When phrases are coined to emphasize their own importance, they can end up saying twice what only needs to be said once. An example of such redundancy that has infiltrated many mainstream news stories is ‘advance warning.’
In early April 2009, newspapers around the world reported an impending missile launch in North Korea. According to the Associated Press and The Yomiuri Shimbun, “It was the first time North Korea had given advance warning of a ballistic missile test launch.”
Yet any warning is, by definition, an indication regarding an upcoming event. To warn is to provide a hint about impending danger or difficulty. One cannot warn about past events or, for that matter, the present moment.
In February 2009, following a collision in space, the Calgary Herald reported that Iridium Satellite “had no advance warning of an impending collision between one of its communications satellites and a defunct Russian military satellite above Siberia.”
This is the same as saying the company had no warning.
In a more down-to-earth example not involving an emergency, on April 4, 2009, the Victoria Times-Colonist told its readers about Google’s ongoing data gathering by car-mounted camera, referring to the company’s local employees who “had advance warning that the vehicle was about to pass. Perhaps if Google could provide early warning everywhere, it would face fewer complaints about privacy issues.”
Whether it is referred to as an advance warning or an early warning, the meaning is exactly the same, as to warn is to advise before the fact. After the fact, of course, such an advisory would lose the capability to warn at all.