Winter is the coldest season. In winter, days are shorter, and the sun is lower than it is in summer. Every ray of light from the sun gets spread out over a larger area so it is not as strong and not as warm. In many places outside the tropics, winter means ice and snow. In winter, you have to dress to stay warm. Wear layers of clothes, so that if you get too warm you just take some of the layers off. No matter what the temperature is, when the wind blows, we feel a chill. Cold wind takes heat away from your body to make you colder, faster. This is called wind chill. Cold air makes us feel cold especially on the ears, fingers, toes, and nose. If you stay outside too long in the cold, after a while you might not be able to feel anything with your toes and fingers. You must go inside to get warm. If you are out when the air temperature is freezing, and your ears and hands are not covered, first, they get numb, and then they freeze. This is very dangerous, and it's called frostbite. If you get frostbite you might have to go to a hospital.
One of the worst things that can happen to you is for your whole body to get too cold. If you are stuck outside and not dressed warmly, your body temperature can go down and you get hypothermia. Hypothermia means your body is colder than what it should be. If you are out in the cold and your clothes get wet or damp, go inside to change into dry clothes. Wet clothing makes you get colder faster.
Dressing correctly is even more important when travelling, because you might have a vehicle problem and be stranded for a long time. Help your family stay safer by having a winter safety kit in the vehicle. A good winter safety kit will have a road map, cell phone, snow shovel, ice scraper, a bucket of sand or salt, a flashlight, jumper cables for the battery, emergency snow chains, blankets, matches and a weather radio.
In the winter, many homes catch on fire because people spend more time inside, trying to heat the homes. Some fires start because people use the wrong kind of heaters or the wrong kind of fuel in the heater or fireplace. Sometimes they put a heater in a dangerous spot, or they use extension cords that overheat. At the start of each winter every heater should be checked and cleaned. Follow instructions for how to use them. Your family should also make sure the fireplace is inspected too. Fireplaces can start house fires when the chimney is very dirty or when embers fly out of the front of the fireplace. Use a screen to prevent that. It's a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your home. Test the smoke detectors. If your house has a carbon monoxide detector, check that too.
One of the worst kinds of winter weather is an ice storm, or freezing rain. It happens when regular rain freezes when it touches the ground, cars, houses, power lines, and anything else. Ice storms are bad because a lot of people lose electricity when trees fall on wires. The roads are too icy to drive on, and sometimes the only thing you can do is wait until the ice melts. That could be a day or several days, with no electricity or heat.
A winter storm can also be bad. In different parts of the world a winter storm may have strong wind, low temperature, heavy snow, and even ice. Winter storms are sometimes called cyclones. If they form fast, they are nicknamed bomb cyclones and if they move up the east coast of the United States, they are sometimes called Nor’easters because the wind blows toward land from the northeast. On the west coast of the United States a very wet and stormy winter weather pattern that often forms is known as an atmospheric river.
When weather forecasters see a winter storm forming, in the United States you'll hear that there is a Winter Storm Watch. This means watch and be ready because a large storm might strike. If the winter storm is close, then there will be a Winter Storm Warning. During a winter storm you should be inside, and people should not be out driving unless it is an emergency. If a winter storm is very windy with a lot of snow, then it becomes a blizzard. In a blizzard it's hard to walk and hard to see. You can even have a blizzard on a sunny day if wind picks up snow and blows it around in the air, so that you can’t see. Blizzards and winter storms play a role in the water cycle. It might take a while but snow on the ground melts into water and flows back into rivers and the oceans. The snow also helps to protect some plants and hibernating animals by acting like a blanket.
In places where winter weather does not get too bad you might have a Winter Weather Advisory. That means the weather will cause a few problems, but everyone must be aware and careful. In winter, be especially safe on ponds and lakes that are halfway frozen. Sometimes the ice is not strong enough to walk on.