Watching Cupcakes… Watch vs. Warning – What’s The Difference?

| January 26, 2019 @ 9:30 am


(Photo Credit: Brad Panovich Meteorologist)
WATCH: The ingredients for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes are present!
WARNING: The threat for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes is imminent!

When you’re planning to bake cupcakes, you might go to the store to buy ingredients, follow a recipe, and measure out certain portions of sugar, butter, and flour. Then, you wait for the oven to preheat. Just like making cupcakes, a watch means conditions are favorable or expected but not occurring or imminent. All the ingredients are in place for winter or severe weather, like low-level shear, plenty of moisture, or large values of CAPE (convective available potential energy), telling you how unstable the air is. There is not just one set of ingredients for vanilla and chocolate, just as there may be a different set of parameters that make up a watch. Once the cupcake has come out of the oven and cooled enough to the point where you can frost it, the steps are complete. A warning means these conditions are occurring and require immediate action.

A tornado watch is issued when atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes. A tornado warning is issued when low-level rotation can be seen by Doppler radar or a tornado has been spotted by a human observer. A severe thunderstorm watch is when conditions are favorable for a thunderstorm with 1” diameter hail or greater (nickel-sized) and/or wind gusts in excess of 58 mph, while a severe thunderstorm warning indicates these conditions have developed.

An advisory may be issued if a condition has a good chance of occurring, like frost advisories, wind chill, winter weather advisories due to freezing rain, or visibility restrictions due to dense fog, blowing dust, volcanic ash, or blowing snow. Watches and warnings may also be issued for tropical storms, hurricanes, flooding, high winds, tsunamis, and lake effect snow. As warnings cover a smaller geographical area and a shorter time period, the odds that you will be impacted by severe weather will increase. If severe weather is expected in your area, keep up-to-date on the current weather situation through a NOAA weather radio or your local channel or weather service office, and be prepared to seek shelter if necessary.

To learn more about preparing for extreme weather events, please click here!

©2019 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan

AlabamaWX is pleased to partner with the Global Weather and Climate Center team for outstanding posts about our atmosphere. Visit them at for more great information!


Category: Partner News Stories

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.