Warn on Forecast: Future of Weather Warnings

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Research is underway in order to create a more accurate and faster warning system for severe weather in the United States. The ultimate goal is to protect life and property, while giving residents, in the path of hazardous weather, time to react.

The National Weather Service currently maintains a 14 minute lead time when it comes to warning the public of severe weather. While that is a decent amount of time to be prepare for dangerous weather, it leaves many to ask the question if it is long enough for elderly to react. What about hospitals trying to move patients to safely? How about about a sporting event somewhere as large as Kyle Field? 14 minutes is good -- but some think it can be better.

David Stensrud with NOAA National Severe Storms Lab is not only looking to change the way the National Weather Service warns about severe weather, but he also wants to increase that lead time.

He's going about it by working on research that will hopefully bring on a process called "Warn on Forecast."

The idea is to forecast an individual storm from before the time it becomes severe through an hour in the future. Using a percentage basis, the theory is that a computer model should be able to give us an idea where a tornado will be likely and how it will move within that hour. After 5 minutes time, that same model will recreate the forecast, taking in the newest data and radar scans, and produce another updated forecast. Should a tornado be possible, the percentage and confidence will increase and forecasters should be able to issue a warning well ahead of the severe weather event happening.

Stensrud would like to have a forecast that could be produced an hour before the worst is possible -- but knows that the technology and research just is not there quite yet. However, a 30 minute lead time is something that he is confident can be achieved over time. In fact, the research he is a part of could get it there in within five years.

For now, the Storm Prediction Center urges the public to know where they live, what they are near, and to learn about severe weather. The current watches and warnings that are issued aim to save life and property, but it takes an understanding and attention from those in the paths of severe weather to live up to that goal.