The first of December marks the first day of Meteorological Winter. What does this mean? You’ve always heard that winter in the Northern Hemisphere starts on 21 December but that is the start of Astronomical Winter. The main difference between Astronomical Winter and Meteorological Winter is that Astronomical Winter is based on the Earth’s position in relation to the sun, while Meteorological Winter is based on the three coldest months of the year. Now that winter is here, are you ready?
Depending on what your location is in the Northern Hemisphere, you need to be prepared for what winter can bring. For instance, do you know the difference between a Winter Weather Advisory and a Winter Weather Warning? A Winter Weather Advisory is when wintry weather is expected within 12 to 36 hours or is occurring and travel may be difficult. A Winter Weather Warning is when wintry weather is expected to be dangerous within 12 to 36 hours or is occurring. “Considerable travel problems are expected.” Another warning you should familiarize yourself with is a Blizzard Warning. A Blizzard Warning is when severe wintry weather is expected within 12 to 36 hours or is occurring and will impact travel to a standstill. One thing you should remember about a blizzard, is that it doesn’t have to be actively snowing to be considered a blizzard. The harsh winds push the fresh snow around creating whiteout conditions as well as numerous other hazards.
Where the storm is born can mean all the difference between little or a lot of snow. An Alberta Clipper is a low-pressure system that develops in Canada and races across the northern states. Alberta Clippers are very fast moving but can still drop measureable snow and even whiteout conditions. A Nor-easter is a notorious storm that impacts millions of people. This type of storm can dump feet of storm in a single day. A Nor’easter is a low-pressure system that will typically dip south where it can take advantage of the warmer and moister air. The storm will then track north on or near the edge of the East Coast of the United States, commonly referred to as the I-95 Corridor. Even a slight change in track can mean the difference between little to no snow, and being buried by feet of snow. A Colorado Low develops on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. This storm packs a punch all the way to the east coast and can also dump feet of snow.
The different types of precipitation are also important. Freezing rain happens when snow falls into a warm sector melting the snow into rain, and then re-enters a cold sector that holds freezing temperatures. The rain falls through the cold sector and freezes on contact. Freezing rain can create slippery roads, and wreak havoc on trees and power lines.
To stay safe during the winter months, you must first understand winter weather. Once that is done, you can start to prepare properly. You can start by researching if your area requires chains on your tires. Check your car for any fallacies including tire pressure, antifreeze and other fluid levels. You should also check things around your house such as your gutters, heating unit, or any trees that hang over your roof or powerlines. When local authorities ask travelers to stay off of the roads, it is best to do so if travel is not essential.
To learn more about Winter Weather safety tips, click here!
ⓒ 2017 Meteorologist Brandie Cantrell