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Assessing Real-Time Tornado Information Disseminated through NWS Products

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  • 1 NOAA/NWS/Weather Forecast Office, Pleasant Hill, Missouri
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Abstract

Real-time confirmation of a tornado specified in National Weather Service (NWS) warnings and statements is believed to increase the credibility and urgency of these critical warning messages for the end user, because it represents the greatest degree of certainty that the hazard exists. This timely tornado information disseminated in official NWS products and relayed through multiple sources by private and public partners may help the public believe, personalize, confirm, and respond to the warning message. This is the first study to explicitly assess the frequency of real-time confirmation of ongoing tornadoes within NWS products and explore what unique conditions may facilitate or hinder this process. Tornado reports and their respective NWS warnings and statements during a 5-yr period from 2007 to 2011 across the central contiguous United States were compiled and examined. Overall, 40% of tornadoes were confirmed in NWS products in real time. Increasing tornado pathlength, duration, and intensity subsequently resulted in an increasing likelihood of real-time confirmation prior to the tornado dissipating. The time of day was a factor; nighttime tornadoes were 20% less likely to receive real-time confirmation than daytime events. Additionally, increasing tornado forecast risk in products issued by the Storm Prediction Center corresponded to an increasing likelihood of real-time confirmation. Analysis of these data reveals specific scenarios when tornadoes are more or less likely to be reported in real time, providing some guidance for when timely ground-truth information may or may not be available.

Corresponding author address: Scott F. Blair, NOAA/NWS/Weather Forecast Office, 1803 N. 7 Hwy., Pleasant Hill, MO 64080. E-mail: scott.blair@noaa.gov

Abstract

Real-time confirmation of a tornado specified in National Weather Service (NWS) warnings and statements is believed to increase the credibility and urgency of these critical warning messages for the end user, because it represents the greatest degree of certainty that the hazard exists. This timely tornado information disseminated in official NWS products and relayed through multiple sources by private and public partners may help the public believe, personalize, confirm, and respond to the warning message. This is the first study to explicitly assess the frequency of real-time confirmation of ongoing tornadoes within NWS products and explore what unique conditions may facilitate or hinder this process. Tornado reports and their respective NWS warnings and statements during a 5-yr period from 2007 to 2011 across the central contiguous United States were compiled and examined. Overall, 40% of tornadoes were confirmed in NWS products in real time. Increasing tornado pathlength, duration, and intensity subsequently resulted in an increasing likelihood of real-time confirmation prior to the tornado dissipating. The time of day was a factor; nighttime tornadoes were 20% less likely to receive real-time confirmation than daytime events. Additionally, increasing tornado forecast risk in products issued by the Storm Prediction Center corresponded to an increasing likelihood of real-time confirmation. Analysis of these data reveals specific scenarios when tornadoes are more or less likely to be reported in real time, providing some guidance for when timely ground-truth information may or may not be available.

Corresponding author address: Scott F. Blair, NOAA/NWS/Weather Forecast Office, 1803 N. 7 Hwy., Pleasant Hill, MO 64080. E-mail: scott.blair@noaa.gov
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