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Storm warning flag (USA)

A storm warning generally refers to an advisory issued by an official meteorological department to warn citizens of approaching dangerous weather. A storm watch, on the other hand, typically refers to an advisory issued to indicate that conditions are favorable for the development of dangerous weather patterns, although the dangerous weather conditions themselves are not currently present.

In the United States, storm warnings and watches are issued by the National Weather Service, which is itself a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NWS defines a watch as "the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event [increasing] significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain" and a warning as "hazardous weather or hydrologic event [that] is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring" [1]. Additionally, the NWS breaks down storm warnings and watches based upon the specific type of hazardous weather. These warnings and watches include, but are not limited to, hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms. The term "storm warning" is also used by the NWS to warn of high wind conditions not associated with tropical cyclones.

The Met Office, the NOAA's counterpart in the United Kingdom, does not issue separate weather warnings and watches, but has an analogous system of flash warnings and advance warnings that serve the same general role of storm warnings and storm watches, respectively. Other official meteorological departments may use similar systems but use different terms.

At sea, a storm warning is a warning for winds higher than 48 knots (89 km/h, 55 mph), although sometimes a hurricane force wind warning is used when winds exceed hurricane force of 63 knots (118 km/h, 74 mph) and are not related to a tropical cyclone.

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