Are those winter storm predictions about to get more accurate?

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Major changes could be coming to the National Weather Service ahead of the winter season. The NWS has announced new criteria that they say will make forecasting snowfall amounts less confusing and complicated.

Major Winter Storm Hammers East Coast With High Winds And Heavy Snow
Photo Credit - Brett Carlsen / Getty Images
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Let It Snow

Think of any major winter storm and how snowfall totals varied across all the news platforms. One would predict 16 inches while another would state we'd get 7 and yet another would say we'd just see a dusting.

And do you know why that is?

According to the NWS, some stations predict snowfall totals within a 12-hour window while others use a 24-hour period.

 

Read More: NY to See Less Snow This Winter Due to Rare Weather Pattern

That's why amounts can be all over the place and create confusion.

Even the NWS has had it with these inconsistent snowfall totals. To streamline their service, they revised their Winter Storm Warnings system across all its affiliates.

Up to 40 inches of snow fell on the Greater Utica area on Friday, March 2, 2018. Photo by Bill Keeler / WIBX.
Bill Keeler / WIBX.
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Before, each NWS office would set the criteria for watches and warnings for their coverage area. That practice has now been shown the door and, instead, these 122 NWS offices will be assigned new criteria that must be met in order to issue a watch or warning.

Prior to this rule change, a singular NWS office could cover between 10 and 20 counties - and some were even split between offices due to geographical features,

 

This adjustment will ensure the NWS and their partners will have uniform weather predictions across the board.

Snowfall events will now be capped at 48 hours, instead of a 12 or 24-hour window. Furthermore, the bells and whistles will only go off for a Winter Storm Warning when an area is slated to get a certain amount of snowfall.  For reference, Southern Oneida County and its surrounding areas have reporting criteria set to 7 inches.

This change in criteria can now be seen on their new interactive map.

Some Additional Changes

There is also another change coming to the NWS. They have also created a list of exceptions where a watch or warning can be fired off even though snowfall totals aren't expected to cross the threshold.

For example, if our area is slated to get 6 inches of snow, but will also endure 25 mph winds, then a warning is justified. The same goes for if the snowfall will be heaviest around rush hour.

Read More: Does New York Have the Most Miserable Winters in the Country?

Finally, the NWS reviewed how they predict a winter storm's impact, such as freezing roadways or large snowfall amounts. To make forecasts clearer, the same changes brought to its Winter Storm Severity Index, or WSSI.

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This will mean uniformity in its predictions across the board.

And if that all still sounds confusing, that's because that's meteorology for you.

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