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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 02/29/2008

Watch Out: Weather Warnings Could Change

By Dan Stillman

Confused by the sometimes dizzying array of watches, warnings and advisories issued by the National Weather Service in advance of and during winter storms?

You're not the only one.

The National Weather Service itself is proposing to "simplify and clarify the communication and dissemination of expected winter weather hazards." In a statement released yesterday, the NWS says:


The gist of the changes would be to combine "a number of current advisory and warning categories with similar impacts." The NWS graphic below summarizes the proposed changes...


Read the full NWS statement on the proposed changes here. The statement includes an email address for public comment.

Not sure what the difference between a watch, warning and advisory is in the first place? Read our FAQ on the topic.

By Dan Stillman  | February 29, 2008; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  News & Notes  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Windy Transition to March
Next: CommuteCast: Most Rain to Wait Until After Rush


Warning! I'm watching for an advisory.

Posted by: Bikerjohn | February 29, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

So that's basically how it USED to be, before they got more specific. That's hilarious.

Posted by: hobbes | February 29, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Interesting, especially with all the conversation from last week about whether an ice storm warning should have been issued or not. If a more generic winter weather advisory/warning may have been available, perhaps it would have been used instead.

Posted by: Jamie Jones, CapitalWeather Gang | February 29, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Next week, will be interesting the NAO is flattening out. In historical record shows our big storms when (93 SuperStorm) we had a flat NAO. When this happens cold air and warm mosit air calsh and we tend to get some pretty intesnse storms as tropical air is pulled into the equation. Several of our larger storms have been in March.

We still need to keep an eye on 3/4 3/7-8. Not saying its going to snow but there is certainly the possiblity, especially 3/7 as a storm swings down through the country in a pattern we've needed all winter for a big snow event this winter

Posted by: Nate | February 29, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The purpose of this is to MUDDY the picture, not to make it more clear. How could MORE details ever be a bad thing, when you're talking about preparing the public?

I call shenanigans!

Posted by: Ken | February 29, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

You called?

Posted by: Shenanigans | February 29, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I think I would leave sleet as its own category.

Posted by: Mark1 | February 29, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | February 29, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

The all upper case is a relic of the old days and teletype machines.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 29, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I think that making all of the winter watches/warnings/advisories non-specific could be bad in the sense of public perception. Most non-weather geeks think that "winter weather advisory" means just a few flakes, and under this "new system", in reality they could be having 15 foot snow drifts by morning. I agree that they have gotten really specific lately (like "flood advisory"...that just popped up recently and I still don't know what the criteria for it are), but that is good because it lets you know EXACTLY what could happen.

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | February 29, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I think many folks are hesitant now to post anything to do with the models. I think many folks will leave because of that. Cap Team, your Model Mutter post was well written but it gave off an underlying message to not post ANY discussions on the models. Since you began the cap website, many of us enjoyed discussing model thoughts and feedback. YOu'll still retain your regular model hater few no it all's who loves to correct everyone with pessimistic sass (VTBob). However the large majority of the regulars will be silent or leave now.

Posted by: see ya | February 29, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The NWS started to use "Winter Weather Advisory" in 1987 but I wish they hadn't dropped the old term, "Traveler's Advisory." Makes me nostalgic for high-school days, listening to Harden and Weaver on WMAL to hear what the Fairfax County delays were.

Posted by: WSL | February 29, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

see ya -- We would never discourage model talk on these boards, and your interpretation of Steve's post is way off-base. Steve wrote an interesting summary of model strengths, limitations and improvements over the years. Nowhere does the post say or even imply that model discussion isn't welcome here. So, please, model mutter away.

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | February 29, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

. . . and I want to shop at PEOPLE'S DRUG, not #@$%@#^ CVS!

Posted by: WSL | February 29, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

So will this be helpful for "the public" . . .or not? Does it matter if it's snow, sleet, blowings snow. . .or just bad driving? Many of these warnings have evolved from meetings with EMs who wanted to know how to treat roads . . .sleet, light snow. "black" ice, snow at 1"/hr. . .etc. etc. All require different "attacks" by highway crews. But for 99% of us it just means slippery driving or snow covered roads or a winter storm where we probably don't want to drive in.

Winter weather "advisory" for icy/slippery roads. . .be very careful driving in these conditions . . .travel may be delayed.

Winter storm or winter weather "warning" for hazardous winter conditions where travel may be dangerous and travel plans may be disrupted.

Let all the other subcategories continue to be disseminated to the EM community and educate the public about the 2 simple "advisory" or "warning" meanings for winter weather.

Posted by: rtwx | February 29, 2008 10:57 PM | Report abuse


NWS policy for issuing all products in capital letters is based on guidelines set by the WMO to ensure backward compatabilty with teletypes.

"4.6 Use of capital and small letters

4.6.1 In ITA2, it is possible to use teleprinters with two series of letter characters, capital and small letters.

4.6.2 It is possible to use sequences of the shift combinations of ITA2 for transfer from one series to the other.

4.6.3 If this possibility is used, it is essential to obtain compatibility with teleprinters having only one series of letter characters."

See page 95.

Now you know.

Posted by: TQ | March 1, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Under this proposal you get...

1)...'winter wx' bulletins issued when it/s not winter. For example...heavy snow is expected in NOV but the bulletin would have 'winter' in its title. Makes the agency look stoopit.

2) 'up front,' 'top-of-the-pyramid' information as to the specific threat. No matter what the always, always have to read at least one...sometimes two...eye-glazing paragraphs about 'HIGH pressure this' and 'LOW pressure that' before you get the specific threat information that/s been buried below the lede. With the current header structure at least you some degree...what to expect.

3)...more confusion about what constitutes a 'winter storm.' Heavy snow and/or sleet are winter storms but ice storms are not. Snow and sleet are 'winter weather' but freezing rain is not. Freezing rain is portrayes as different than an ice storm.

Posted by: TQ | March 1, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

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