Weather warnings are assigned to small geographic polygram areas that don’t fully account for the probabilities of where a severe storm may soon impact, but a team of scientists with the National Weather Service is working to improve that. It may take five years before early versions become available, or ten years until the vision is fully attained, but the folks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, led by Dr. Kodi Berry, are developing the “Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats” program that will change the shape of things to come.
It’s an experimental warning system now undergoing testing that would transition from a stationary model to allow warnings to move with the storm. It would allow people to know when they are in the clear after a storm passes, and that’s helpful, but more importantly the project would give an advance warning to those people in the probable path of a storm, allowing more time to prepare for safety.
“It won’t be out in the real world for probably five years,” suggests Dr. Kodi Berry, head scientist on the project. She says they’d been working on similar weather research examining probabilities and that started them thinking about incorporating that awareness into a warning system. “We’ve done some of that testing with broadcast meteorologists, emergency managers and national weather service forecasters, and the overall consensus is that they much preferred the warning moving with the storm.”
The current system is pretty binary. You’re either in the path of a storm or you’re not. In actuality, it’s more complicated. There are several probabilities happening concurrently, and the models seek to harness that mass of possibilities, data now available only to national weather service forecasters, determine probabilities, and warn the public with easy to understand information faster than is possible today. “If someone needs additional time to get into their storm shelter, they would be able to make that decision a little bit earlier than simply waiting for the warning,” Berry tells KTRH News.
It’s early. It’s mostly still on paper and test models, but a day will dawn when residents in storm-prone regions can find comfort in knowing that a warning with specificity will be available to alert if dangerous weather is approaching while the storm is approaching.