Currently the National Weather Service has 128 hazards they can issue. Yes, that's a lot! Social and behavioral science studies have shown the watch warning and advisory (WWA) system can be confusing to the public. This is where the Hazard Simplification Project comes in, to consolidate and reformat alerts. This will reduce volume and simplify wording of the WWA system.
Generally, a watch means there is potential for a dangerous hazard. A warning means a life-threatening hazard is imminent or occurring. An advisory is issued when a less serious hazard is imminent or occurring. Case studies performed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that few people fully understood advisories. Participants also would prefer more concise and clear weather messages attached to alerts. This is where the reformatting process comes into the project, to improve the text under weather alert headlines. However, because the WWA system has been in place for decades and is institutionalized, changes must be deliberate and well coordinated to avoid more confusion.
The consolidation part of this process aims to reduce the vast amount of products available to fewer and easier to grasp alerts. In 2017, Lake Effect Snow Advisory, Winter Weather Advisory, and Freezing Rain Advisory were consolidated to just Winter Weather Advisory. Also, Winter Storm Watch, Lake Effect Snow Watch, and Blizzard Watch were consolidated to Winter Storm Watch. Under this headline, the impacts of each hazard are written in a What, Where, and When bullet format.
Coming up, the next proposed changes are to flood related headlines. Five different flood advisory sub-types will be consolidated to just Flood Advisory. Also, Flood Watch and Flash Flood Watch are to become Flood Watch.
The simplification of these weather alerts are to make it clear to you that a hazard is possible. Then, it is up to the First Alert5 weather team to explain clearly the impacts to you. If you have found yourself confused by a watch, warning, or advisory, please let us know! We aim to continue to improve our weather communication.