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A detailed analysis of SPC "High Risk" outlooks, 2003-2009

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Thursday, 27 January 2011
A detailed analysis of SPC "High Risk" outlooks, 2003-2009
Jason M. Davis, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN; and A. R. Dean and J. L. Guyer
Manuscript (277.9 kB)

For the NOAA/NWS/Storm Prediction Center (SPC), a “High Risk” (HR) convective outlook represents the greatest level of forecast threat for high impact severe weather. On average, HR outlooks are only issued a few days out of the year and are only issued when confidence is high that widespread very damaging tornadoes and/or severe thunderstorms will occur. While HR outlooks can be issued for the potential of widespread damaging winds, we focus only on tornado-based risk areas. This study focuses on SPC High Risk outlooks issued over the period 2003-2009. Frequency, geographical and seasonal distribution, and the progression in categorical outlooks in the days and hours leading up to the high risk event are studied. In addition to traditional verification (which uses the tornado reports from Storm Data), additional aspects of forecast performance are studied, including coverage of tornado warnings in the HR outlooks, regional and temporal trends in HR verification, and convective environments (in terms of CAPE, bulk shear, storm-relative helicity, etc.) associated with these high impact forecasts. 64% of HR outlooks issued during this period verified as HRs based on tornado report coverage, while 73% of HRs met the equivalent high risk threshold when considering tornado warning coverage. Greater instability and less convective inhibition in the convective environment appear to be the determining factor for the successful verification of a HR outlook, while vertical shear profiles were similar in both successful and unsuccessful HR outlooks. Higher confidence outlooks that were upgraded to a HR earlier in the Day 1 outlook cycle were most likely to verify as a HR.