Weather Defender Documentation

Page History: Watch, Warning & Advisory Layers

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Page Revision: 12/03/2010 12:04 PM



1 - Introduction

Watches, Warnings & Advisories are three separate layers in Weather Defender but come from the same source: National Weather Service weather bulletins. On your scree, you will see multi-colored boxes - which are counties - depending on the type of weather is present.

2 - Layer Descriptions



2.1 - Watches



A government-issued watch is issued after advisories but before warnings, usually within a few hours of the expected event. Watches are displayed in solid colors.


2.2 - Warnings



Warnings are government-issued outlooks for small areas where severe weather is imminent or presently occurring. In Weather Defender, Warnings are displayed as outlined colors.


2.3 - Advisories



Advisories are the longest-range government-issued notices about hazardous weather. These are often issued one or more days in advance of the expected threat. In Weather Defender, Advisories are displayed as cross-hatched colors.



3 - Color Codes

The following table specifies the color value for each Watch, Warning, or Advisory displayed in Weather Defender:

























































































































































































































































Hazard / Weather Event Color Description
911 Telephone Outage  
Administrative Message  
Air Quality Alert  
Air Stagnation Advisory   This National Weather Service product is issued when major buildups of air pollution, smoke, dust, or industrial gases are expected near the ground for a period of time. This usually results from a stagnant high pressure system with weak winds being unable to bring in fresh air.
Ashfall Advisory   An advisory issued for conditions associated with airborne ash plume resulting in ongoing deposition at the surface. Ashfall may originate directly from a volcanic eruption, or indirectly by wind suspending the ash.
Ashfall Warning  
Avalanche Warning  
Avalanche Watch  
Blizzard Warning   Issued for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to prevail for a minimum of 3 hours.
Blizzard Watch  
Blowing Dust Advisory  
Blowing Snow Advisory   Issued when wind driven snow reduces surface visibility, possibly, hampering traveling. Blowing snow may be falling snow, or snow that has already accumulated but is picked up and blown by strong winds.
Brisk Wind Advisory   A Small Craft Advisory issued by the National Weather Service for ice-covered waters.
Child Abduction Emergency  
Civil Danger Warning  
Civil Emergency Message   (Abbrev. CEM) - A message issued by the National Weather Service in coordination with Federal, state or local government to warn the general public of a non-weather related time-critical emergency which threatens life or property, e.g. nuclear accident, toxic chemical spill, etc.
Coastal Flood Advisory  
Coastal Flood Statement  
Coastal Flood Warning  
Coastal Flood Watch  
Dense Fog Advisory   Issued when fog reduces visibility to 1/8 mile or less over a widespread area. For marine products: An advisory for widespread or localized fog reducing visibilities to regionally or locally defined limitations not to exceed 1 nautical mile.
Dense Smoke Advisory   An advisory for widespread or localized smoke reducing visibilities to regionally or locally defined limitations not to exceed 1 nautical mile.
Dust Storm Warning  
Earthquake Warning  
Evacuation Immediate  
Excessive Heat Warning   Issued within 12 hours of the onset of the following criteria: heat index of at least 105°F for more than 3 hours per day for 2 consecutive days, or heat index more than 115°F for any period of time.
Excessive Heat Watch   Issued by the National Weather Service when heat indices in excess of 105ºF (41ºC) during the day combined with nighttime low temperatures of 80ºF (27ºC) or higher are forecast to occur for two consecutive days.
Extreme Cold Warning  
Extreme Cold Watch  
Extreme Fire Danger  
Extreme Wind Warning   Extreme Wind Warning (EWW) inform the public of the need to take immediate shelter in an interior portion of a well-built structure due to the onset of extreme tropical cyclone winds. An EWW for extreme tropical cyclone winds should be issued when both of the following criteria are met: a. Tropical cyclone is a category 3 or greater on the Saffir Simpson hurricane scale as designated by NHC, CPHC or JTWC. b. Sustained tropical cyclone surface winds of 100 knots (115 mph) or greater are occurring or are expected to occur in a WFO’s county warning area within one hour.
Fire Warning  
Fire Weather Watch  
Flash Flood Statement   (FFS) In hydrologic terms, a statement by the NWS which provides follow-up information on flash flood watches and warnings.
Flash Flood Warning   Issued to inform the public, emergency management, and other cooperating agencies that flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely.
Flash Flood Watch   Issued to indicate current or developing hydrologic conditions that are favorable for flash flooding in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent.
Flood Advisory  
Flood Statement  
Flood Warning   (FLW) In hydrologic terms, a release by the NWS to inform the public of flooding along larger streams in which there is a serious threat to life or property. A flood warning will usually contain river stage (level) forecasts.
Flood Watch   Issued to inform the public and cooperating agencies that current and developing hydrometeorological conditions are such that there is a threat of flooding, but the occurrence is neither certain nor imminent.
Freeze Warning   Issued during the growing season when surface temperatures are expected to drop below freezing over a large area for an extended period of time, regardless whether or not frost develops.
Freeze Watch  
Freezing Drizzle Advisory   Issued when freezing rain or freezing drizzle is forecast but a significant accumulation is not expected. However, even small amounts of freezing rain or freezing drizzle may cause significant travel problems.
Freezing Fog Advisory  
Freezing Rain Advisory   Issued when freezing rain or freezing drizzle is forecast but a significant accumulation is not expected. However, even small amounts of freezing rain or freezing drizzle may cause significant travel problems.
Freezing Spray Advisory   An advisory for an accumulation of freezing water droplets on a vessel at a rate of less than 2 centimeters (cm) per hour caused by some appropriate combination of cold water, wind, cold air temperature, and vessel movement.
Frost Advisory   Issued during the growing season when widespread frost formation is expected over an extensive area. Surface temperatures are usually in the mid 30s Fahrenheit.
Gale Warning   A warning of sustained surface winds, or frequent gusts, in the range of 34 knots (39 mph) to 47 knots (54 mph) inclusive, either predicted or occurring, and not directly associated with a tropical cyclone.
Gale Watch   A watch for an increased risk of a gale force wind event for sustained surface winds, or frequent gusts, of 34 knots (39 mph) to 47 knots (54 mph), but its occurrence, location,and/or timing is still uncertain.
Hard Freeze Warning  
Hard Freeze Watch  
Hazardous Materials Warning  
Hazardous Seas Warning   A warning for wave heights and/or wave steepness values meeting or exceeding locally defined warning criteria.
Hazardous Seas Watch   A watch for an increased risk of a hazardous seas warning event to meet Hazardous Seas Warning criteria but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.
Hazardous Weather Outlook   A narrative statement produced by the National Weather Service, frequently issued on a routine basis, to provide information regarding the potential of significant weather expected during the next 1 to 5 days.
Heat Advisory   Issued within 12 hours of the onset of the following conditions: heat index of at least 105°F but less than 115°F for less than 3 hours per day, or nighttime lows above 80°F for 2 consecutive days.
Heavy Freezing Spray Warning   A warning for an accumulation of freezing water droplets on a vessel at a rate of 2 cm per hour or greater caused by some appropriate combination of cold water, wind, cold air temperature, and vessel movement.
Heavy Freezing Spray Watch   A watch for an increased risk of a heavy freezing spray event to meet Heavy Freezing Spray Warning criteria but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.
Heavy Snow Warning   Issued by the National Weather Service when snowfall of 6 inches (15 cm) or more in 12 hours or 8 inches (20 cm) or more in 24 hours is imminent or occurring. These criteria are specific for the Midwest and may vary regionally.
High Surf Advisory   A High Surf Advisory is issued when breaking wave action poses a threat to life and property within the surf zone. High surf criteria vary by region. High Surf Advisories are issued using the Coastal and Lakeshore Hazard Message (CFW) product.
High Surf Warning   A High Surf Warning is issued when breaking wave action results in an especially heightened threat to life and property within the surf zone. High surf criteria vary by region. High Surf Warnings are issued using the Coastal and Lakeshore Hazard Message (CFW) product.
High Wind Warning   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when high wind speeds may pose a hazard or is life threatening. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state. In Michigan, the criteria is sustained non-convective (not related to thunderstorms) winds greater than or equal to 40 mph lasting for one hour or longer, or winds greater than or equal to 58 mph for any duration.
High Wind Watch   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when there is the potential of high wind speeds developing that may pose a hazard or is life threatening. The criteria for this watch varies from state to state. In Michigan, the criteria is the potential for sustained non-convective (not related to thunderstorms) winds greater than or equal to 40 mph and/or gusts greater than or equal to 58 mph.
Hurricane Force Wind Warning   A warning for sustained winds, or frequent gusts, of 64 knots (74 mph) or greater, either predicted or occurring, and not directly associated with a tropical cyclone.
Hurricane Force Wind Watch   A watch for an increased risk of a hurricane force wind event for sustained surface winds, or frequent gusts, of 34 knots 64 knots (74 mph) or greater, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.
Hurricane Statement  
Hurricane Warning   A warning that sustained winds 64 kt (74 mph or 119 kph) or higher associated with a hurricane are expected in a specified coastal area in 24 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
Hurricane Watch   An announcement of specific coastal areas that a hurricane or an incipient hurricane condition poses a possible threat, generally within 36 hours
Hurricane Wind Warning  
Hurricane Wind Watch  
Hydrologic Advisory  
Hydrologic Outlook  
Ice Storm Warning   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when freezing rain produces a significant and possibly damaging accumulation of ice. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state, but typically will be issued any time more than 1/4" of ice is expected to accumulate in an area.
Lake Effect Snow Advisory   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when pure lake effect snow (this is where the snow is a direct result of lake effect snow and not because of a low pressure system) may pose a hazard or it is life threatening. The criteria for this advisory varies from area to area.
Lake Effect Snow Warning   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when pure lake effect snow (this is where the snow is a direct result of lake effect snow and not because of a synoptic storm or low pressure system) may pose a hazard or it is life threatening.
Lake Effect Snow Watch  
Lake Effect Snow and Blowing Snow Advisory  
Lake Wind Advisory  
Lakeshore Flood Advisory   See Coastal/Lakeshore Flood Advisory.
Lakeshore Flood Statement  
Lakeshore Flood Warning  
Lakeshore Flood Watch   See: COASTAL/LAKESHORE FLOOD WATCH
Law Enforcement Warning  
Local Area Emergency  
Low Water Advisory   An advisory to describe water levels which are significantly below average levels over the Great Lakes, coastal marine zones, and any tidal marine area, waterway, or river inlet within or adjacent to a marine zone that would potentially be impacted by low water conditions creating a hazard to navigation.
Marine Weather Statement   A National Weather Service product to provide mariners with details on significant or potentially hazardous conditions not otherwise covered in existing marine warnings and forecasts. Marine weather statements are also used to supplement special marine warnings.
Nuclear Power Plant Warning  
Radiological Hazard Warning  
Red Flag Warning   A term used by fire-weather forecasters to call attention to limited weather conditions of particular importance that may result in extreme burning conditions. It is issued when it is an on-going event or the fire weather forecaster has a high degree of confidence that Red Flag criteria will occur within 24 hours of issuance. Red Flag criteria occurs whenever a geographical area has been in a dry spell for a week or two, or for a shorter period , if before spring green-up or after fall color, and the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) is high to extreme and the following forecast weather parameters are forecasted to be met: 1) a sustained wind average 15 mph or greater 2) relative humidity less than or equal to 25 percent and 3) a temperature of greater than 75 degrees F. In some states, dry lightning and unstable air are criteria. A Fire Weather Watch may be issued prior to the Red Flag Warning.
Rip Current Statement  
Severe Thunderstorm Warning   This is issued when either a severe thunderstorm is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail 3/4 inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. They are usually issued for a duration of one hour. They can be issued without a Severe Thunderstorm Watch being already in effect.

Like a Tornado Warning, the Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued by your National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWFO). Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will include where the storm was located, what towns will be affected by the severe thunderstorm, and the primary threat associated with the severe thunderstorm warning. If the severe thunderstorm will affect the nearshore or coastal waters, it will be issued as the combined productSevere Thunderstorm Warning and Special Marine Warning. If the severe thunderstorm is also causing torrential rains, this warning may also be combined with a Flash Flood Warning. If there is an ampersand (&) symbol at the bottom of the warning, it indicates that the warning was issued as a result of a severe weather report.

After it has been issued, the affected NWFO will follow it up periodically with Severe Weather Statements. These statements will contain updated information on the severe thunderstorm and they will also let the public know when the warning is no longer in effect.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch   This is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. A severe thunderstorm by definition is a thunderstorm that produces 3/4 inch hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. The size of the watch can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review severe thunderstorm safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Prior to the issuance of a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, SPC will usually contact the affected local National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWFO) and they will discuss what their current thinking is on the weather situation. Afterwards, SPC will issue a preliminary Severe Thunderstorm Watch and then the affected NWFO will then adjust the watch (adding or eliminating counties/parishes) and then issue it to the public by way of a Watch Redefining Statement. During the watch, the NWFO will keep the public informed on what is happening in the watch area and also let the public know when the watch has expired or been cancelled.
Severe Weather Statement   A National Weather Service product which provides follow up information on severe weather conditions (severe thunderstorm or tornadoes) which have occurred or are currently occurring.
Shelter In Place Warning  
Short Term Forecast   A product used to convey information regarding weather or hydrologic events in the next few hours.
Sleet Advisory  
Sleet Warning   Issued when accumulation of sleet in excess of 1/2" is expected; this is a relatively rare scenario. Usually issued as a winter storm warning for heavy sleet.
Small Craft Advisory   (SCA) - An advisory issued by coastal and Great Lakes Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) for areas included in the Coastal Waters Forecast or Nearshore Marine Forecast (NSH) products. Thresholds governing the issuance of small craft advisories are specific to geographic areas. A Small Craft Advisory may also be issued when sea or lake ice exists that could be hazardous to small boats. There is no precise definition of a small craft. Any vessel that may be adversely affected by Small Craft Advisory criteria should be considered a small craft. Other considerations include the experience of the vessel operator, and the type, overall size, and sea worthiness of the vessel. * Eastern (ME..SC, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario) - Sustained winds or frequent gusts ranging between 25 and 33 knots (except 20 to 25 knots, lower threshold area dependent, to 33 knots for harbors, bays, etc.) and/or seas or waves 5 to 7 feet and greater, area dependent. * Central (MN..OH) - Sustained winds or frequent gusts (on the Great Lakes) between 22 and 33 knots inclusive, and/or seas or waves greater than 4 feet. * Southern (GA..TX and Caribbean) - Sustained winds of 20 to 33 knots, and/or forecast seas 7 feet or greater that are expected for more than 2 hours. * Western (WA..CA) - Sustained winds of 21 to 33 knots, and/or wave heights exceeding 10 feet (or wave steepness values exceeding local thresholds * Alaska (AK) - Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 23 to 33 knots. A small craft advisory for rough seas may be issued for sea/wave conditions deemed locally significant, based on user needs, and should be no lower than 8 feet. * Pacific - (HI, Guam, etc) - Sustained winds 25 knots or greater and seas 10 feet or greater; except in Guam and the northern Mariana Islands where it is sustained winds 22 to 33 knots and/or combined seas of 10 feet or greater. "Frequent gusts"are typically long duration conditions (greater than 2 hours). For a list of NWS Weather Offices by Region, refer to the following website: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/organization.php
Snow and Blowing Snow Advisory  
Special Marine Warning   (SMW) A warning product issued for potentially hazardous weather conditions usually of short duration (up to 2 hours) producing sustained marine thunderstorm winds or associated gusts of 34 knots or greater; and/or hail 3/4 inch or more in diameter; and/or waterspouts affecting areas included in a Coastal Waters Forecast, a Nearshore Marine Forecast, or an Great Lakes Open Lakes Forecast that is not adequately covered by existing marine warnings. Also used for short duration mesoscale events such as a strong cold front, gravity wave, squall line, etc., lasting less than 2 hours and producing winds or gusts of 34 knots or greater.
Special Weather Statement  
Storm Warning   A warning of sustained surface winds, or frequent gusts, in the range of 48 knots (55 mph) to 63 knots (73 mph) inclusive, either predicted or occurring, and not directly associated with a tropical cyclone.
Storm Watch   A watch for an increased risk of a storm force wind event for sustained surface winds, or frequent gusts, of 48 knots (55 mph) to 63 knots (73 mph), but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.
Test  
Tornado Warning   This is issued when a tornado is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or sighted by spotters; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. They can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect. They are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes.

A Tornado Warning is issued by your local National Weather Service office (NWFO). It will include where the tornado was located and what towns will be in its path. If the tornado will affect the nearshore or coastal waters, it will be issued as the combined productTornado Warning and Special Marine Warning. If the thunderstorm which is causing the tornado is also producing torrential rains, this warning may also be combined with a Flash Flood Warning. If there is an ampersand (&) symbol at the bottom of the warning, it indicates that the warning was issued as a result of a severe weather report.

After it has been issued, the affected NWFO will followed it up periodically with Severe Weather Statements. These statements will contain updated information on the tornado and they will also let the public know when warning is no longer in effect.
Tornado Watch   This is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Their size can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They normally are issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.

A Tornado Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma. Prior to the issuance of a Tornado Watch, SPC will usually contact the affected local National Weather Forecast Office (NWFO) and they will discuss what their current thinking is on the weather situation. Afterwards, SPC will issue a preliminary Tornado Watch and then the affected NWFO will then adjust the watch (adding or eliminating counties/parishes) and then issue it to the public. After adjusting the watch, the NWFO will let the public know which counties are included by way of a Watch Redefining Statement. During the watch, the NWFO will keep the public informed on what is happening in the watch area and also let the public know when the watch has expired or been cancelled.
Tropical Storm Warning   A warning for sustained surface winds, associated with a tropical cyclone, within the range of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph), expected in a specified coastal area within 24 hours.
Tropical Storm Watch   An announcement that a tropical storm poses or tropical storm conditions pose a threat to coastal areas generally within 36 hours. A tropical storm watch should normally not be issued if the system is forecast to attain hurricane strength.
Tropical Storm Wind Warning  
Tropical Storm Wind Watch  
Tsunami Advisory   For products of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC - Pacific (except Alaska, British Columbia and Western States) Hawaii, Caribbean (except Puerto Rico, Virgin Is.), Indian Ocean): The third highest level of tsunami alert. Advisories are issued to coastal populations within areas not currently in either warning or watch status when a tsunami warning has been issued for another region of the same ocean. An Advisory indicates that an area is either outside the current warning and watch regions or that the tsunami poses no danger to that area. The Center will continue to monitor the event, issuing updates at least hourly. As conditions warrant, the Advisory will either be continued, upgraded to a watch or warning, or ended. For products of the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC - Alaska, British Columbia and Western States, Canada, Eastern and Gulf States, Puerto Rico, U.S Virgin Islands): A tsunami advisory is issued due to the threat of a potential tsunami which may produce strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or near the water. Coastal regions historically prone to damage due to strong currents induced by tsunamis are at the greatest risk. The threat may continue for several hours after the arrival of the initial wave, but significant widespread inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include closing beaches, evacuating harbors and marinas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Advisories are normally updated to continue the advisory, expand/contract affected areas, upgrade to a warning, or cancel the advisory.
Tsunami Warning   For products of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC - Pacific (except Alaska, British Columbia and Western States) Hawaii, Caribbean (except Puerto Rico, Virgin Is.), Indian Ocean): The highest level of tsunami alert. Warnings are issued due to the imminent threat of a tsunami from a large undersea earthquake or following confirmation that a potentially destructive tsunami is underway. They may initially be based only on seismic information as a means of providing the earliest possible alert. Warnings advise that appropriate actions be taken in response to the tsunami threat. Such actions could include the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas and the movement of boats and ships out of harbors to deep water. Warnings are updated at least hourly or as conditions warrant to continue, expand, restrict, or end the warning. For products of the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC - Alaska, British Columbia and Western States, Canada, Eastern and Gulf States, Puerto Rico, U.S Virgin Islands): A tsunami warning is issued when a potential tsunami with significant widespread inundation is imminent or expected. Warnings alert the public that widespread, dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents is possible and may continue for several hours after arrival of the initial wave. Warnings also alert emergency management officials to take action for the entire tsunami hazard zone. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Warnings may be updated, adjusted geographically, downgraded, or canceled. To provide the earliest possible alert, initial warnings are normally based only on seismic information.
Typhoon Statement  
Typhoon Warning  
Typhoon Watch  
Volcano Warning  
Wind Advisory   Sustained winds 25 to 39 mph and/or gusts to 57 mph. Issuance is normally site specific. However, winds of this magnitude occurring over an area that frequently experiences such winds
Wind Chill Advisory   The National Weather Service issues this product when the wind chill could be life threatening if action is not taken. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state.
Wind Chill Warning   The National Weather Service issues this product when the wind chill is life threatening. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state.
Wind Chill Watch  
Winter Storm Warning   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.
Winter Storm Watch   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.
Winter Weather Advisory   This product is issued by the National Weather Service when a low pressure system produces a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.) that present a hazard, but does not meet warning criteria.

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