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Winter weather watch, warning and advisory: What's the difference?

 

Have you ever wondered how the National Weather Service can tell that a major winter storm is brewing and will affect 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?

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It's a highly sophisticated process. It starts with observing the current situation. The National Weather Service operates a widespread network of observing systems such as geostationary satellites.

How are winter storms monitored and forecast?

Doppler radars and automated surface observing systems constantly monitor 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. 

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.

Winter storm watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area, but their occurrence, location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued to provide 12 to 36 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 4 or more inches of snow or sleet are expected in the next 12 hours or 6 or more inches in 24 hours, or a quarter-inch or more of ice accumulation is expected.

A winter weather advisory informs the public 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 chills. Listen carefully to the radio, television and NOAA weather radios for the latest winter storm watches, warnings and advisories. 

For additional information on this, visit the winter weather awareness web page.

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-scale 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 Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, monitor weather data from across the nation for developing bands of heavy snow and freezing precipitation, as well as lightning, 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 8 inches of snow carries much greater consequences for a city's rush hour than 4 inches.

Want to learn more about the Storm Prediction Center's operations? For additional information visit the Storm Prediction Center web page.

How to keep your kids entertained when stuck at home by severe weather

When severe weather keeps you inside your home with your children, there are things you can do to keep kids entertained while you keep your sanity.

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If you're home for the day, or a few days, here are a few things you can do to stay entertained without going crazy or running up your data plans.

If you still have power:

Do some family-friendly baking:

One way to keep kids occupied is with a slew of simple cooking tasks (cracking eggs, manning the mixing bowl) and the promise of sweets.

Cooking Light has a roundup of “kid-friendly desserts,” including gluten-free s'more bars, chewy caramel apple cookies and more. If you run through that list, the Food Network has another.

And not having kids is no reason not to bake in bad weather: for company, just sub in the closet available roommates, family, friends or pets. (This advice applies to the rest of the list.)

Check out these party games:

Jackbox's Drawful is a bizarre twist on Pictionary: players score points not just for drawing the best possible version of, say, "angry ants"; but also for getting other players to guess their answer for a given drawing instead of the correct one.

Drawful comes packaged as part of the Jackbox Party Pack and is available to buy and download here, and is compatible with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Amazon Fire TV and others. All you need to play is a phone, tablet or controller. 

But if you're feeling more competitive and less artistic, consider QuizUp. Available for both iPhone and Android. This competitive trivia app pits two players against each other in seven rounds of questions in one of several hundred different categories, including pop culture and academia. And it's free. 

Get crafty:

Create a crafting area in your home. Fill it with crafting materials like tape, paper and boxes. When inspiration strikes your child, they can create fun things in their own “workshop.”

Without power:

Get clever:

When the house goes dark, kids’ imaginations light up. A trip to the bathroom with a flashlight can become an adventure, and reading stories by candlelight will stick with them more than just another movie night. 

Get ahead of a power outage:

Stock up on glow sticks. Kids can really have fun with these simple light sticks. Once you crack them, they provide a bright light for up to 12 hours and a dim light for as long as 36 hours. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors, and can provide hours of fun for children.

Build a fort:

Kids love building forts just for fun anyway. So if you find yourself in the dark without power, gather up pillows and blankets, and plan on moving some furniture around to help your little ones build the perfect fortress. You can even make it more like an adventure. Plan to snuggle in for the night, and maybe tell a few ghost stories, too.

7 tips to keep your pets safe during winter weather

Winter storms are common this time of year, and while we bundle up our human members of the family to stay safe and warm, you have to also remember the four-footed fur babies.

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The ASPCA has released tips for keeping your pets safe during the winter months.

1.Keep your home humidified and dry your pet with a towel as soon as he comes in from the cold. Make sure the animal's feet are free of snow. Wash your pet's feet and stomach after a walk to remove ice, salt and chemicals.

2. Fully bathe your pets as little as possible during cold weather. Too many baths can get rid of essential oils. If you must give your pet a bath, use a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse. 

3. Don't shave your dog in the winter. A longer coat will give your dogs more insulation. If your dog is a short-haired pup, consider a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck. Also make sure it covers from the base of the tail to the belly.

4. Use petroleum jelly or other paw protectants on paws before going out. You can go as far as putting on booties to keep sand and salt away from their pads. When possible, use pet-friendly ice melts on your sidewalks.

5. Feed your pet a little more during winter months and make sure he has enough to drink. Pets burn extra energy trying to stay warm. The extra water can keep him hydrated and his skin less dry.

6. Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off of the floor and away from drafts. The ASPCA says a pet bed with a blanket or pillow will work.

7. If it's too cold for you outside, it's too cold for your pet. Pets left outside can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or even killed. And don't let them in a car. Cars can act as refrigerators, according to the ASPCA. They can hold the cold in and cause animals to freeze to death.

Scenes from Southern California Wildfire

Scenes from Southern California Wildfire

What You Need to Know: Winter Solstice

What You Need to Know: Winter Solstice

Supermoon 2017: 12 must-see photos that lit up social media

Did you miss the supermoon that delighted skygazers Sunday night? Here’s the good news: Photographers around the world shared must-see snapshots of the phenomenon on social media.

>> Click here or scroll down to see the photos

>> MORE PHOTOS: Supermoon 2017 around the world

>> Sunday supermoon kicks off trilogy of spectacular lunar viewing

>> Supermoon 2017: How to see, photograph the majestic ‘Full Cold Moon’ this weekend

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You’ll also get a chance to see other supermoons on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018.

Photos: Supermoon delights skygazers around the world

A trilogy of supermoons began Dec. 3, 2017, with a full cold moon that could be viewed in person or online. The other supermoons will occur Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018.

Photos: Bali volcano Mount Agung prompts mass evacuation

Indonesian authorities ordered a mass evacuation of people Monday from an expanded danger zone around an erupting volcano on Bali.

NASA to launch JPSS-1 weather satellite Saturday morning

NASA, in partnership with the NOAA, will launch a satellite Saturday that will help improve weather forecasts.

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The satellite launch was scheduled for earlier this week, but was postponed twice, once because of high winds and once because of technical difficulties.

The launch for the JPSS-1 satellite is scheduled at 4:47 a.m. Saturday, according to NASA.

>> Related: NASA postpones JPSS-1 weather satellite launch

A live stream of the launch will be available on NASA’s website starting at 4:15 a.m.

The satellites will help improve NOAA forecasts for the three to seven day time frame. The data collected from the JPSS is fed into the numerical forecast models to help improve them. The satellites will also collect atmospheric measurements, ground conditions and ocean conditions like vegetation, hurricane intensity and atmospheric moisture. 

The JPSS-1 will be launch from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California pending proper flight conditions. The launch was originally scheduled for Tuesday.

>> Related: NASA scrubs launch of JPSS-1 weather satellite again

This satellite is a polar orbiting satellite, which means it will orbit the earth from the one pole to the other passing the equator 14 times a day. Full coverage of the planet will then be provided twice a day.

JPSS-2 is planned to launch in 2021, and JPSS-3 and JPSS-4 are anticipated to launch in 2026 and 2031.

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