This is the first post of an indefinite series dedicated to my thoughts about short-fused warnings for severe convective weather, namely tornadoes, wind, hail. My purpose for these blog posts is to express some of my observations and ideas for improvements for the end-to-end integrated United States severe weather warning system. These include the decision-making process at the National Weather Service (NWS) weather forecast office (WFO) level, the software and workload involved with the creation of hazardous weather information, the dissemination of the information as data and products, and the usage and understanding of the information by a wide customer base which includes the general public, emergency managers and other government officials, and the private sector which has the ability to add specific value to the NWS information for their customers with special needs.
Many of these thoughts will originate with me, but others will be derived by my colleagues who will be acknowledged whenever possible. In fact, I see no reason why guests should not be welcome to post here as well. I also hope that these blog posts will generate discussion, either here in the form of comments, or elsewhere on various fora and email list servers. It is my desire that the information and dialog generated here will be considered by weather services management toward a goal of continually improving the way weather information services are provided by the government and their public and private partners. Some of what I will present might be controversial, and I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time when a convincing argument is presented, since after all, I’m not perfect. I’m also not much of a writer, but there are a lot of us out there in the blog world today, so why not?
There are some that think the NWS warning services are working wonderfully. One could state fabulous accuracy numbers, such as a very low number of missed severe weather events and some very respectable lead times on major tornado events. One could show that the severe storm mortality rate is quite low in the U.S., well, maybe perhaps before 2011. Do we just chalk up the record death counts of this year to just bad luck and unfortunate juxtaposition of tornadoes and people, or is it possible there is continued room for hazard information improvement? I’m going to try to make some points that our perception of how accurate our warnings are is based on some flawed premises in the way warnings are verified. I’m also going to present some concepts that were born out of discussion and experimentation at the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) with many colleagues at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and the NWS that show some promise toward improvement.
So, without further adieu, I will follow this with another post, and see how things proceed from here.
Greg Stumpf, CIMMS and NWS/MDL