To quote Doc Brown from Back to the Future “there’s that word again, ‘heavy,’  is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?”

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No, we don’t watch movies in the weather center all day.  But, an actual conversation that happened in the 7 News weather center today prompted a debate…what is heavy?!?


This is a common debate that happens every time there is weather to talk about at news stations all over the country.  The news producers want to make the weather sound newsworthy by using words like “heavy” or “massive” or “severe” but the weather people want to be as scientifically correct and accurate as possible.

Of course, we can’t tell you what feels heavy to you, or what feels cold for that matter.  But, in some cases, there are definitions for these types of things.  The Federal Meteorological Handbook used by the National Weather Service and all branches of the Department of Commerce states that, when making weather observations, the criteria for “heavy” rain is more than .30″ per hour or more than .03″ in 6 minutes.  “Light” rain indicates up to .10″ in an hour or up to .01″ in 6 minutes.  Anything in between is just rain.

If it is snowing, and the snow is so intense that the visibility is reduced to 1/4 mile or less, that is described as “heavy” snow.  In case you are wondering, “well how much snow is that?!?”  The National Weather Service says that generally means snowfall accumulating to 4″ or more in depth in 12 hours or less, or snowfall accumulating to 6″ or more in depth in 24 hours or less.  If the visibility is greater than 1/2 mile, the snow is “light.”

On a related note, was it “mostly sunny” or “partly cloudy?!?”  There’s a definition for that too.  If only 1/8 to 2/8 of the sky is covered with clouds, that is defined as “mostly sunny” or “mostly clear.”  “Partly cloudy” or “partly sunny” indicates that clouds covered about half of the sky (3/8 to 4/8 if you really want to be specific).


So, for the record, Jeremy and I both agreed that the rain we personally witnessed in and around the 7 News studio while coming in to work in Boston felt “light.”  As I write this, Boston has officially received .49″ or rain in 5 hours.  So we were right to trust our feelings.  But as Wren and Jeremy have been warning us, the rain was certainly heavier in spots.  Norwood got .52″ in just the last hour!!  No doubt that’s heavy!

The rain tapers off overnight.  Skies start out cloudy on Wednesday, then turn more “partly sunny” by afternoon.  Temps will be mild with some spots getting close to 60!

If you like that, you’ll like Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Although, the coast will be a bit cooler each day.

Our next chance of rain comes in Sunday and that marks the beginning of a weather pattern change.  Next week looks much cooler!

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