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What’s the difference between a frost and a freeze?


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With changing temperatures come frost and freeze warnings. But what’s the difference between the two? And how can you and your family prepare for cold weather?

Before cold weather hits, local and national weather services might issue an “advisory” about the impending temperature changes. Advisories are usually issued anywhere from a few hours to an entire day from when the expected weather is supposed to hit. These advisories fall into one of the following categories.

  • Frost Advisory: Temperatures are expected to fall between 32-36F. 
  • Freeze Warning: Warnings are issued when there’s at least an 80% chance the temperature will go below 32F. 
  • Hard Freeze: Temperatures are expected to drop below 28F. 

Both frost and freeze warnings can be issued in the spring and the fall. In the fall, as temperatures cool, the ground starts to give off heat. This is something called radiational cooling. Most often, the clearer the sky, the more warmth the soil gives off. If the ground is still warm, frost might hover a bit above the ground. This is what’s referred to as a “light frost.” 

Freezes, on the other hand, are the result of something called advective cooling. Advection is the scientific term for transferring an atmospheric condition like heat, cold, or humidity. Freezes can be quick, or they can last for a while. 

If your region is expected to experience temperature changes, be sure to watch for weather alerts and then follow the appropriate action steps to protect you, your family, and your home. 


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