Weather Terminology

Hear or see something weather related and think, "What is that?" Here are some common, and maybe uncommon weather terms. 

**If I don't have something listed you would like to see, let me know!

Weather Alerts Terminology


The weather condition or phenomenon is occurring, or expected to occur soon, usually within 24 hours.


Conditions are favorable for a certain condition or phenomenon to occur.


The weather condition or phenomenon is occurring, but is not serious enough to warrant a warning.
*Note: Going from a Watch to an Advisory is and UPGRADE, not a DOWNGRADE


Winter Storm Watch: Conditions are favorable for significant snowfall (5+" in our area)

Winter Storm Warning: Significant snowfall or a combination of wintry precip (5+" in our area, or 1/4" or more of ice in combination with snow/sleet) is likely within the next 24 hours.

Winter Weather Advisory: Some snowfall is expected. In our area, a winter weather advisory is issued when 2" - 4" of snow is expected. However, in the I-95 corridor, if 1" of snow is expected during rush hour times, a winter weather advisory will be issued.

Other Terms


Leading edge of an air mass, and is named for the air mass that is moving in. Ex. A cold front is on the leading edge of colder air (relative to the air it is replacing).

Air Mass

Large body of air having homogeneous (or similar) characteristics of temperature and humidity throughout. There are four basic types:

Air Pressure

The force exerted against a surface by the continuous collision of gas molecules. It can be thought of as the 'weight of the air.'

Polar Vortex

The upper-level winds that circle the poles of the Earth, trapping the coldest air. The polar vortex can occasionally weaken and/or split and send the cold air south. The coldest arctic outbreaks are usually driven by a weakening of the polar vortex.