National Weather Service Testing New Winter Warning System in Montana
A winter storm is a winter storm right? Well, no, it could be a winter storm watch, or a winter storm warning, or a winter weather advisory. These three winter weather categories are the terms that meteorologists at the National Weather Service agonize over when they make their reports.
The problem is that most of the public has no clue about the difference between a warning, a watch and an advisory. To correct this, the National Weather Service is trying a new system of reporting that goes more in-depth on just what kind of weather to expect. That trial is currently taking place right here in Montana.
"The experiment is really not having different products, we just have a conversation with the public," explains Marty Whitmore, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula. "We would say 'the national weather service would advise caution with a storm that's coming in over night' - use verbiage like that, and not really care if it's an advisory or watch or a different category because the public probably isn't aware of the different categories anyway."
Montana is among a handful of states to test the new warning system including such disparate locations as Oklahoma, New England, and Alaska. The testing period will last through winter and is not applied to other weather events such as fog.