Science, Tech, Math › Science Weather Watch vs. Warning vs. Advisory Share Flipboard Email Print Betsie Van der Meer/Stone/Getty Images Science Weather & Climate Understanding Your Forecast Storms & Other Phenomena Chemistry Biology Physics Geology Astronomy By Tiffany Means Meteorology Expert B.S., Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, University of North Carolina Tiffany Means is a meteorologist and member of the American Meteorological Society who has worked for CNN, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and more. our editorial process Tiffany Means Updated November 04, 2019 When the weather turns ill, the National Weather Service (NWS) may issue a watch, warning, or advisory to alert you of this. But knowing you have a watch or warning does you little good if you don't know what level of threat it carries. In order from least to most threatening, the four-tier approach used by NWS to alert the public of weather hazards includes: outlooks, advisories, watches, and warnings. Rank Issued when: You should take this action: Outlooks Least Serious Hazardous weather is due to occur in the next 3 to 7 days. Stay tuned. Monitor the weather situation for further updates. Advisory Less Serious Weather conditions are less serious, but may cause significant inconvenience. Exercise caution. Watch More Serious There is increased risk of a hazardous weather event, but its occurrence, location, or timing is still uncertain. Listen for further information. Plan/prepare what to do if the danger materializes. Warning Most Serious A hazardous weather event is occurring, imminent, or likely, and a threat to life or property exists. Take action immediately to protect life and property. Not Issued in Any Special Order Outlooks and advisories may be the least serious weather alerts, but that doesn't mean they'll always be issued first. Remember that there is no prescribed order for issuing advisories, watches, and warnings. The NWS doesn't issue a watch next, and a warning after that. At times, a weather situation might develop slowly, in which case an advisory, watch, and a warning will each be issued in their appropriate order. At other times, a weather situation may develop very quickly which could mean you'll go from having no weather alert at all, and a warning issued. (The advisory or watch will be skipped). Can You Stack Weather Alerts? In general, a watch and a warning for a single weather hazard cannot be issued simultaneously. (For example, a tornado watch and a tornado warning can't be in effect at the same time. Either an advisory, or a watch, or a warning must be issued per weather event.) Weather outlooks are one exception to this rule. They can be issued alongside an advisory, watch, or warning for the same weather hazard. When it comes to different weather hazards, there's no limit to the number of alerts that a forecast zone can be under. For example, Cody, WY could have an active blizzard warning, high wind warning, and windchill advisory in effect all at the same time. What Weather Alerts are Active Right Now? To find out what weather alerts are currently active across the U.S., view the NWS national map of active watches, warnings, and advisories, here. For a list of active warnings by state, click here. What Kind of Weather Is "Fire Weather"? Here's How Winter Storms Are Named, and Who Gets to Decide How Hot Does It Feel Outside Right Now? How to Find Accurate Weather Forecasts Why This 1993 Blizzard Is Called the "Storm of the Century" Are You Ready for Tornado Season? How a Tornado Sounds A red flag alert and warning provides important information to firefighters. A Lesson Plan for Using Weather Maps to Make a Forecast Is the Ozone Layer Good or Bad? Which Is More Dangerous -- Flooding or Flash Flooding? Tsunami Safety Guide Is It Weather or Climate? How to Tell the Difference What Do Meteorologists Really Do? How to Understand Weather Warning Flags Can You Read a Weather Map?