A presentation at the 2013 AMS Summer Community Meeting in Boulder illustrated the explosion of entities disseminating short-fused, convective storm warnings, and the growing effects that the lack of any type of standards, regulations, or even best practices might have on the general public. Experience in the past three years underscore that these earlier fears about public safety were well founded. Many comments received by participants were that this was very startling information.
Since that presentation, the proliferation of free weather apps continues to grow rapidly, along with a significant increase of smart phone usage in general which come pre-set to receive government Wireless Emergency Alerts. WEA weather alerts always warn unnecessarily unless the cell tower footprint is fully enclosed within the polygon because of the 360 degree broadcast. Free warning apps are capable of matching the user’s precise lat/long with a storm based warnings, but most chose to push county-wide warnings to increase the volume of click-through advertising impressions. Additionally, social media platforms are disseminating extremely time sensitive convective storm warnings, often perceived as being real-time when in reality this information can be delayed by hours or even days. Sharing and re-tweeting also contributes to latency.
The internet marketing industry recognizes, and verifies using analytics that very high volume “push” notification is required for free apps to generate profitable revenue from “click through” banner ads. This cannot be achieved via significantly smaller storm-based warnings which are too infrequent. This practice is contrary to convective storm safety.
Advances in the weather industry technologies have produced smaller, more precisely defined convective warnings. Despite this trend, county-wide warning dissemination is exploding via free weather apps. The issues and frustrations regarding weather radio over-warning from 30-years ago are now exponentially bigger. Tens of millions of people now unknowingly or unwittingly have ‘little NOAA weather radios’ on their phones. The general public is frequently confused by the saturation of weather warning information from so many sources, nor do they have the ability to evaluate the credibility of these sources.
Since “Living in the Land of Confusion-2013” presentation potentially introduced this problem, the digital explosion has created a very different playing field, now confirming the perilous issue. Where are we as an industry headed into 2017? A huge step in the right direction is the newly formed AMS “Best Practices Committee”. This is an important, first vital step in having the delivery mechanism in sync with the science of warning specificity. This presentation illustrates that more progress is necessary in developing and enforcing standards for convective weather warning dissemination. The public deserves a reliable warning process in place with which they can fully entrust their lives.