October 27, 1999 NOTE TO EDITORS: Following are winter weather-related
story ideas that you may want to develop as weather and science-related
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 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. Want to learn
more about the technologies? Visit the following web page: www.nws.noaa.gov
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 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 is expected in the next 12 hours, or 6 or more inches
in 24 hours, or 1/4 inch or more of ice accretion is expected.
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.
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
NOAA's Storm Prediction Center
in Norman, Okla., 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 eight inches of snow carries much
greater consequences for a city's rush hour than four inches.
Want to learn more about the Storm Prediction Center's operations?
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. What winter weather preparations are
being made in your area, and what are the appropriate steps to
take that will ensure your winter weather safety? Help your readers,
viewers and listeners make sure their homes and cars are ready
for the worst winter has to offer.
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 on the Internet at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/er/iln/tables.htm#wind
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 list of Questions and Answers about snow
that are sure to be of interest to anyone experiencing winter
Hard At Work When the Storm Hits
While most of us stay home from
work or school during severe winter weather, National Weather
Service meteorologists are hard at work. Twenty-four hours a
day, 365 days a year, NWS meteorologists staff local offices
across the country to make sure the latest forecasts, watches
and warnings get out to emergency managers, the media, and the
public. What's it like at a forecast office? Don't wait for a
major winter storm; contact your local office and ask to spend
the day with them, and observe the exciting, day-to-day process
of forecasting the snow before it hits.
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