As the impending winter storm takes over headlines across New Jersey, it's important to understand the difference between a watch, a warning, and an advisory.

In advance of our impending nor'easter, the National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Warning for most of New Jersey from Midnight Saturday morning through 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Counties under this warning include Hudson, Essex, Union, Somerset, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Salem counties.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the rest of the state.

A Coastal Flood Warning and High Wind Warning

have been posted for the Jersey Shore.

A Warning is issued when potentially dangerous weather is imminent or occurring. A Watch is a "heads-up", and means treacherous weather is anticipated at some point in the future. And an Advisory is a less urgent, less severe notification that bad weather is expected.

Wintertime watches, warnings, and advisories can be incredibly tricky to decipher and differentiate from each other. So here's a basic winter warning types primer specifically for New Jersey, with official definitions from the National Weather Service...

Winter Storm Warning

Heavy snow, heavy sleet, or a combination of two or more winter weather hazards (including snow, blowing snow, freezing rain, and sleet) are occurring, imminent, or highly likely. Specific warning criteria for "heavy snow" requires:
--North Jersey (Mercer/Monmouth Co. and northward): 6" of accumulation in 12 hours OR 8" of accumulation in 24 hours
--South Jersey (Burlington/Ocean Co. and southward): 5" of accumulation within 12 hours OR 6" of accumulation within 24 hours

Winter Storm Watch

Significant accumulations of snow, freezing rain, and/or sleet are possible within 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Ice Storm Warning

A period of freezing rain is expected to produce heavy ice accumulations of 1/4" or greater, causing significant disruptions to travel or utilities.

Blizzard Warning

Issued when Blizzard conditions are expected:
--Sustained wind or frequent wind gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph,
--Accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow,
--Frequently reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile,
--For three hours or more.

Blizzard Watch

Blizzard conditions are possible within 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Winter Weather Advisory

Hazardous winter weather conditions involving snow, freezing rain or freezing drizzle, sleet, and/or blowing snow are occurring, imminent, or likely. Conditions will cause a significant inconvenience and if caution is not exercised, may result in a potential threat to life and/or property.

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Dan Zarrow is the Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.

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