National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

June 2020 Update

The NWS is now gathering feedback on a “Revamp” of its Watch, Warning, and Advisory (WWA) system.  The proposal would streamline and simplify NWS hazard messages.

Please review the proposal below and the accompanying slide deck here and share your reaction with us at hazsimp@noaa.gov

We also welcome you to view our recent NWS webinar to learn more about the details of this proposed "Revamp".

The Current System

 

NWS currently uses three primary headline terms - "Watch", "Warning" and "Advisory" - to alert the public and partners of hazardous events. "Watch" means a significant event is possible; "Warning" means a significant event is happening or about to happen; "Advisory" means a less significant event is happening or about to happen. 

In addition to "Watch", "Warning" and "Advisory", NWS uses other headline terms to provide information on lower level threats. "Special Weather Statement (SPS)" is most commonly used for hazards that don't reach any of the above three levels. "Short Term Forecast (NOW)" can also be used for short-lived, notable threats such as a line of thunderstorms.

 

Social Science Research

 

For the past several years, the Haz Simp team has engaged in social science research with our forecasters, partners, and the public to explore improvements to our WWA systems. While the “Warning” headline was found to be very important and deeply institutionalized for both our public and partners, this research did uncover three main issues with the current system:

1. The terms "Watch" and "Warning" both begin with "Wa".  This leads some people to confuse the two terms.

2. Many people have either not heard of or incorrectly interpret "Advisory".

3. Many people confuse "Advisory" and "Watch" with each other.

Check out our reference materials tab for more details on our social science research.

 

The Proposal: A Simpler, Streamlined System

The proposed, new system would have only two primary headline terms: "Watch" and "Warning."  So, we would only “raise the flag” for major events that require users to “Prepare” (Watch) or “Act” (Warning) for significant hazards that threaten life and/or property.

In this proposal, the current secondary headlines - “Advisory”, "SPS," and "NOW" - would be discontinued. In their place, we would use plain language statements to convey information for less significant events that aren't reaching either the “Watch” or “Warning” levels. This concept is illustrated to the right.

CLICK HERE to download a 1 page handout on the proposed changes.

 

Below are examples of how a current Advisory and Special Weather Statement (SPS) would be transitioned into plain-language statements in the proposed system. The proposed headline changes are highlighted in yellow.

 

 

Make Your Voice Heard: Opportunity to Provide Feedback

 

NWS is now actively collecting feedback on this proposal with our forecasters and core partners.  Also, an opportunity for public feedback will commence in early June 2020 with the release of a public survey. Any decision to move forward will be heavily based on this feedback. We encourage everyone to watch for this survey to be announced here on this page and at weather.gov, and make your voice heard!

This proposal is a major project milestone, but time will be needed to adjust software and policy, and to provide outreach and forecaster training, before we would implement any changes.