Brush up on your weather terminology

Weather jargon demystified

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Are you confused by some of the weather terminology being tossed around? You're not alone.

With one confirmed heat-related death and eight under investigation by the Kansas City Health Department, it's important to understand the weather conditions for safety reasons.

Pull your head out of the clouds and read up on some of weather terms being tossed around this summer so you know when to prepare and when to take cover.

Watch vs. Warning

Whenever weather is accompanied by the word "watch" think of it as a yellow light; you should begin to prepare in event of inclimate weather. Watch is used when weather occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.

A weather warning is the real deal. Warnings are used for conditions posing a threat to life or properties so if you hear the term, seek shelter.


The Heat index is a term used to describe how hot it feels outside which may be different from the actual temperature.

Heat Advisories are issued when temps fall between 105°F-115°F for less than three hours during day time hours or if nighttime lows remain about 80°F for two consecutive days.

An Excessive Heat Watch takes a look at the nation. Weather people use this terminology when temperatures are expected to be greater than 105ºF across the northern states or 110ºF in southern states during the day. EHW will also be issued if temperatures remain about 75 ºF at night for two consecutive days.

If temps are expected to be above 105°F for more than 3 hours per day for two consecutive days or if the heat index is greater than 115°F expect an Excessive Heat Warning.


Extreme heat, low humidity and high or erratic winds can all be key ingredients in the makings of a wild land fire. Red Flag Warnings indicate to firefighting and land management agencies when these conditions crop up.

Fire Weather Watches are less urgent and are issued 12 to 48 hours in advance of the conditions listed above.

Civil authorities use the term Fire Warning to include information on the location and movement of the fire, evacuation instructions and shelter locations in the event of a fire-in-progress.


When weather is dry for extended periods of time, the lack of water can cause real damage. Depending upon the length of dry weather, there are five different drought classifications. View the U.S. Drought Monitor map here: .

Air Pollution

Urban areas often deal with air pollution, but when levels reach an unhealthy amount expect to hear about Ozone Alerts.

Orange Alerts pose threats to active children and adults. If you have respiratory diseases, like asthma, you should take care to limit yourself to prolonged outdoor exertion.

Red Alerts don't discriminate. If you are under a Red Ozone Alert make sure to limit prolonged outdoor exertion. People are advised against fueling their cars, mowing and leaving engines idling during red alerts.

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