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Weather Blog: Changes coming to how the national weather service issues headlines

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Posted at 8:36 AM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 14:14:39-05

MARCH 11, 2021 — The National Weather Service announced a number of changes coming to how they issue certain headlines. Many of you may not even notice the changes, but for some, it will be a big adjustment.

First, let's start with the changes coming to FLOODING HEADLINES scheduled to begin nationwide May 18th:

1) Combining flash flood watches and flood watches into one flood watch product for situations when the cause is excessive rain. The exception is for a flash flood watch due to a potential dam break or ice jam. (or burn scars but we probably don't have to message that).

2) The different types of flood advisories will be combined into one: urban and small stream flood advisory, small stream flood advisory, flood advisory, hydrologic advisory will all be consolidated to a flood advisory.

3) All flood watches and warnings will be reformatted to have the what, where, when, impacts wording.

I am a big fan of these changes. I believe the current more specific structure of flood headlines gets too confusing, when in many cases, a flood is a flood. This should also raise the heightened awareness to the far more deadly conditions that come with Flash Flood WARNINGS

Second, later this spring the National Weather Service will start implementing SEVERE THUNDERSTORM IMPACT BASED WARNINGS. They started the same for Tornado Warnings a few years ago.

There will be three levels of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings:

BASE: Wind 58 mph and/or Hail 1"(Quarter) size.
CONSIDERABLE: Wind 70 mph and/or Hail 1.75"(Golf Ball) size.
DESTRUCTIVE: Wind 80 mph and/or Hail 2.75"(Baseball) size.

I am also in favor of these enhancements. Every severe season we experience a wide range in impacts when it comes to severe storms. A borderline severe storm with 58 mph does far less damage than a storm with 80 mph winds and baseball size hail. These new enhancers should help the general public recognize the difference.

Lastly, The National Weather Service plans to go away with all Advisory level headlines by 2024 or later.

This would mean no more:
Wind Chill Advisory
Winter Weather Advisory
Dense Fog Advisory
Wind Advisory
and Heat Advisory

I have mixed thoughts on this. I know many of my colleagues do as well. The hope is by dropping advisory headlines, this will enhance the awareness of warning level criteria. I certainly think this change will achieve that. However, there happens to be many high level advisories that pan out to be very impactful. For example, a 5" advised heavy snow event during the morning rush hour can have a huge impact. This was also part of the problem when a 2" snowfall was receiving the same headline. Once the N.W.S. drops the Advisory headlines in a few years, it will be even more important for each Meteorologist to clearly relay the specifics of a certain event. And just as important for the general public to pay attention to these details.

I would love to hear how you feel about these changes. You can always send me an email at or reach out to me on Facebook and Twitter.

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