8A.4 Communicating severe local storm information to support decision-making: beyond the watch and the warning

Tuesday, 28 October 2008: 2:15 PM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
Kevin A. Scharfenberg, NOAA/NWS Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services, Norman, OK ; and D. L. Andra Jr., S. A. Erickson, J. T. Ferree, and R. S. Schneider

NOAA's National Weather Service issues tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings as a call-to-action with a lead time measured in minutes. Tornado and severe thunderstorm watches are notifications to carefully monitor local weather with a lead time measured in hours.

Some users of watches and warnings have expressed an increasing need for severe local storm information with greater lead time than a warning but with less lead time than a watch. Such information would be valuable to users who need greater time to take protective action than a typical warning allows, such as those with significant exposure to hazardous weather and those responsible for the safety of a large number of people. It would also help mitigate issues incurred by some users who make decisions solely based on the issuance of a watch (e.g., time and resources).

A stream of NWS products including national and local outlooks, discussions, and severe weather updates already exists, but in an inconsistent and analog form. Creating a digital information continuum to address the need for more consistent information leading up to a severe weather event will likely require a mixture of computational and human elements, such as algorithms enhanced by both high-resolution models and forecaster input. Societal research will be needed to establish the ways such information might be used and interpreted. This information stream will ideally include forecast uncertainty and the potential range of impacts.

This presentation will explore the requirements for such an information service by identifying its probable users and their needs, will discuss the possible structure of this new information stream, will define how such a spectrum of data might be created, managed, and disseminated, and will examine possible advantages and challenges of such a system.

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