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Difference Between Thunderstorm Watch and Warning

Thunderstorm Watch vs Warning

A thunderstorm is a weather condition that is comprised of violent winds, heavy rains, the presence of thunder, lightning, as well as hail. Tornadoes can also be expected to form during a thunderstorm. Thunderstorms can occur as singles or in clusters. Thunderstorms, like many weather disturbances, are known to destroy property, take lives, and leave a destructive swath of land in its wake.

In order to prevent the scope of damage and the loss of lives, technology and human communication have developed a system to predict and caution the public for upcoming weather disturbances. There are two types of weather alerts for thunderstorms; the thunderstorm watch and thunderstorm warming. Both concepts have the same intention, warning the public but are used in different instances and sometimes with differences in length.

A thunderstorm watch is an alert that informs the public that there is a potential thunderstorm coming into a specific area. The watch can be posted or aired (via mediums like televisions or radio broadcast) for a long period of time. The length of time is more extended than a thunderstorm warming because the thunderstorm (or any weather disturbance) is just a possibility of occurring, crossing, or affecting an area.

Thunderstorm watches are issued when the conditions for a thunderstorm are very favorable or very likely to happen. Certain indicators like winds coming at 55-60 miles per hour (or equivalent of 88–96 kilometers per hour) would most likely produce a thunderstorm and cause the setup and issuance of a thunderstorm watch. A thunderstorm watch also encompasses a large geographical area or vicinity.

In comparison, thunderstorm warnings are a more imminent kind of alert. In this type of precaution, the thunderstorm (or any other weather disturbance) is already occurring and on a set course toward a specific area. The conditions for a thunderstorm are already in place and there is evidence of movement from the thunderstorm. The thunderstorm is already existing and happening. Weather instruments like radar, satellite, and others can have a picture or an image of the particular thunderstorm.

Unlike the thunderstorm watch, the thunderstorm warning only covers a small and specific area. Thunderstorm warnings are also occur in shorter and more definite time periods.


1.Both a thunderstorm watch and thunderstorm warnings are issued by various weather stations and news programs to inform and provide the public details about a coming thunderstorm in an area. These preventive alerts allow people to plan and prepare for the thunderstorm. Sometimes it is also a signal guide for people to evacuate an area to evade the disaster.

2.Before issuing a thunderstorm watch or warning, there are certain guidelines to be observed.

3.A thunderstorm watch and a thunderstorm warning are two different kinds of alert. A thunderstorm watch is issued on the possibility of a thunderstorm while a thunderstorm warning is issued when the thunderstorm itself is definite and can be observed.

4.A thunderstorm watch occurs in a lengthier period compared to a thunderstorm warning. Also, the thunderstorm watch is designated for a larger and wider scope compared to a thunderstorm warning’s smaller and specific vicinity.

5.Thunderstorm watches are issued early on or before the thunderstorm takes shape while thunderstorm warnings are issued before the thunderstorm actually hits the land or surface of the Earth.

6.People can still do normal activities when a thunderstorm watch is issued while people are advised to stay in a safe place with plans for preparation for evacuation when a thunderstorm warning is issued. In-between the issuance of thunderstorm watches and warnings, several advisories for an area are given by news programs and weather stations to keep the public informed and on high alert for any news regarding the thunderstorm.

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