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As of September 1, 2014, the NOAAWatch website will be discontinued. Active weather alerts will continue to be available 24/7 at www.weather.gov. Hurricane tracking widgets will continue to be available at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/widgets/nhc_widget.shtml and http://www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl/cphc/?widgets. Learn about ways to get updates through social media at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/. For information about how to reach other NOAA data and information, please email NOAAWatch@noaa.gov. A temporary redirect of website traffic to NOAA’s homepage will exist for a short period of time after the shut-down of NOAAWatch.gov.

UPDATE:  The NWS has replicated the NOAAWatch Briefing Page which can be found at http://www.weather.gov/briefing/.

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Winter Weather


A Major Winter Storm is Moving Up the East Coast- How is it Monitored and Forecast?

Have you ever wondered how the National Weather Service can tell a major winter storm is brewing and will impact your area in the coming days or hours? How can meteorologists tell if a storm is intensifying and where it will bring the most snow? It's a highly sophisticated process. It all starts with observing the current situation. The National Weather Service operates a widespread network of observing systems such as geostationary satellites. Doppler radars, and automated surface observing systems that feed into the current state-of-the-art numerical computer models to provide a glimpse of what will happen next - ranging from hours to days. The models are then analyzed by NWS meteorologists who use their experience and expertise to write and disseminate forecasts.

car in snow
Las Vegas, February 23-24, 2004
(Photo by David Thornburg)

Winter Weather Watches, Warnings and Advisories- What do they all Mean?

The National Weather Service uses specific winter weather terms to ensure that people know what to expect in the coming days and hours . A Winter Storm Watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area, but its occurrence, location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued to provide 12 to 48 hours notice of the possibility of severe winter weather. A winter storm watch is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set plans in motion can do so. A watch is upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning 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 Weather Advisories inform you that winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, advisory situations should not become life-threatening. A Blizzard Warning means that snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill. Be sure to listen carefully to the radio, television, and NOAA Weather Radio for the latest winter storm watches, warnings, and advisories. A complete listing of winter weather terms and definitions of watches, warnings, and advisories is available

Why is Predicting the Exact Amount of Snowfall So Challenging?

Snow forecasts continue to improve, but they remain a challenging task for meteorologists. Heavy snow often falls in small bands that are hard to discern on larger resolution computer models. In addition, extremely small temperature differences define the boundary line between rain and snow.

Will the approaching storm bring heavy snowfall to your area?

Each winter, meteorologists at the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, monitor weather data from across the nation for developing areas of heavy snow and freezing precipitation within weather systems. Their ability to provide additional information about developing situations enhances winter storm warnings and helps National Weather Service field offices, private industry and local governments improve preparedness. For instance, a prediction of eight inches of snow carries much greater consequences for a city's rush hour than four inches.

Are you Prepared for Winter Weather?

Winter weather too often catches people unprepared. Researchers say that 70 percent of the fatalities related to ice and snow occur in automobiles, and about 25 percent of all winter related fatalities are people that are caught off guard, out in the storm.

Getting the Latest Winter Weather Information

There is no better way to keep ahead of a winter storm than with NOAA Weather Radio (NWR), a small receiver device that can be purchased at many electronic stores. As the "Voice of the National Weather Service," it provides continuous broadcasts of the latest weather information from local National Weather Service offices. The NWR network has more than 425 stations, covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Pacific Territories. Weather radios come in many sizes, with a variety of functions and costs. The NWR network has been further advanced by the implementation of Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology. The SAME allows the user to receive warnings only for their specific location. SAME receivers are a live-saving tool, providing audible alert tones for any weather warnings. A NOAA Weather Radio is a useful and potentially life-saving gift idea this holiday season.

What is Wind Chill?

One of the gravest dangers of winter weather is wind chill. The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin by combined effects of wind and cold. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also effected by wind chill. Check out the wind chill chart.

NOAA's Snow and Ice Center

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) serves as the national information center that supports research in glaciers and freezing weather phenomenon. The NSIDC archives snow and ice data, and maintains information about everything from avalanches to icebergs. The NSIDC web site contains a fascinating reference about snow that is sure to be of interest to anyone experiencing winter weather.


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