Posted by: Kelley Dees | April 20, 2011

Watch or Warning: What’s the difference???

We’ve all been there. You’re watching TV or listening to the radio and it happens: The local meteorologist comes on and says that a watch or warning has been issued. Do you know the difference? Did you know that one is more serious than the other? Probably so. The important question: Do you know which is more serious? Probably not.

Contrary to popular opinion, watches and warnings are NOT issued by your local TV station to interrupt your favorite TV show! Both watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) to inform the public of impending severe weather. There is a difference between the two that is generally determined by the timing of the storm’s development. The official definitions from the NWS are:

  • Watch: A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.
  • Warning: A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.

In layman’s terms, a watch means it could happen and a warning means it will happen or is currently happening. The most important thing to remember when facing severe weather is to be prepared. Listen to broadcast information, but also use your senses and experience to know when to take cover. As isolated as many of our farmers and ranchers are, keep in mind that many areas may not receive warning in time, so awareness is important! While meteorological equipment is improving daily, weather is still as unpredictable as ever.

Special thanks to Joe Hansel, morning meteorologist for KCWY channel 13 in Casper, Wyoming, for sharing this information. Check out Joe’s Weather Blog for more weather information.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.


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