Get your snow smarts on: 9 forecast tools to use this winter


Snowstorm. (Image credit: iStock)

At NOAA’s National Weather Service, we’re like kids when it comes to snow. We love it! If you love snow like we do, become a snow-it-all this winter.

We’ve got 9 winter weather forecast tools you can tinker with on your mobile device or computer as winter threats unfold.

Each tool has a unique benefit throughout the timeline of a winter threat, and the list is ordered as such. Use these tools regularly to see where, when and how much snow, ice and wind is predicted:

1. One-stop shopping for all your forecast needs

Feeling the [wind] chill? At, you can plug in your Zip Code in the upper left-hand window, click “go,” and get the custom forecast for your location — including any local watches or warnings in effect — directly from your local forecast office. We have 122 of them across the country.

2. Day 4–​7 Winter Weather Outlook

Take a look ahead. This outlook product is most useful for future winter storm threats and can help you to identify large-scale storm systems many days in advance.

3. Experimental Winter Storm Outlook

This new experimental product displays the probability of significant snow or ice accumulation up to 4 days in advance.

4. Day 1–3 Snowfall Probability Forecasts

As predictability increases, this tool provides an excellent snapshot of what the next few days might have in store regarding snow and ice accumulations for your neck of the winter woods.

5. Snow Accumulation Potential  

This experimental tool is available at 77 locations this year. It can provide you with a detailed range of potential snowfall amounts from incoming winter storms.

6. Winter Storm Severity Index

Want to know how the incoming winter storm might impact your area? This newly operational, impact-based index provides local officials and the public with a storm’s expected severity level and its potential related impacts. Use it to make more informed decisions regarding your travel and outdoor activities.  

7. Hourly Weather Graph

As the forecast becomes more certain, this awesome tool will provide you with an hour-by-hour look at the forecast. If someone asks you, “What time will the snow start falling?,” this should be your go-to resource for the answer.

8. Snow Squall Warnings

Thanks to better observations from satellites, Doppler radar, improved forecast models and increased supercomputing capacity, we developed a new life-saving alert to give you notice about dangerous snow squalls that might pop up. These warnings are also sent to your cell phone through the federal Wireless Emergency Alerts program, so you’ll be notified of rapidly deteriorating conditions and be able to slow down or pull over to a safe place on the side of the roadway until the squall passes.

If a snow squall warning is issued for your area, your best bet is to avoid or delay vehicle travel until the squall leaves your location.  

9. Snow Coverage Maps and New Snowfall Maps

Calling all ski and snowboard bums: We have a little-known weather service office way up in Chanhassen, Minnesota, that monitors total snow and ice cover in the U.S. If you need help figuring out where to go for some great powder, our maps will point you in the right direction. You can also check out how much new snow has accumulated by using the new National Snowfall Analysis.


Whichever tools you use, arm yourself with the best data on which to make good decisions.

See our tips on how to stay safe before, during and after a winter storm.

When it snows, we’d like to know! Sign up to report snowfall amounts in your location. offsite link The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network offsite link needs volunteers offsite link to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow).

What’s the secret behind the cold, white stuff? Check out our story, How do snowflakes form? Get the science behind snow.