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Watches, Warnings and Advisories

Watches, Warnings and Advisories

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I've been wondering...

What's the difference between a winter storm watch & a winter storm advisory? Also, what's the difference between a winter storm warning & a heavy snow warning?

--Sara Ogden, UT


Watches and warnings are easily defined, it's the advisories that get tricky.

Watches are issued when active weather is coming. In the winter, a winter storm watch would be that we are expecting winter weather in the time frame issued in the bulletin. In the summertime, a severe thunderstorm watch would be issued alerting people that strong thunderstorms will develop.

The criteria for snow warnings and advisories are different in each state, since clearly, 1 inch of snow in Utah isn't a major ordeal but in Atlanta it might be a problem.

A winter storm warning is a storm that has heavy snow warning criteria and/or wind, wind chill, or freezing precipitation. Heavy snow warnings are issued when valley locations have 6 inches or more snow in 12 hours. Locations up to 7,000 feet (like benches) 8'' in 12 hours and above 7,000 feet 12'' or more snow in 12 hours.

A snow advisory is a little different. An advisory would be a lesser weather event. A snow advisory for the SL valley is 3 to 5 inches of snow in 12 hours or less. You can click on the link on the right, it's PDF but has all the info you are looking for.

Just remember, warnings are the 'worst' of the bunch and advisories are 'still bad, but not as bad as a warning'.

Answered by KSL Meteorologist Dina Freedman.

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