What’s the difference between a Winter Weather Advisory, Watch, and Warning?

Weather Blog

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Winter weather can sometimes sneak up on us, so it’s best to stay informed and know what to expect when alerts are issued.

Meteorologists use a variety of classifications to distinguish between certain types of weather events. When it comes to winter, the most common is the Winter Weather Advisory.

These are typically issued the most often because Southern New England tends to see far more “minor” snow events than large storms, whether that’s due to the lack of cold air, a weak storm system, or the speed and location of a storm.

A Winter Weather Advisory covers most minor to moderate snow events.

Next up is a Winter Storm Watch, which means the potential exists for 6 or more inches of snow. It’s called a “watch” because it’s not a guarantee. Its purpose is to give the public enough of a heads up to adjust plans, run errands, and stay inside if possible once the storm hits.

These are typically issued at least 24 hours in advance of an impending storm and are not nearly as frequent, but still used often during the winter months.

A Winter Storm Warning means confidence has increased to 80% or higher that a winter storm is likely.

At least 6 inches of snow is expected to fall within 12 hours of the warning being issued, or at least 8 inches of snow within 24 hours.

The National Weather Service uses these alerts as a way to help get important information out to the public.

Download the free Pinpoint Weather App to receive these and other storm updates on your phone.

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