Thursday, August 5, 2021

The New, 'Improved' 317-Word Severe Thunderstorm Warning

Location of the 80 mph wind gust

The National Weather Service has created a monster: the first-ever "destructive thunderstorm warning" (for 80 mph winds) was issued late this afternoon by the NWS office in North Platte. It came in at an absurd 317 words -- which means they will clog up NOAA Weather Radio and, perhaps, other communications channels during violent weather. 

Even worse? The warning was wrong. There was one report of 80 mph winds but that would have been in an ordinary severe thunderstorm warning, but that warning expired when the gust occurred. They issued another warning but there were no 80 mph winds so your new Wireless Emergency Alert would have sounded but it would have been a false alarm. 

The destructive thunderstorm warning is part of a ridiculously long list of thunderstorm-related warnings:

For tornadoes, we now have: 
  • Tornado Warning 
  • Particularly Dangerous Tornado Warning 
  • Tornado Emergency 
For winds, we now have, 
  • High wind warning (40 mph for one hour or more).
  • Severe thunderstorm warning (58 mph)
  • Considerable damage severe thunderstorm warning (70 mph) 
  • Hurricane warning (75 mph)
  • Destructive severe thunderstorm warning (80 mph)
  • Extreme wind warning (115 mph)
For hail, we now have,
  • Severe thunderstorm warning (1")
  • Considerable damage severe thunderstorm warning (1.75 inches)
  • Destructive severe thunderstorm warning (2.75 inches)
Of course, no member of the public will be able to keep these straight. And, they shouldn't have to. This is our misguided thinking. And, without any sense of irony, the NWS's press release for all of this includes this laugh,
The addition of [the new criteria] are part of the broader Hazard Simplification Project to improve communication of watches and warnings to the public.

Instead of embarking on this mistaken program to further complicate the warning program, the NWS should be focusing all of its effort to make warnings, especially tornado warnings, as accurate as they were a dozen years ago

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