New Severe Weather Warning System

With the start of October, the National Weather Service has begun a new way of issuing severe weather warnings. In the past the warnings for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes were issued for entire counties, now the warnings will be for specific areas within the county. The hope is that this will reduce the sense of false alarms and give people more specific information to act on. For example, around here this might mean if a storm is moving along the Maryland – Pennsylvania line a warning may be issued for northern Baltimore County near Prettyboy reservoir and not for the southern part of the county near Dundalk. The complete news release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is posted below.

Tom Tasselmyer

NOAA to Provide More Specific Warning Information for Severe Weather

September 29, 2007

Display of new storm-based warnings on National Weather Service radar.
Display of new storm-based warnings on National Weather Service radar.

+ Full view comparing county- and storm-based warnings (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA’s National Weather Service will begin issuing more geographically specific warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, floods, and marine hazards starting October 1. The new “storm-based warnings” will allow forecasters to pinpoint the specific area where the threats are highest, reducing the area warned by as much as 70 percent when compared to today’s county-by-county system.

“These are potentially deadly, short duration events that can develop very rapidly,” said Vickie Nadolski, acting deputy director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Our technology has evolved to support better warnings, and we are adapting to meet public expectation to receive weather information on demand.”

“By focusing the threat, we can reduce the warned area by as much as 70 percent, which equates to more than $100 million in savings to the public,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The real bottom line is that this will potentially save more lives. Eliminating areas needlessly warned builds confidence that you do indeed need to take action when a warning is issued.”

Storm-based warnings are displayed graphically and are extremely adaptable to cell phones, PDAs, and the Web. The Emergency Alert System is geared toward counties and NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards will still alarm if there is a warning anywhere in the county. However, text and audio messages will provide more specific information about where in the county the storm is, and the direction the storm is moving. Storm-based warnings will reference landmarks such as highways, shopping centers, and parks, and will use directional delimiters to indicate county location.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America’s scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.


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