Severe Weather

Waterspout with lightning above a city

Dangerous meteorological phenomena with the capability to cause damage, disruption or death are often referred to under the blanket term of severe weather. Severe weather is also part of the larger umbrella term of natural disasters, which includes land, water, fire, health and space disasters.

These phenomena can occur over a vast swathe or in a relatively small area. High winds are a major cause of severe weather; they may take the form of tornadoes, downbursts, waterspouts, cyclones, etc. Other forms of severe weather include lightning, precipitation (e.g., snow, rain, sleet, hail), lack of preciptation (i.e., drought), extreme heat and extreme cold.

Excluding flash floods, the U.S. National Weather Service issues a warning across media whenever a severe weather event occurs. The photo here depicts a waterspout with lightning near a city. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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