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What does it mean: weather terms


Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the Springfield Office of the National Weather Service spoke with the Mail about the importance of understanding different terminology as warmer fronts move in and the threat of severe weather increases. 

Anytime severe weather enters the southwest Missouri area, the National Weather Service in Springfield issues different alerts depending on the type of storm and its severity. The first of these Runnels described is a watch.

"The NWS will issue a watch anytime conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather," explains Runnels. In other words, a Watch means the weather is setting itself up to create more dangerous weather, such as floods, severe storms, or tornadoes, and you should start preparing for the worst.

When a warning is issued by the National Weather Service, this means severe weather is either underway or an immediate threat.

"These two terms are perhaps the most misunderstood," tells Runnels, and to help clarify, he explained "Watches give you time to prepare, but when we [NWS] issue a warning, it is time to act."

Some other terms you might hear thrown around include:

Flash Flood; this type of flood usually occurs during or after heavy rainfall. It happens suddenly and generally around areas like small streams or creeks. As a reminder, do not drive in areas with high water.

The National Weather Service website states, "A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult while it takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away most cars. It also takes just two feet of rushing water to carry away SUVs and trucks. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters."

Severe Thunderstorms; meteorologists will refer to a thunderstorm as severe if it produces winds over 58 miles per hour which causes damage to power lines, trees, and even homes. Severe thunderstorms can also make hail that starts as small as three-quarters of an inch. These storms should be taken seriously as they can cause more damage and even create tornados.

During these storms, different clouds can appear, which include the following:

Funnel clouds are violent rotating funnel-shaped clouds or column of air extending from a towering thunderstorm. Runnels adds a funnel cloud is different from a tornado because "It has not made contact with the ground whereas a tornado is confirmed to be in contact with the ground."

Shelf Clouds are low-level, wedge-shaped clouds attached to a thunderstorm. These clouds carry the threat of damaging winds.

On the other hand, Wall Clouds appear abruptly and are attached to a thunderstorm or supercell. Runnels mentioned these clouds "lead to greater likelihood of strong and violent tournados."

To learn more weather terms or gather more information, you can visit the NWS website at www.weather.gov/sgf/, or you can check out their Youtube channel NWS Springfield.

Look for an article on the importance of planning ahead for bad weather in the Wednesday, June 14 edition of the Marshfield Mail.


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