People that live in the Upper Midwest are generally familiar with terms like "winter weather advisory", "winter storm watch", and "winter storm warning" when it comes to advisories and warnings from the National Weather Service. This week, the government weather forecasting organization added a new type of warning to the roster of warnings the public needs to be aware of.

The new term, referred to as a "snow squall warning" will be used in the Midwest starting this winter season. In a document published by the National Weather Service, they describe the new type of warning as "an intense short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that leads to a quick reduction in visibilities and is often accompanied by gusty winds. Sudden whiteout conditions and slick roadways can lead to high speed accidents with large pileups that result in injuries and fatalities."

They say that this new warning aims to bring better situational awareness to drivers and mitigate impacts related to these squalls. Usage of this new warning type will go into effect on November 1, and will be issued for durations of 30-60 minutes, similar to sever thunderstorm and tornado warnings.

With the new addition, here are common winter watches, warnings, and advisories you may hear through the upcoming winter season:

  • Winter Weather Advisory - Issued when a low pressure system produces a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.) that present a hazard, but does not meet warning criteria.
  • Winter Storm Watch - Issued when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.
  • Winter Storm Warning - issued when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.
  • Blizzard Warning - Issued for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to prevail for a minimum of 3 hours.
  • Ice Storm Warning - Issued when freezing rain produces a significant and possibly damaging accumulation of ice. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state, but typically will be issued any time more than 1/4" of ice is expected to accumulate in an area.
  • Wind Chill Advisory - Issued when the wind chill could be life threatening if action is not taken. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state.
  • Wind Chill Warning - Issued when the wind chill is life threatening. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state.
  • Snow Squall Warning - Issued for an intense short-lived burst of heavy snowfall that leads to a quick reduction in visibilities and is often accompanied by gusty winds. Sudden whiteout conditions and slick roadways can lead to high speed accidents with large pileups that result in injuries and fatalities.