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Winter weather watch, warning and advisory: What's the difference?

How are winter storms monitored and forecast?

Have you ever wondered how the National Weather Service can tell that a major winter storm is brewing and will affect 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 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 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 technology? Visit

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.

Winter storm watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area, but their 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 are expected in the next 12 hours or 6 or more inches in 24 hours, or a quarter-inch or more of ice accumulation is expected.

A winter weather advisory informs the public 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 chills. Listen carefully to the radio, television and NOAA weather radios for the latest winter storm watches, warnings and advisories. 

For additional information on this, visit the winter weather awareness web page at

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-scale 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 the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, 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 8 inches of snow carries much greater consequences for a city's rush hour than 4 inches.

Want to learn more about the Storm Prediction Center's operations? For additional information visit the Storm Prediction Center web page at

North Pole experiences record warmth

Just days before Christmas, unprecedented warmth was recorded at the North Pole.

A buoy that sits nearly 90 miles south of the location registered a temperature of 31 degrees. Although still below freezing, the temperature is about 50 degrees higher than normal.

>> Read more trending stories 

There were two major players in unusually high temperature. The first was a large and very strong low pressure system north of Greenland. The counterclockwise flow around this system pushed abnormally warm and moist air toward the pole. The second is the lack of sea ice in the Arctic, particularly in the Barents Sea.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the lack of sea ice in the Barents Sea is approaching record low levels. With less ice to reflect solar energy, it becomes absorbed in the ocean, warming the water and the air above it. Record warmth in November contributed to the melting of this sea ice, in turn promoting this unusually warm period once again.

A recent study published by the journal Nature said these events usually happen once or twice a decade, dating back to the 1950s. Although it's too soon to say if they are happening more frequently, 2016 is the second year in a row temperatures climbed to astonishing levels in the Arctic.

There is a constant ebb and flow to the atmosphere. Because of this excessive warmth at the poles, the cold air that usually sits there needs to go somewhere. This is exactly what happened earlier this month when North America experienced a plunge in temperatures, known as the Polar Vortex. We'll have to wait and see if the same happens this time around. For now, long range models project local temperatures to be near or slightly above normal through the first week in January.

Breathtaking viral photos show snow in the Sahara Desert

Stunning images that reportedly show snow in the Sahara Desert have gone viral.

>> Read more trending stories

According to the TelegraphKarim Bouchetata captured photos of the rare sight Monday in Ain Sefra, Algeria. The last time the area had snow was in 1979, the Telegraph reportsRead more here.

Check out the photos below:

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Posted by Karim Bouchetata on Monday, December 19, 2016

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Posted by Karim Bouchetata on Monday, December 19, 2016

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Posted by Karim Bouchetata on Monday, December 19, 2016

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Posted by Karim Bouchetata on Monday, December 19, 2016

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Posted by Karim Bouchetata on Monday, December 19, 2016

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Posted by Karim Bouchetata on Monday, December 19, 2016

The Weather Channel confronts Breitbart's claims that global warming isn't real

The Weather Channel has confronted news, opinion and commentary website, after the conservative site used one of The Weather Channel's reports to suggest that climate change isn't real.

>> Read more trending stories  

Breitbart, which used to be run by Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, published an article online titled "Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists," in which the writer claimed that this year's news of global warming "wasn’t science but propaganda" and said that the earth is cooling, not warming.

The article, published Nov. 30, included an embed of a weather report by meteorologist Kait Parker, who addressed Breitbart's claims in a video and written note Tuesday. 

The announcement was titled "Note to Breitbart: Earth is not cooling, climate change is real and please stop using our video to mislead Americans." 

<iframe width="390" height="219" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

"Last week, published an article claiming that global warming was nothing but a scare, and global temperatures were actually falling," Parker said. "(The) problem is, they used a completely unrelated video about La Nina with my face in it to attempt to back their point.

"Here's the thing: Science doesn't care about your opinion. Cherry-picking and twisting the facts will not change the future nor the fact -- note, fact, not opinion -- that the earth is warming."

Parker launched into an explanation of the falsity of each of Breitbart's claims and concluded with a pointed message. 

"Next time you're thinking about publishing a cherry-picked article, try consulting a scientist first. And to all my fellow scientists out there, let's make the facts louder than the opinions," she said.

"Though we would prefer to focus on our usual coverage of weather and climate science, in this case, we felt it important to add our two cents," The Weather Channel wrote online. 

 Read more at The Weather Channel

WATCH: Cat rescued after its paws froze to the ground

A cat found frozen to the ground has a second chance thanks to a quick-thinking couple.

A video posted to YouTube shows a couple comforting the cat whose paws and fur froze to the ground as it sought refuge under a car in Russia.

>> Watch the video here

The couple used warm water to gently free the cat from its frozen state.

>> Read more trending stories

According to Mashable, the couple said the cat was able to walk later that evening and was adopted that week.

>> Watch the follow-up video here

Must-see: 10 stunning photos of the hunter's supermoon

Skygazers were in for a treat this weekend as a hunter's supermoon brightened the night sky.

>> Click here or scroll down to see 10 stunning photos of the rare sight

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//;border=false"></script> [View the story "Must-see: 10 stunning photos of the hunter's supermoon" on Storify]

98-year-old man helps clean up yards after Hurricane Matthew

He may be close to 100, but that doesn’t stop Bill Wheeler from being an active member of society.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> 98-year-old man cleans up yards

>> Click here to watch the news report

The Georgia man has been using his tractors to grind up debris in his neighbors’ yards left over from Hurricane Matthew.

The 98-year-old told WJCL-TV that he is giving back after they helped him.

"I love them and I think they love me. I could say a lot more but that's about it," Wheeler told WJCL-TV. "They are wonderful people, you just don't know. I get choked up. They're great people."

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Gayla Bennett, Wheeler's neighbor, said she feels lucky to know him.

"For him to come out and mow his lawn and then our next door neighbor's, and now he's out here on our yard, and he's still going!" said Bennett. "If I could be like him when I'm that old, I'll be happy. He's amazing."

Wheeler said he's happy to do the work and happy to help his neighbors.

>> Read more trending stories

"First of all, I want to do it. I want to do. I wouldn't have it any other way," Wheeler said. "The young people learn from the old people, but anyway, I love it. I love to be outdoors. The good Lord blessed me, so I'll give a little back."

Read more here.

Video shows waterspout off Oregon Coast

A tornado struck an Oregon beach town as strong winds and heavy rain walloped the Pacific Northwest.

>> Read more trending stories

Video sent to KIRO-TV shows a waterspout off the Oregon Coast near Manzanita. Wide-spread damage was reported in the town, roughly 85 miles west of Portland, where the mayor declared a state of emergency.

Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long said the tornado touched down in the city of Manzanita at about 8:20 a.m.

There were no reports of injuries, but there have been several calls about damage, including one from a woman who says all the windows in her house were blown out.

Debbie Harmon, owner of the Amanita Galley in Manzanita, said most of the damage is near the beach and downtown.

"It was a normal beach storm, which we get a lot of, and then out of nowhere the wind went 'whoooo,'" she said. "Suddenly the whole sky was filled with debris. It was just crazy. And then it just stopped."

Photos show heavy damage to buildings and homes. No reports of injuries have been made.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Complaints pour into BBB after residents can't return hurricane supplies

The Better Business Bureau has been getting complaints from consumers throughout Central Florida who have been trying to return hurricane supplies.

The agency said some people bought supplies for Hurricane Matthew, never used them and now can’t get their money back.

The BBB said it is mainly hearing complaints from people who bought larger and more expensive items.

A BBB worker said it all comes down to whether the store’s refund policy was clear when the items were sold.

>> Read more trending stories  

It comes a week after the storm, as people cleaned off store shelves to prepare for the worst.

“It was pretty much chaos. I mean, everything was gone. There was no bread. There was no water,” said Orlando resident Diane Martens.

The BBB said some people who bought more expensive supplies, like generators, and didn’t use them are finding out they can’t get refunds.

“Better Business Bureau has heard from consumers in enough volume for us to believe that certainly there’s a pattern developing,” said Holly Salmons.

The BBB said in one complaint, a woman said she bought a $400 cooler and was told she couldn’t return it.

>> Read the latest on Hurricane Matthew 

The owner of the hardware store where she purchased it said a no refund policy was clearly posted at the time of her purchase.

The BBB said it’s a requirement by state statute for stores to make their policy clear and to stick to those terms.

“Consumers have certain expectations. You can’t then, in the middle of the transaction or in the middle of the return allowance period, change the ruled on them,” Salmons said.

Martens said she understand the financial burden for the customers who bought more than they ended up needing, but also for the small business owners who might not be able to afford the financial hit of a refund.

Anyone who believes they have wrongfully been denied a refund for hurricane supplies can contact the BBB for help.

The statute typically applied to items that have not been used.

Children's random act of kindness touches community's heart

When Jamie Dessert and her three children drove by the courthouse in New Smyrna Beach after a long day of cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew, they were upset by the amount of damage they saw.

“My heart was moved,” Dessert told Channel 9. “Here was the workplace for people who serve and protect our community on a daily basis, covered in debris.”

She kept driving though, until her 7-year-old son Emerson spoke up.

“He said, ‘Mom, we should turn around and clean it up. We need to take care of it,’” she said.

>> Read more trending stories  

So Dessert pulled back around to the courthouse and the four of them got out.

“We parked in front of the courthouse and pulled one branch at a time,” she said. “As the pile got bigger and bigger, we discussed the potential of getting into trouble for stacking them in the wrong place.”

As they continued to work, a Volusia County sheriff’s deputy saw what they were doing and walked up to them and the growing pile of branches.

Dessert was touched by what her children told the deputy when she asked what they were doing.

“They told her their little hearts about how we love our city and we want to take care of the police officers because they take care of us,” she said.

The deputy gave each boy a dollar and drove off, only to come back a few minutes later with a request.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  

“About five minutes later, she pulled back up, got out, came back over and proceeded to tell us that she had been on the phone with her husband and they both thought this was one of the sweetest things, and she wanted to take their picture,” Dessert said.

The four had already talked about that and had decided they weren’t going to take any pictures, “because it is the right thing to do, not because we gain anything from it,” she said.

But they agreed and the deputy took a picture, which was later posted to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, where residents and non-residents alike praised the children for their random act of kindness.

For Dessert, it was a touching display of love from Emerson, Callan, 6, and Beckett, 4.

“We had amazing conversations under those trees as we pulled tree limbs and debris,” she said. “It genuinely was the hardest I had seen them work since we had been helping others.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> A deputy says: "I walked out of the New Smyrna Beach courthouse this afternoon and found these three young men cleaning...Posted by Volusia County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, October 12, 2016

“It was really beautiful to see how much their hearts were overjoyed to not just serve their community, but to serve the police officers. It was incredible.”

They kept going, even when it started raining, and that’s when she saw how a simple act like picking up branches in front of the courthouse could affect the community and the people who live there.

“All of a sudden, a random man waiting at the bus station walks over and says, ‘Since you all are going to keep doing it in the rain, I figured I would come help,’” Dessert said. “We finished up, I had my little men walk over and shake his hand and thank him for helping us.

“As we were driving away, the boys and I had a wonderful talk about how amazing it is that we were able to help, and because of our decision to act, it motivated other to act. That’s what we want.”

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