A Weather-Ready Nation: A Vital Conversation

Joplin, Missouri. Photo by Patty Ingalls

This summer NOAA’s National Weather Service called for a National Conversation on Building a Weather-Ready Nation. The conversation continued in earnest in December, 2011 in Norman, Okla., with a national summit “Weather-Ready Nation: A Vital Conversation.” National experts from across the country met on the University of Oklahoma campus Dec. 13-15 to help America better prepare for and survive extreme weather. Their recommendations will be released in early 2012 in time for severe weather season.

“Becoming a Weather-Ready Nation is a shared responsibility from the federal government to the individual citizen and everyone in between,” said Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service. “NOAA’s National Weather Service is committed to delivering the highest quality of forecast and warning services and fostering innovation. Building a Weather-Ready Nation will take the commitment of everyone we’re engaging with through these national conversations.”

The national summit in Norman, organized by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, is the first in a series of Weather-Ready Nation conversations NOAA will participate in across the country in the coming year to learn from the experience and insights of important weather partners – broadcast meteorologists, emergency managers, academics, private weather forecasters, communication experts, and decision-makers. Participants will assess why the nation is becoming more vulnerable to severe weather and identify ways to improve the public’s awareness, preparedness and response to future extreme events.

The NOAA’s National Weather Service launched the Weather-Ready Nation initiative in August, following a volatile spring of several large-scale tornado outbreaks. Despite exceptional warnings from NWS, which issued warnings with double the average lead time in many instances, the tornadoes left hundreds dead and thousands injured. And this spring may not have been just a fluke event. All indications point to a rise in our vulnerability to these types of extreme weather events. This year broke the record for highest number of extreme weather events in a given year, with twelve separate events each causing a billion dollars or more in damages.

“Avoidable death and damage due to extreme weather is too high. This week is an important part of our national conversation to better understand how and why people make the decisions they do, and what more needs to be done to save lives and livelihoods,” Hayes said.

The National Conversation to Build a Weather-Ready Nation will continue throughout 2012 with a number of symposia, events, town halls, workshops, and speeches. Click here for more information. To join the conversation, check out the NWS Facebook page.  Or find out more on the Weather-Ready Nation web page at http://www.weather.gov/com/weatherreadynation

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2012 Warn On Forecast Workshop

The NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory hosted the third annual Warn-on-Forecast Workshop February 8-9 at the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla.  Warn-on-Forecast is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research program tasked to increase tornado, severe thunderstorm, and flash flood warning lead times.

The Warn-on-Forecast workshop gives researchers an opportunity to present progress reports and to discuss plans for further research toward improvements in lead time for severe weather warnings.

Lead times are the time between a warning and when weather actually strikes. Trends in yearly-averaged tornado warning lead time suggest the present weather warning process, largely based upon a warn-on-detection approach using National Weather Service Doppler radars, is reaching a plateau and further increases in lead time will be difficult to obtain. A new approach is needed. Warn-on-Forecast is a convective-scale probabilistic hazardous weather forecast system. Guidance is provided by an ensemble of forecasts from numerical weather prediction models. Further research is needed to develop this system.

Warn-on-Forecast collaborators include NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA National Weather Service and Storm Prediction Center, The University of Oklahoma’s Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms, and Social Science Woven Into Meteorology.

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Kids learn what to put in an emergency backpack at WeatherFest 2012

NSSL’s Keli Tarp helps kids pack a weather emergency backpack

More than 3,000 people crowded the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La. for the American Meteorological Society’s “WeatherFest” on January 22, 2012.  WeatherFest is an interactive four-hour science and weather fair designed to inspire children and youth to pursue a career in the sciences.  It is also a chance for closet weather fanatics to share their passion and learn more.

NSSL’s booth was staffed by NSSL’s Keli Tarp and NSSL/CIMMS Daphne Thompson and Susan Cobb with visits by the “Weather Friends” known as “Tempest” and “Swirl Girl”.  Visitors could watch videos about NSSL research, collect Weather Friends trading cards, make a tornado in a bottle, and think through filling an disaster backpack with emergency supplies.  Other handouts available included weather word searches, a weather maze, a reinforcing “fill the backpack,” along with information on NSSL and careers in meteorology.

This was the 11th year of WeatherFest, and the seventh year NSSL has sponsored a booth.

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