Saturday, December 15, 2012

To Warn Or To Advise

The National Weather Service is looking to revise the way they warn, advise, or project the potential for wintry weather...and they are seeking your feedback.

Currently, the National Weather Service issues warnings, advisories, or watches depending on the type of precipitation, the severity (warning/advisory, impact and amount), and potential (watches).  However, they are looking to change that verbiage a fair amount by each category:

WATCHES:

Now: "THE NWS HAS ISSUED A _____ WATCH"

Proposed: "THE NWS FORECASTS THE POTENTIAL FOR ____"

...with the hazard type (snow, ice, wind, etc.), level of certainty, timing and expected impact(s) stated after the word for.

ADVISORIES:

Now: "THE NWS HAS ISSUED A(N) ______ ADVISORY"

Proposed: "THE NWS ADVISES CAUTION FOR ____"

WARNINGS:

Now: "THE NWS HAS ISSUED A(N)______ WARNING"

Proposed: "THE NWS HAS ISSUED A WARNING FOR A DANGEROUS______"

The proposed changes are being tried out at 26 NWS offices throughout the country, with the closest office trying these out located in Blacksburg, VA.  While these are proposed changes and they are being simulated in offices around the country, the current line from the NWS is to use the familiar line of attack (winter storm watches or warnings, winter weather advisories) as appropriate.  An example of this is in Grand Forks, ND for a snow and ice event that's moving through their region.

In reality, the changes (except for watch) are insignificant.  I do think the watch wording being changed to "forecasts the potential for" does not really convey the possibility but with the word "forecasts" included in the statement, it adds a higher level of confidence than what a winter storm watch would suggest.   If the NWS were to say something along the lines of "A Significant Winter Storm Is Possible" the forecaster is giving him/herself a bit more of an out if that winter storm does not come to pass or if it ends up being more an advisory event as opposed to a true warning criteria snowfall or ice accrual.

Comments and feedback are welcome through the end of March on the proposed changes.