this year!

Windy Arnold said...

Here is a warning: If the sky is black, and there are trees and cars flying around, you better take cover. Chances are, a bad wind is upon you.

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