Know These Common Winter Weather Terms

Do you know your winter weather terms? Photo credit: trendobjects via istockphoto.com

Know These Common Winter Weather Terms

Baby, it’s cold outside! The Northern Hemisphere is in the midst of winter and depending on where you live globally, your weather outlook might include words such as winter storm watch, wind chill warning, snow squalls or even snow showers.

While Australia and other places in the Southern Hemisphere experience near-record-high summer temperatures, those dealing with winter frigidness may not know the difference between a snow squall and snow shower. Do you understand the subtleties of a winter storm watch versus those of a winter storm outlook? And what is the difference between sleet and freezing rain?

Do you know your winter weather terms? Photo credit: trendobjects via istockphoto.com

Do you know your winter weather terms? Photo credit: trendobjects via istockphoto.com

In the UK, many people look to the MetOffice, for weather warnings that are delivered in four colours:

  • Green—no severe weather
  • Yellow—be aware
  • Orange—be prepared
  • Red—take action

As a result of our 2015 acquisition of GAB Robins, Crawford & Company® has a relationship with the Met Office through Weather Eye, the only UK system marketed in the insurance sector to use Met Office data.

The list below, courtesy of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), defines weather-related phrases used globally. The NOAA’s National Weather Service urges people to keep abreast of local forecasts and to become familiar with key weather terms.

Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.

Winter Storm Outlook: Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued 3 to 5 days in advance of a winter storm.

Winter weather can lead to treacherous driving conditions. Photo credit: Peter Zelei via istockphoto.com.

Winter weather can lead to treacherous driving conditions. Photo credit: Peter Zelei via istockphoto.com.

Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 miles per hour or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below ¼ mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

Lake Effect Snow Warning: Issued when heavy lake effect snow is imminent or occurring.

Lake Effect Snow Advisory: Issued when accumulation of lake effect snow will cause significant inconvenience.

Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.

Winter Weather Advisories: Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

Dense Fog Advisory: Issued when fog will reduce visibility to ¼ mile or less over a widespread area.

Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light dusting is all that is expected.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.

Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

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