1. Abbreviation for Altocumulus - a cloud of a class characterized by globular masses or rolls in layers or patches, the individual elements being larger and darker than those of cirrocumulus and smaller than those of stratocumulus. These clouds are of medium altitude, about 8000-20,000 ft (2400-6100 m).

2. Convective outlook issued by the Storm Prediction Center. Abbreviation for Anticipated Convection; the term originates from the header coding [ACUS1] of the transmitted product.
(usually pronounced ACK-kis) - AltoCumulus CAStellanus; mid-level clouds (bases generally 8 to 15 thousand feet), of which at least a fraction of their upper parts show cumulus-type development. These clouds often are taller than they are wide, giving them a turret-shaped appearance. ACCAS clouds are a sign of instability aloft, and may precede the rapid development of thunderstorms.
Accessory Cloud
A cloud which is dependent on a larger cloud system for development and continuance. Roll clouds, shelf clouds, and wall clouds are examples of accessory clouds.
The growth of a precipitation particle by the collision of a frozen particle with a supercooled liquid water droplet which freezes upon impact.
Degree of conformity of a measure to a standard or true value; in other words, how close a predicted or measured value is to the true value.
Acid Precipitation
Precipitation, such as rain, snow or sleet, containing relatively high concentrations of acid-forming chemicals that have been released into the atmosphere and combined with water vapor; harmful to the environment.
Acid Rain
Rain containing relatively high concentrations of acid-forming chemicals that have been released into the atmosphere and combined with water vapor; harmful to the environment.
Above Cloud Level
The amount of water required to cover one acre to a depth of one foot. An acre-foot equals 326,851 gallons, or 43,560 cubic feet.
Action Stage
The stage which, when reached by a rising stream, represents the level where the NWS or a partner/user needs to take some type of mitigation action in preparation for possible significant hydrologic activity. The appropriate action is usually defined in a weather forecast office (WFO) hydrologic services manual. Action stage can be the same as forecast issuance stage (see / forecast issuance stage/).
(abbrev. ACTV). In solar-terrestrial terms, solar activity levels with at least one geophysical event or several larger radio events (10cm) per day (Class M Flares)
Active Conservation Storage
In hydrologic terms, the portion of water stored in a reservoir that can be released for all useful purposes such as municipal water supply, power, irrigation, recreation, fish, wildlife, etc. Conservation storage is the volume of water stored between the inactive pool elevation and flood control stage.
Active Dark Filament (ADF)
In solar-terrestrial terms, an Active Prominence seen on the Disk.
Active Longitude
In solar-terrestrial terms, the approximate center of a range of heliographic longitudes in which Active Regions are more numerous and more flare-active than the average.
Active Prominence
In solar-terrestrial terms, a prominence displaying material motion and changes in appearance over a few minutes of time.
Active Prominence Region (APR)
In solar-terrestrial terms, a portion of the solar limb displaying active prominences.
Active Region (AR)
In solar-terrestrial terms, a localized, transient volume of the solar atmosphere in which plages, sunspots, faculae, flares, etc. may be observed.
Active Storage Capacity
In hydrologic terms, the total amount of reservoir capacity normally available for release from a reservoir below the maximum storage level. It is total or reservoir capacity minus inactive storage capacity. More specifically, it is the volume of water between the outlet works and the spillway crest.
Active Surge Region (ASR)
In solar-terrestrial terms, an Active Region that exhibits a group or series of spike-like surges that rise above the limb.
Active. In solar-terrestrial terms, solar activity levels with at least one geophysical event or several larger radio events (10cm) per day (Class M Flares)
Anticyclone - A large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
Adirondack Type Snow Sampling Set
In hydrologic terms, a snow sampler consisting of a 5-foot fiberglass tube, 3 inches in diameter, with a serrated-edge steel cutter at one end and a twisting handle at the other. This sampler has a 60-inch snow depth capacity.
Area-Capacity Curve
In hydrologic terms, a graph showing the relation between the surface area of the water in a reservoir, the corresponding volume, and elevation.
Automated Surface Observing System
The ASOS program is a joint effort of the National Weather Service (NWS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Department of Defense (DOD). Completed in the mid-1990s, the ASOS systems serve as the nation's primary surface weather observing network. ASOS is designed to support weather forecast activities and aviation operations and, at the same time, support the needs of the meteorological, hydrological, and climatological research communities.
Back Door Cold Front
A cold front moving south or southwest along the Atlantic seaboard and Great Lakes; these are especially common during the spring months.
Back-building Thunderstorm
A thunderstorm in which new development takes place on the upwind side (usually the west or southwest side), such that the storm seems to remain stationary or propagate in a backward direction.
Back-sheared Anvil
[Slang], a thunderstorm anvil which spreads upwind, against the flow aloft. A back-sheared anvil often implies a very strong updraft and a high severe weather potential.
A fire started to stop an advancing fire by creating a burned area in its path.
In hydrologic terms, the backing up of water through a conduit or channel in the direction opposite to normal flow.
(abbrev. BCKG)- A counterclockwise shift in wind direction (for example, south winds shifting to the east).
Backing Winds
Winds which shift in a counterclockwise direction with time at a given location (e.g. from southerly to southeasterly), or change direction in a counterclockwise sense with height (e.g. westerly at the surface but becoming more southerly aloft). The opposite of veering winds.

In storm spotting, a backing wind usually refers to the turning of a south or southwest surface wind with time to a more east or southeasterly direction. Backing of the surface wind can increase the potential for tornado development by increasing the directional shear at low levels.
The portion of power scattered back in the incident direction.
In hydrologic terms, a rod reading taken on a point of known elevation, a benchmark or a turning point. Backsights are added to the known elevation to arrive at the height of the instrument. With a known height of the instrument, the telescope can be used to determine the elevation of other points in the vicinity.
Backwater Curve
In hydrologic terms, the longitudinal profile of the surface of a liquid in a non-uniform flow in an open channel, when the water surface is not parallel to the invert owing to the depth of water having been increased by the interposition of an obstruction such as a dam or weir. The term is sometimes used in a generic sense to denote all water surface profiles; or for profiles where the water is flowing at depths greater than the critical.
Backwater Effect
In hydrologic terms, the effect which a dam or other obstruction has in raising the surface of the water upstream from it.
Backwater Flooding
Hydrologic terms, upstream flooding caused by downstream conditions such as channel restriction and/or high flow in a downstream confluence stream.
Beach Erosion
The movement of beach materials by some combination of high waves, currents and tides, or wind.
Best Track
A subjectively-smoothed representation of a tropical cyclone's location and intensity over its lifetime. The best track contains the cyclone's latitude, longitude, maximum sustained surface winds, and minimum sea-level pressure at 6-hourly intervals. Best track positions and intensities, which are based on a post-storm assessment of all available data, may differ from values contained in storm advisories. They also generally will not reflect the erratic motion implied by connecting individual center fix positions.
Black Ice
1. Slang reference to patchy ice on roadways or other transportation surfaces that cannot easily be seen.

2. In hydrologic terms, transparent ice formed in rivers and lakes.
A hypothetical "body" that absorbs all of the electromagnetic radiation striking it - it does not reflect or transmit any of the incident radiation. A blackbody not only absorbs all wavelengths, but emits at all wavelengths with the maximum possible intensity for any given temperature.
Blackbody Radiation
The electromagnetic radiation emitted by an ideal blackbody adhering to the radiation laws; it is the theoretical maximum amount of electromagnetic radiation of all wavelengths that can be emitted by a body at a given temperature.
Brackish Ice
In hydrologic terms, ice formed from brackish water.
In hydrologic terms, the failed opening in a dam.
Congressional Organic Act of 1890
The act that assigned the responsibility of river and floor forecasting for the benefit of the general welfare of the Nation’s people and economy to the Weather Bureau, and subsequently the National Weather Service.
In hydrologic terms, the Software System that supports RFC gateway functions.
Dry Crack
In hydrologic terms, a crack visible at the surface but not going right through the ice cover, and therefore it is dry.
Emergency Action Plan
In hydrologic terms, a predetermined plan of action to be taken to reduce the potential for property damage and loss of life in an area affected by a dam break or excessive spillway.
Equilibrium Surface Discharge
In hydrologic terms, the steady rate of surface discharge which results from a long-continued, steady rate of net rainfall, with discharge rate equal to net rainfall rate
Exclusive Flood Control Storage Capacity
In hydrologic terms, the space in a reservoir reserved for the sole purpose of regulating flood inflows to abate flood damage
In hydrologic terms, the external surface of a structure, such as the surface of a dam.
In solar-terrestrial terms, a bright region of the photosphere seen in white light, seldom visible except near the solar limb.
Field (Moisture) Capacity
The amount of water held in soil against the pull of gravity
A cumulus cloud presenting a ragged, shredded appearance, as if torn.
A stratus cloud presenting a ragged, shredded appearance, as if torn. It differs from a fractocumulus cloud in having a smaller vertical extent and darker color.
In hydrologic terms, any break or rupture formed in an ice cover or floe due to deformation.
Fracture Zone
In hydrologic terms, an area which has a great number of fractures.
In hydrologic terms, deformation process whereby ice is permanently deformed, and fracture occurs.
Ragged, detached cloud fragments; same as scud.
The transformation of cloud particles from water drops to ice crystals. Thus, a cumulonimbus cloud is said to have a "glaciated" upper portion.
In hydrologic terms, bodies of land ice that consist of recrystallized snow accumulated on the surface of the ground, and that move slowly downslope.
Glacier Dammed Lake
In hydrologic terms, the lake formed when a glacier flows across the mouth of an adjoining valley and forms an ice dam.
Glacier Wind
A shallow downslope wind above the surface of a glacier, caused by the temperature difference between the air in contact with the glacier and the free air at the same altitude. The glacier wind does not reverse diurnally like slope and along-valley wind systems.
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)
NASA satellites that detect small changes in the Earth’s gravitational field caused by the redistribution of water on and beneath the land surface.
Great Circle Track
A great-circle track is the shortest distance between two points on a sphere, and when viewed on a 2-dimensional map the track will appear curved. Swell waves travel along routes that mark out great circles.
Great Lakes Faxback
Dissemination systems housed at Weather Forecast Office (WFO) Cleveland by which Great Lakes customers request and receive hard copies of selected marine products.
Head Race
In hydrologic terms, a channel which directs water to a water wheel; a forebay.
Hinge Crack
In hydrologic terms, a crack caused by significant changes in water level.
Inactive Storage Capacity
In hydrologic terms, the portion of capacity below which the reservoir is not normally drawn, and which is provided for sedimentation, recreation, fish and wildlife, aesthetic reasons, or for the creation of a minimum controlled operational or power head in compliance with operating agreements or restrictions.
Infiltration Capacity
In hydrologic terms, the maximum rate at which water can enter the soil at a particular point under a given set of conditions.
Isentropic Surface
A two-dimensional surface containing points of equal potential temperature.
A line connecting points of equal wind speed.
Live Capacity
In hydrologic terms, the total amount of storage capacity available in a reservoir for all purposes, from the dead storage level to the normal water or normal pool level surface level. Does not include surcharge, or dead storage, but does include inactive storage, active conservation storage and exclusive flood control storage.
Mackeral Sky
The name given to cirrocumulus clouds with small vertical extent and composed of ice crystals. The rippled effect gives the appearance of fish scales.
A convective downdraft with an affected outflow area of at least 2½ miles wide and peak winds lasting between 5 and 20 minutes. Intense macrobursts may cause tornado-force damage of up to F3 intensity.
Large scale, characteristic of weather systems several hundred to several thousand kilometers in diameter.
Maximum Sustained Surface Wind
When applied to a particular weather system, refers to the highest one-minute average wind (at an elevation of 10 meters with an unobstructed exposure) associated with that weather system at a particular point in time.
Nacreous Clouds
Clouds of unknown composition that have a soft, pearly luster and that form at altitudes about 25 to 30 km above the Earth's surface. They are also called "mother-of-the-pearl clouds."
Normal Water Surface Elevation
In hydrologic terms, the lowest crest level of overflow on a reservoir with a fixed overflow level (spillway crest elevation). For a reservoir whose outflow is controlled wholly or partly by movable gates, siphons, or other means, it is the maximum level to which water may rise under normal operating conditions, exclusive of any provision for flood surcharge.
North Pacific High
A semi-permanent, subtropical area of high pressure in the North Pacific Ocean. It is strongest in the Northern Hemispheric summer and is displaced towards the equator during the winter when the Aleutian Low becomes more dominate. Comparable systems are the Azores High and the Bermuda High.
Ozone Action Day
A "heads-up" message issued by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through the National Weather Service when ozone levels may reach dangerous levels the next day. This message encourages residents to prevent air pollution by postponing the use of lawn mowing, motor vehicles, boats, as well as filling their vehicle gas tanks.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation
(Abbrev. PDO) - a recently described pattern of climate variation similar to ENSO though on a timescale of decades and not seasons. It is characterized by SST anomalies of one sign in the north-central Pacific and SST anomalies of another sign to the north and east near the Aleutians and the Gulf of Alaska. It primarily affects weather patterns and sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and northern Pacific Islands.
Pressure Characteristic
The pattern of the pressure change during the specified period of time, usually the three hour period preceding an observation. This is recorded in three categories: falling, rising, or steady.
Radar Data Acquisition
An acronym for Radar Data Acquisition. The RDA is the hardware component of the NEXRAD system that consists of the radar antenna, transmitter, receiver, tower, and controlling computer. The RDA collects the unprocessed, analog voltages from the radar antenna and converts the signal to base reflectivity , base velocity, and spectrum width (in polar coordinate form). These "wide-band" products are transmitted to the RPG, which creates and disseminates end-user products. Also: The RDA is the origination point of the WSR-88D radar data that will be eventually used by the radar operator. This WSR-88D component group is made up of several subcomponents which generate and radiate radio frequency (RF) pulses, receive reflected energy from those pulses, and process this received energy into digital base data. The RDA is also the site of the first two of four data recording levels used by the WSR-88D to record and store radar data.
Radar Reflectivity Factor (z)
z = the sum (over i) of (N_i * D_i^6), where N_i is the number of drops of diameter D_i in a pulse resolution volume. Note that z may be expressed in linear or logarithmic units. The radar reflectivity factor is simply a more meteorologically meaningful way of expressing the radar reflectivity.
Also known as HF FAX, radiofax or weatherfax, is a means of broadcasting graphic weather maps and other graphic images via HF radio. HF radiofax is also known as WEFAX, although this term is generally used to refer to the reception of weather charts and imagery via satellite. Maps are received using a dedicated radiofax receiver or a single sideband shortwave receiver connected to an external facsimile recorder or PC equipped with a radiofax interface and application software.
In hydrologic terms, the distance between two specific points outlining that portion of the stream, or river for which the forecast applies. This generally applies to the distance above and below the forecast point for which the forecast is valid.
A section of river or stream between an upstream and downstream location, for which the stage or flow measured at a point somewhere along the section (e.g., gaging station or forecast point) is representative of conditions in that section of river or stream.
Reflectivity Factor
The result of a mathematical equation (called the Weather Radar Equation) that converts the analog power (in Watts) received by the radar antenna into a more usable quantity. The reflectivity factor (denoted by Z) takes into account several factors, including the distance of a target from the radar, the wavelength of the transmitted radiation, and certain assumptions about the kind and size of targets detected by the radar. The reflectivity factor ranges over several orders of magnitudes, so it is usually expressed on a logarithmic scale called dBZ (decibels of reflectivity).
Changes in the direction of energy propagation as a result of density changes within the propagating medium. In weather terms, this is important on determining how a radar beam reacts in the atmosphere.
Refractive Index
A measure of the amount of refraction. Numerically equal to the ratio of wave velocity in a vacuum to a wave speed in the medium, i.e., n = c / v where: v is actual speed, and c is speed of light in a vacuum.
Expressed as N; N = (n-1)*106, where n is refractive index and N is a function of temperature, pressure and vapor pressure (in the atmosphere).
Replace and Route (R&R)
A methodology that ingests the official streamflow forecasts issued by the NWS RFCs at AHPS gauge locations, and utilizes the National Water Model (NWM) to route these forecasts downstream. This method is used to delineate the River Forecast Center Flood Inundation Map (RFC FIM).
Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting Model (SAC-SMA)
A continuous soil moisture accounting model with spatially lumped parameters that simulates runoff within a basin.
Sea Surface Temperatures
The term refers to the mean temperature of the ocean in the upper few meters.
Sediment Storage Capacity
In hydrologic terms, the volume of a reservoir planned for the deposition of sediment.
Snow Accumulation and Ablation Model
In hydrologic terms, a model which simulates snow pack accumulation, heat exchange at the air-snow interface, areal extent of snow cover, heat storage within the snow pack, liquid water retention, and transmission and heat exchange at the ground-snow interface.
Snow Pack
Same as Snowcover; the combined layers of snow and ice on the ground at any one time.
The total snow and ice on the ground, including both the new snow and the previous snow and ice which has not melted.
Space Environment Center
(SEC) - This center provides real-time monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events, conducts research in solar-terrestrial physics, and develops techniques for forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances. SEC's parent organization is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). SEC is one of NOAA's 12 Environmental Research Laboratories (ERL) and one of NOAA's 9 National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). SEC's Space Weather Operations is jointly operated by NOAA and the U.S. Air Force and is the national and world warning center for disturbances that can affect people and equipment working in the space environment.
Staccato Lightning
A Cloud to Ground (CG) lightning discharge which appears as a single very bright, short-duration stroke, often with considerable branching.
Storm Tracking Information
This WSR-88D radar product displays the previous, current, and projected locations of storm centroids (forecast and past positions are limited to one hour or less). Forecast tracks are based upon linear extrapolation of past storm centroid positions, and they are intended for application to individual thunderstorms not lines or clusters. It is used to provide storm movement: low track variance and/or 2 or more plotted past positions signify reliable thunderstorm movement.
Stream Reach
A significant segment of surface water that has similar hydrologic characteristics, such as a stretch of stream/river between two confluences.
The bending of the radar beam in the vertical which is less than under standard refractive conditions. This causes the beam to be higher than indicated, and lead to the underestimation of cloud heights.
Subsurface Storm Flow
In hydrologic terms, the lateral motion of water through the upper layers until it enters a stream channel. This usually takes longer to reach stream channels than runoff. This also called interflow.
Bending of the radar beam in the vertical which is greater than sub-standard refractive conditions. This causes the beam to be lower than indicated, and often results in extensive ground clutter as well as an overestimation of cloud top heights.
Surcharge Capacity
In hydrologic terms, the volume of a reservoir between the maximum water surface elevation for which the dam is designed and the crest of an uncontrolled spillway, or the normal full-pool elevation of the reservoir with the crest gates in the normal closed position.
Surface Energy Budget
The energy or heat budget at the earth's surface, considered in terms of the fluxes through a plane at the earth-atmosphere interface. The energy budget includes radiative, sensible, latent and ground heat fluxes.
Surface impoundment
In hydrologic terms, an indented area in the land's surface, such as a pit, pond, or lagoon.
Surface Runoff
In hydrologic terms, the runoff that travels overland to the stream channel. Rain that falls on the stream channel is often lumped with this quantity.
Surface Water
Water that flows in streams and rivers and in natural lakes, in wetlands, and in reservoirs constructed by humans.
Surface Weather Chart
An analyzed synoptic chart of surface weather observations. A surface chart shows the distribution of sea-level pressure (therefore, the position of highs, lows, ridges and troughs) and the location and nature of fronts and air masses. Often added to this are symbols for occurring weather phenomena. Although the pressure is referred to mean sea level, all other elements on this chart are presented as they occur at the surface point of observation.
Surface-based Convection
Convection occurring within a surface-based layer, i.e., a layer in which the lowest portion is based at or very near the earth's surface. Compare with elevated convection.
Synoptic Track
Weather reconnaissance mission flown to provide vital meteorological information in data sparse ocean areas as a supplement to existing surface, radar, and satellite data. Synoptic flights better define the upper atmosphere and aid in the prediction of tropical cyclone development and movement.
In hydrologic terms, a hydrograph or similar plot for an extended-range time horizon showing one of many scenarios generated through an ensemble forecast process.
The path that a storm or weather system follows.
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers
Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC)
A large-scale, semi-distributed hydrologic model that solves full water and energy balances. As such, it shares several basic features with other land surface models that are commonly coupled to global circulation models.
Vertically Stacked System
A low-pressure system, usually a closed low or cutoff low, which is not tilted with height, i.e., located similarly at all levels of the atmosphere. Such systems typically are weakening and are slow-moving, and are less likely to produce severe weather than tilted systems. However, cold pools aloft associated with vertically-stacked systems may enhance instability enough to produce severe weather.
Wind Chill Factor
Increased wind speeds accelerate heat loss from exposed skin. No specific rules exist for determining when wind chill becomes dangerous. As a general rule, the threshold for potentially dangerous wind chill conditions is about -20°F.
X-Ray Background
In solar-terrestrial terms, a daily average background X-ray flux in the 1 to 8 angstrom range. It is a midday minimum designed to reduce the effects of flares.

You can either type in the word you are looking for in the box below or browse by letter.


Browse by letter:

#  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z