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The Times
  • Frank Talk: Cloudy with a chance of advisories

  • Never in the annals of weather reportage have there been so many different variations of the message: “It looks like we’re in for nasty weather.”


    We’ve come a long way from, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.”

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  • Never in the annals of weather reportage have there been so many different variations of the message: “It looks like we’re in for nasty weather.”
    We’ve come a long way from, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.”
    That’s far too simplistic for today’s complex array of weather watches, advisories, warnings, and “begin-ark-construction-now” alerts.
    The language used to convey the fact that a) it’s winter, and b) it might snow, is as sophisticated today as the technology used to determine the difference between precipitation and rain.
    Today’s translation of that simple ancient mariner’s dictum would be along the lines of, “A winter weather watch has been issued regarding a red-tinged atmospheric condition this p.m. signaling fair weather and a resultant happy demeanor among seafarers. The advisory will remain in effect until this a.m. when a winter weather warning will be issued in anticipation of a red-tinged atmospheric condition signaling unsettled weather and the possibility of a difficult commute, particularly if your commute involves setting out to sea.”
    There are also variations within the variations. For instance, there are “severe” watches and “severe” warnings.
    A severe watch means essentially that forecasters are scowling as they scan their various means of meteorological divination. It helps them concentrate, and makes them look scholarly so people take their forecasts more seriously.
    A severe warning means essentially that forecasters preface their admonitions with, “Look, I’m warning you …”
    There are also “casual” watches and warnings issued when forecasters are feeling cocky and full of themselves. 
    Weather advisories, on the other hand, are issued when forecasters are bored and are looking for something to do.
    The advisories often lack the specificity found in watches and warnings.
    Typical advisories include:
    “A weather advisory has been issued alerting commuters to the possibility of weather playing a role in their day. This advisory will remain in effect until something weather-related actually happens.”
    Or:
    “A weather advisory has been issued to apprise residents that the current state of the weather does not warrant the issuance of a weather watch or weather warning, or even a weather advisory for that matter.”
    Remember, it’s important to become as familiar as possible with this terminology so you too can determine not only merely when it’s snowing out, but when it’s really coming down.
    Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Plymouth office, and can be reached at fmulligan@wickedlocal.com.

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