Breakdown: Why isolated showers differ from scattered showers

Updated: Jan. 20, 2020 at 2:53 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In the First Alert Weather Department we hear this question a lot! People ask what is the difference between isolated and scattered showers. It is a simple difference that is based on the same type of storms.

In this episode of the Breakdown, we will explain the difference between isolated and scattered showers.

Both terms used by the First Alert Weather team describe the amount of area in the Mid-South that is affected by random, usually disorganized showers or storms at any given moment.

When we talk about scattered showers or thunderstorms, the coverage of that is around 30 to 40 percent and the occurrence of that across the entire 27 counties we cover in the WMC Action News 5 coverage area. This means, the storms have no organization (like a line or cluster) and they are random across the region.

Isolated showers or storms are usually all alone. They are individual cells that are well away from any others and usually affect less than 20 percent of the region, according to the National Weather Service. Meaning we are seeing just one or two storms over the entire coverage area of the Mid-South.

For percentages above 60 percent, we usually use the terms “likely and “numerous”. While at 90 percent to 100 percent coverage, we usually explain that showers are expected.

It is important to note that none of those terms reflect anything about the amount, intensity, or duration of the rain event. This only refers to the extent of areal coverage.

A lot of the time, you will hear us talk about scattered and isolated storms during the summer months. The reason is the showers and storms during those months are very sporadic, “isolated” or “scattered”.

It is also important to note that we can use the terms, scattered and isolated with other weather events than just rain, such as snow and fog, etc. Rain and storms are usually the systems that we use those terms the most.

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