Like the terminology in many businesses, the words used among weather forecasters can be confusing. What is the difference between an ice storm warning and a winter weather warning? What triggers a blizzard warning?

Mary Knapp, who serves as the state climatologist for Kansas, provided definitions for several winter weather-related terms and phrases. Knapp directs the state’s Weather Data Library, based in K-State Research and Extension at Kansas State University.

•Winter Storm Watch: Possible heavy snow, and/or significant accumulation of freezing rain/drizzle or sleet.

•Snow Advisory: Worsening travel conditions with 1 to 5 inches of snow.

•Winter Weather Advisory: Combined snow with accumulations of freezing rain/drizzle or sleet.

•Freezing Rain Advisory: Travel problems are expected due to accumulated freezing rain. Damage to trees or power lines not expected.

•Sleet Advisory: Accumulation of between 1/4 and 1 inch of sleet is expected.

•Winter Storm Warning: Combination of heavy snow, significant accumulations of freezing rain/drizzle or sleet, and low wind chill.

•Heavy Snow Warning: Snowfall accumulation to 6 inches or more in 12 hours, or 8 inches or more in 24 hours.

•Blizzard Warning: Winds 35+ miles per hour, considerable falling and/or blowing snow (visibilities frequently less than 1/4 mile) for at least 3 hours.

•Ice Storm Warning: Significant, and possibly damaging, accumulations of ice. Wind is an important factor in powerline/tree line damage. If nearly calm, accumulations can go to 1/2 inch; with higher winds breakage can occur with around 1/4 inch of accumulation.

Information about Kansas weather is available on the Weather Data Library Website at:

“Weather Wonders” audio reports are available on the K-State Research and Extension News Media Website at:

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