16 August 2011

Warn on Forecast...

For the last couple of years a new experimental study has been ongoing with those at Norman et. al. This program, using largely computer models and simulated radar, is in it's infant stage and could be a major breakthrough within the weather community.

"NOAA’s Warn-on-Forecast research project aims to create computer forecasts that accurately predict when and where severe weather will occur in the next hour. If Warnon-Forecast is successful, forecasters will be able to make history by issuing tornado, severe thunderstorm, and flash flood warnings based on that computer forecast even before storm clouds form.  The resulting longer warning lead times could give the public 30 to 60 minutes to take appropriate severe weather safety actions."

If experimentation proves successful it may take more than 10 years just to implement.... A lot of unknowns, but the upside in my opinion is just unlimited. Average lead time now is 10-15 minutes which is good, but can be better. With this new system... high resolution computer simulation models (among others) may actually be able to semi-accurately predict thunderstorm initiation. With that comes the ability to possibly give greater warning times for severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, and even tornadoes.

Why do I bring this up? In light of the tragic event that occurred the other night in Indiana, a system like WoF could have been utilized. I don't fault the NWS a single minute for how they warned the even the other night. While some may say having only 20 minute lead time wouldn't evacuate a concert of 40k, I do think it was enough time to get everyone away from structures that are poorly constructed like the stage. Thinking ahead, if the NWS adopts the WoF program as typical, then lead time of up to an hour COULD be fathomable. The problem is how accurate is the research currently ongoing, how feasible would it be to completely revamp the warning system, and how would they make it user friendly.

I am of the belief that those who like the way the warning system is, can keep it this way. Those who want more out of it may now have the option to get more in depth with their warnings. The average person wont be able to decipher the image below, but Emergency Managers, city planners, event managers, professional sports, etc may get an imaginable aid. Now to say that this program will be the end all be all warning process is far fetched... personally I don't believe anyone or anything will ever be able to accurately pre-predict the weather and what specific area will get storms with 100% certainty. This is certainly moving into a more accurate direction though.

*Example of WoF in action

So to summarize... the study and experimentation with WoF moving forward is a very valuable tool being utilized by NWSFO, SPC, and other scientists. Hopefully this will be found to be a success and can truly revolutionize warning times and the warning process as whole.

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