Skip Navigation Links 
NOAA logo-Select to go to the NOAA homepage
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's   
  Select to go to the NWS homepage
National Weather Service   
Local forecast by
"City, St" is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.

  Home > Glossary

Air Mass Thunderstorm
Generally, a thunderstorm not associated with a front or other type of synoptic-scale forcing mechanism. Air mass thunderstorms typically are associated with warm, humid air in the summer months; they develop during the afternoon in response to insolation, and dissipate rather quickly after sunset. They generally are less likely to be severe than other types of thunderstorms, but they still are capable of producing downbursts, brief heavy rain, and (in extreme cases) hail over 3/4 inch in diameter.

Since all thunderstorms are associated with some type of forcing mechanism, synoptic-scale or otherwise, the existence of true air-mass thunderstorms is debatable.
Back-building Thunderstorm
A thunderstorm in which new development takes place on the upwind side (usually the west or southwest side), such that the storm seems to remain stationary or propagate in a backward direction.
Complex Gale/Storm
In the high seas and offshore forecasts, an area for which gale/storm force winds are forecast or are occurring but for which no single center is the principal generator of these winds.
Continuum Storm (CTM)
In solar-terrestrial terms, general term for solar noise lasting for hours and sometimes days.
Cyclic Storm
A thunderstorm that undergoes cycles of intensification and weakening (pulses) while maintaining its individuality. Cyclic supercells are capable of producing multiple tornadoes (i.e., a tornado family) and/or several bursts of severe weather.
Developing Gale/Storm
In the high seas and offshore forecasts, a headline used in the warnings section to indicate that gale/storm force winds are not now occurring but are expected before the end of the forecast period.
Dry Line Storm
Any thunderstorm that develops on or near a dry line.
Dry Thunderstorm
Generally a high-based thunderstorm when lightning is observed, but little if any precipitation reaches the ground. Most of the rain produced by the thunderstorm evaporates into relatively dry air beneath the storm cell. May also be referred to as "dry lightning".
Dust Storm
A severe weather condition characterized by strong winds and dust-filled air over an extensive area.
Geomagnetic Storm
In solar-terrestraial terms, a worldwide disturbance of the earth's magnetic field, distinct from regular diurnal variations.
Minor Geomagnetic Storm: A storm for which the Ap index was greater than 29 and less than 50.
Major Geomagnetic Storm: A storm for which the Ap index was greater than 49 and less than 100.
Severe Geomagnetic Storm: A storm for which the Ap index was 100 or more.
Initial Phase: Of a geomagnetic storm, that period when there may be an increase of the middle-latitude horizontal intensity (H).
Main Phase: Of a geomagnetic storm, that period when the hori- zontal magnetic field at middle latitudes is generally decreasing.
Recovery Phase: Of a geomagnetic storm, that period when the depressed northward field component returns to normal levels.
Great Lakes Storm Summary
(GLS) - A National Weather Service forecast product providing updated information whenever a storm warning is in effect on any of the Great Lakes.
High Risk (of severe thunderstorms)
Severe weather is expected to affect more than 10 percent of the area. A high risk is rare, and implies an unusually dangerous situation and usually the possibility of a major severe weather outbreak.
HP Storm
or HP Supercell - High-Precipitation storm (or High-Precipitation supercell). A supercell thunderstorm in which heavy precipitation (often including hail) falls on the trailing side of the mesocyclone.

Precipitation often totally envelops the region of rotation, making visual identification of any embedded tornadoes difficult and very dangerous. Unlike most classic supercells, the region of rotation in many HP storms develops in the front-flank region of the storm (i.e., usually in the eastern portion). HP storms often produce extreme and prolonged downburst events, serious flash flooding, and very large damaging hail events.
Ice Storm
An ice storm is used to describe occasions when damaging accumulations of ice are expected during freezing rain situations. Significant accumulations of ice pull down trees and utility lines resulting in loss of power and communication. These accumulations of ice make walking and driving extremely dangerous. Significant ice accumulations are usually accumulations of ¼" or greater.
Ice Storm Warning
This product is issued by the National Weather Service 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.
Ionospheric Storm
A disturbance in the F region of the ionosphere, which occurs in connection with geomagnetic activity
Lake Effect Storm
A fall or winter storm that produces heavy but localized precipitation as a result of temperature differences between the air over snow-covered ground and the air over the open waters of a lake.
LP Storm
Low-Precipitation storm (or Low-Precipitation supercell). A supercell thunderstorm characterized by a relative lack of visible precipitation. Visually similar to a classic supercell, except without the heavy precipitation core. LP storms often exhibit a striking visual appearance; the main tower often is bell-shaped, with a corkscrew appearance suggesting rotation. They are capable of producing tornadoes and very large hail. Radar identification often is difficult relative to other types of supercells, so visual reports are very important. LP storms almost always occur on or near the dry line, and thus are sometimes referred to as dry line storms.
Marine Small Craft Thunderstorm Advisory
A marine warning issued by Environment Canada Atmospheric Environment Branch when the possibility of thunderstorms is greater than 40 percent.
Moderate Risk (of severe thunderstorms)
Severe thunderstorms are expected to affect between 5 and 10 percent of the area. A moderate risk indicates the possibility of a significant severe weather episode. See high risk, slight risk, convective outlook.
Multicell Thunderstorm
These thunderstorms are organized in clusters of at least 2-4 short-lived cells. Each cell generates a cold air outflow and these individual outflows combine to form a large gust front. Convergence along the gust front causes new cells to develop every 5 to 15 minutes. The cells move roughly with the mean wind. However, the area (storm) motion usually deviates significantly from the mean wind due to discrete propagation (new cell development) along the gust front. The multicellular nature of the storm is usually apparent on radar with multiple reflectivity cores and maximum tops.
National Severe Storms Laboratory
This is one of NOAA's internationally known Environmental Research Laboratories, leading the way in investigations of all aspects of severe weather. Headquartered in Norman OK with staff in Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Utah, and Wisconsin, the people of NSSL, in partnership with the National Weather Service, are dedicated to improving severe weather warnings and forecasts in order to save lives and reduce property damage.
Nocturnal Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms which develop after sunset. They are often associated with the strengthening of the low level jet and are most common over the Plains states. They also occur over warm water and may be associated with the seaward extent of the overnight land breeze.
Post-storm Report
A report issued by a local National Weather Service office summarizing the impact of a tropical cyclone on it's forecast area. These reports include information on observed winds, pressures, storm surges, rainfall, tornadoes, damage and casualties.
Probability of Thunderstorms
The probability based on climatology that a thunderstorm will be reported at that location during a specified period of time.
Pulse Severe Thunderstorms
Single cell thunderstorms which produce brief periods of severe weather (3/4 inch hail, wind gusts in the excess of 58 miles an hour, or a tornado).
Pulse Storm
A thunderstorm within which a brief period (pulse) of strong updraft occurs, during and immediately after which the storm produces a short episode of severe weather. These storms generally are not tornado producers, but often produce large hail and/or damaging winds. See also overshooting top.
Particles of sand carried aloft by strong wind. The sand particles are mostly confined to the lowest ten feet, and rarely rise more than fifty feet above the ground.
Severe Local Storm
A convective storm that usually covers a relatively small geographic area, or moves in a narrow path, and is sufficiently intense to threaten life and/or property. Examples include severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging wind, or tornadoes. Although cloud-to-ground lightning is not a criteria for severe local storms, it is acknowledged to be highly dangerous and a leading cause of deaths, injuries, and damage from thunderstorms. A thunderstorm need not be severe to generate frequent cloud-to-ground lightning. Additionally, excessive localized convective rains are not classified as severe storms but often are the product of severe local storms. Such rainfall may result in related phenomena (flash floods) that threaten life and property.
Severe Local Storm Watch
An alert issued by the National Weather Service for the contiguous U.S. and its adjacent waters of the potential for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes.
Severe Thunderstorm
A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50knots), and/or hail at least 1" in diameter. Structural wind damage mayimply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm. A thunderstorm wind equalto or greater than 40 mph (35 knots) and/or hail of at least 1" isdefined as approaching severe.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
This is issued when either a severe thunderstorm is indicated by the WSR-88D radar or a spotter reports a thunderstorm producing hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour; therefore, people in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Lightning frequency is not a criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. They are usually issued for a duration of one hour. They can be issued without a Severe Thunderstorm Watch being already in effect.

Like a Tornado Warning, the Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued by your National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWFO). Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will include where the storm was located, what towns will be affected by the severe thunderstorm, and the primary threat associated with the severe thunderstorm warning. If the severe thunderstorm will affect the nearshore or coastal waters, it will be issued as the combined product--Severe Thunderstorm Warning and Special Marine Warning. If the severe thunderstorm is also causing torrential rains, this warning may also be combined with a Flash Flood Warning. If there is an ampersand (&) symbol at the bottom of the warning, it indicates that the warning was issued as a result of a severe weather report.

After it has been issued, the affected NWFO will follow it up periodically with Severe Weather Statements. These statements will contain updated information on the severe thunderstorm and they will also let the public know when the warning is no longer in effect.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch
This is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area. A severe thunderstorm by definition is a thunderstorm that produces one inch hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. The size of the watch can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review severe thunderstorm safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Prior to the issuance of a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, SPC will usually contact the affected local National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWFO) and they will discuss what their current thinking is on the weather situation. Afterwards, SPC will issue a preliminary Severe Thunderstorm Watch and then the affected NWFO will then adjust the watch (adding or eliminating counties/parishes) and then issue it to the public by way of a Watch Redefining Statement. During the watch, the NWFO will keep the public informed on what is happening in the watch area and also let the public know when the watch has expired or been cancelled.
Single Cell Thunderstorm
This type of thunderstorm develops in weak vertical wind shear environments. On a hodograph, this would appear as a closely grouped set of random dots around the center of the graph. They are characterized by a single updraft core and a single downdraft that descends into the same area as the updraft. The downdraft and its outflow boundary then cut off the thunderstorm inflow. This causes the updraft and the thunderstorm to dissipate. Single cell thunderstorms are short-lived. They only last about 1/2 hour to an hour. These thunderstorms will occasionally become severe (3/4 inch hail, wind gusts in the excess of 58 miles an hour, or a tornado), but only briefly. In this case, they are called Pulse Severe Thunderstorms.
Splitting Storm
A thunderstorm which splits into two storms which follow diverging paths (a left mover and a right mover). The left mover typically moves faster than the original storm, the right mover, slower. Of the two, the left mover is most likely to weaken and dissipate (but on rare occasions can become a very severe anticyclonic-rotating storm), while the right mover is the one most likely to reach supercell status.
Any disturbed state of the atmosphere, especially affecting the Earth's surface, and strongly implying destructive and otherwise unpleasant weather. Storms range in scale from tornadoes and thunderstorms to tropical cyclones to synoptic-scale extratropical cyclones.
Storm Data
This National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) monthly publication documents a chronological listing, by states, of occurrences of storms and unusual weather phenomena. Reports contain information on storm paths, deaths, injuries, and property damage. An "Outstanding storms of the month" section highlights severe weather events with photographs, illustrations, and narratives. The December issue includes annual tornado, lightning, flash flood, and tropical cyclone summaries.
Storm Motion
The speed and direction at which a thunderstorm travels.
Storm Relative
Measured relative to a moving thunderstorm, usually referring to winds, wind shear, or helicity.
Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity Map
(SRM): This WSR-88D radar product depicts a full 360º sweep of radial velocity data with the average motion of all identified storms subtracted out. It is available for every elevation angle sampled. It is used to aid in displaying shear and rotation in storms and storm top divergence that might otherwise be obscured by the storm's motion, investigate the 3-D velocity structure of a storm, and help with determining rotational features in fast and uniform moving storms.
Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity Regi
(SRR): This WSR-88D radar product depicts a 27 nm by 27 nm region of storm relative mean radial velocity centered on a point which the operator can specify anywhere within a 124 nm radius of the radar. The storm motion subtracted defaults to the motion of the storm closest to the product center, or can be input by the operator. It is used to examine the 3-dimensional storm relative flow of a specific thunderstorm (radar operator centers product on a specific thunderstorm; aid in displaying shear and rotation in thunderstorms and storm top divergence that might otherwise be obscured by storm motion; and gain higher resolution velocity product
Storm Scale
Referring to weather systems with sizes on the order of individual thunderstorms. See synoptic scale and mesoscale.
Storm Surge
An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic tide from the observed storm tide.
Storm Tide
The actual level of sea water resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge. Most NWS flood statements, watches, or warnings quantifying above-normal tides will report the Storm Tide.
Storm Total Precipitation
This radar image is an estimate of accumulated rainfall since the last time there was a one-hour, or more, break in precipitation. It is used to locate flood potential over urban or rural areas, estimate total basin runoff and provide rainfall accumulations for the duration of the event and is available only for the short range (out to 124 nm). To determine accumulated precipitation at greater distances you should link to an adjacent radar.
Storm Tracking Information
This WSR-88D radar product displays the previous, current, and projected locations of storm centroids (forecast and past positions are limited to one hour or less). Forecast tracks are based upon linear extrapolation of past storm centroid positions, and they are intended for application to individual thunderstorms not lines or clusters. It is used to provide storm movement: low track variance and/or 2 or more plotted past positions signify reliable thunderstorm movement.
Storm Warning
A warning of sustained surface winds, or frequent gusts, in the range of 48 knots (55 mph) to 63 knots (73 mph) inclusive, either predicted or occurring, and not directly associated with a tropical cyclone.
Storm Watch
A watch for an increased risk of a storm force wind event for sustained surface winds, or frequent gusts, of 48 knots (55 mph) to 63 knots (73 mph), but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.
Stormwater Discharge
In hydrologic terms, precipitation that does not infiltrate into the ground or evaporate due to impervious land surfaces but instead flows onto adjacent land or water areas and is routed into drain/sewer systems.
Subsurface Storm Flow
In hydrologic terms, the lateral motion of water through the upper layers until it enters a stream channel. This usually takes longer to reach stream channels than runoff. This also called interflow.
Subtropical Storm
A subtropical cyclone in which the maximum 1-minute sustained surface wind is 34 knots (39 mph) or more.
Supercell Thunderstorm
Potentially the most dangerous of the convective storm types. Storms possessing this structure have been observed to generate the vast majority of long-lived strong and violent (F2-F5) tornadoes, as well as downburst damage and large hail. It is defined as a thunderstorm consisting of one quasi-steady to rotating updraft which may exist for several hours. Supercells usually move to the right of the mean wind. These are called "Right Movers" and they are favored with veering winds. Occasionally, these thunderstorms will move to the left of the mean wind. These thunderstorms are called "Left Movers". These supercells typically don't last as long as their "Right Mover" cousins and they usually only produce large hail (greater than 3/4 inch in diameter) and severe wind gusts in the excess of 58 miles an hour. Left Movers are favored when you have backing winds.

Radar will observe essentially one long-lived cell, but small perturbations to the cell structure may be evident. The stronger the updraft, the better the chance that the supercell will produce severe (hail greater than 3/4 inch in diameter, wind gusts greater than 58 miles an hour, and possibly a tornado) weather.

Severe supercell development is most likely in an environment possessing great buoyancy (CAPE) and large vertical wind shear. A Bulk Richardson Number of between 15 and 35 favor supercell development. Typically, the hodograph will look like a horse shoe. This is due to the wind speed increasing rapidly with height and the wind direction either veering or backing rapidly with height.
A local storm produced by a cumulonimbus cloud and accompanied by lightning and thunder.
Tilted Storm
A thunderstorm or cloud tower which is not purely vertical but instead exhibits a slanted or tilted character. It is a sign of vertical wind shear, a favorable condition for severe storm development.
Tropical Storm
A tropical cyclone in which the maximum 1-minute sustained surface wind ranges from 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph) inclusive.
Tropical Storm Summary
Written by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center* (HPC) after subtropical and names tropical cyclones have moved inland and advisories have been discontinued. These advisories will be terminated when the threat of flash flooding has ended or when the remnants of these storms can no longer be distinguished from other synoptic features capable of producing flash floods. Storm summaries will not be issued for storms that enter the coast of Mexico and do not pose an immediate flash flood threat to the coterminous United States. They will be initiated when and if flash flood watches are posted in the United States because of an approaching system. Storm summaries will continue to be numbered in sequence with tropical cyclone advisories and will reference the former storm's name in the text. Summaries will be issued at 0100, 0700, 1300, and 1900 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). The only exception will be the first one in the series may be issued at a nonscheduled time.
Tropical Storm Warning
An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.
Tropical Storm Watch
An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.
Model-based convection algorithm.
Winter Storm Warning
This product is issued by the National Weather Service 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.
Winter Storm Watch
This product is issued by the National Weather Service 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.

You can either type in the word you are looking for in the box below or browse by letter.


Browse by letter:

#  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  



    US Dept of Commerce
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    National Weather Service
    1325 East West Highway
    Silver Spring, MD 20910
    Page Author: NWS Internet Services Team
Information Quality
Privacy Policy
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
About Us
Career Opportunities
     Page last Modified: 25 June, 2009 1:01 PM