|WIDESPREAD VERSUS WIDELY SCATTERED
METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
The two terms WIDESPREAD and WIDELY SCATTERED can be confused because they both have the word "wide" in them
but they have different meanings as far as precipitation coverage is concerned. Widespread means "spread or
scattered over a considerable extent". Widespread rain and thunderstorms implies coverage of precipitation
over a large areal region. Widespread does NOT specify how close the rain areas are to each other. It specifies
that the precipitation is spread across a large region.
Widely scattered implies regions of precipitation and thunderstorms will be SPACED fairly far from each other,
thus resulting in a relatively small number of observations in the forecast area receiving precipitation. In
summary, widespread means spread across a large region and widely scattered means the precipitation areas are
displaced a considerable distance from each other.
The public poorly understands these two terms. A popular strategy is to avoid the use of the words altogether.
If the terms are used, then it is important to define them as they are being used. Example: Rainfall is
widespread across Minnesota, just about everyone in the state has an area of precipitation nearby. Example:
Thunderstorms will be widely scattered, most people will not be seeing any rain. Another strategy is to
use another term in place of the confusing term. Instead of widespread, the term extensive can be used.
Instead of widely scattered, the term widely separated can be used.
To really baffle people, state, "our forecast calls for rain that will be widely scattered and widespread",
or "widely scattered showers will be widespread".