Winter Weather Words

When you watch Frankie give his forecast on Breakfast Television in the morning, you will hear a 'flurry' of different terms used to describe the wintery weather in the forecast.  We have defined some of the winter weather words so you can have the inside scoop on Frankie's winter weather forecasts.

Blizzard - A period of heavy winds or wind gusts of 55 kilometers per hour or more, accompanied by blowing and/or falling snow leading to reduced visibility and possibly some really cold temperatures.

Climate - The typical weather of an area over a period of years.

Drifting Snow - When wind picks up snow from the ground and moves it around, up to a height of 2 meters.

El Nino - When waters in the Pacific ocean, near the equator, are warmed enough to change typical weather patterns. This occurs every 3-7 years.

Flash Freeze - When the air temperatures drop so quickly that melted snow or water on the ground turns to ice in a very short period.

Flurries - A period of snow that starts and stops suddenly, with varying levels of intensity. Flurries do not typically produce a significant accumulation of snow.

Freezing Rain - Rain that freezes when landing on the ground, creating a layer of ice over surfaces.  

Front - The edge or transition zone between two large masses air with different temperatures (i.e cold and warm)

Gusts -  Brief, rapid changes in the wind speed from high to low.

Ice Pellets - When rain freezes in the air as is falls, before hitting the ground.

Polar Vortex - A swirling mass of air that exists around the north and south poles all the time. Occasionally, during the winter, the cold air will expand beyond the poles, sending cold air south from the north pole (or north from the south pole) causing colder than normal temperatures.

Prevailing Winds - The wind direction over a set period of time.

Snow Squalls - Passage of a cold front, or cold air over open water that brings moderate to heavy snowfall, poor visibility and possibly even lightening! Snow squalls usually lead to high accumulations of snow it the affected areas.

Snow Pellets - Brittle and crisp snow that bounces when hitting the ground.

Snow Belt - An area near large bodies of open water that receives high amounts of snow because of the prevailing winds and proximity to the open water.

Snowfall Warning - In Canada, these are issued by Environment Canada's Meteorological Service (MSC) when the expected snowfall amounts will cause hazardous conditions and significant inconveniences.

Weather Watch - Issued by Environment Canada MSC when conditions are favourable for severe weather but there is still some uncertainty.

Weather Warning -  Issued by Environment Canada MSC when severe weather is imminent and certain.

Winter Storm Warning - Issued by Environment Canada MSC when major snowfall, possibly combined with freezing rain, strong winds, extreme wind chill and/or blowing snow are expected, and will pose a threat to public safety and property.

Whiteout - When a blizzard or snow squall causes visibility to be reduced to no more than a few meters. Differs from the definition of a whiteout in the polar regions where the snow on the ground and the snow in the air appear to blur together to create indistinguishable landscape with no shadows cast and the horizon is not visible. Everything is white!

Weather - The daily atmospheric conditions of an area.

Wind Chill - The combination of air temperature and wind speed and how it affects body heat loss. It is measured by watts per square metre of skin and is expressed as the "Wind Chill Factor" or a "Feels Like" temperature.

Do you have another weather term you would like to know? Email us or visit Environment Canada Meteorological Service Website



Environment Canada Meteorological Service

National Weather Service