SPC launching enhanced Convective Outlook guidance for 2014

Why focus on the sub-zero temps in the Midwest and blanketing snow in the Northeast when we can start to think about the next big weather risk headed our way; Severe Thunderstorms!

During last weeks 2014 Weather and Climate Summit in Breckinridge, Dr. Russ Schneider, Director of the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), presented a new structure implementation for the 2014 severe weather season.

The new system adds two additional categories, replacing the old “See Text” from previous years maps and guidance. The new system will now flow Marginal – Slight – Enhanced – Moderate – High (where Marginal and Enhanced are the newest additions).

This chart from the Capital Weather Gang Blog explains the associated probabilities that define the likelihood and specific perils for near term forecasting;

The new SPC CO chart adds two new categories to its hierarchy (img from Capital Weather Gang)

The new SPC CO chart adds two new categories to its hierarchy (img from Capital Weather Gang)

CWG takes the conversation one step further: Will the change improve the old process? The comments seem to suggest “No”.  There is solid debate that a more complex system will only confuse the general public even more so, and that the hierarchy of Marginal-Slight-Enhanced-etc. is open to errors in interpretation.

I think a lot of the disagreement in effectiveness comes from the end-goal of these products.  In the past they were used mostly in the aviation fields, and for severe weather forecasters and enthusiasts. These audiences were educated on the probabilities and more importantly, what the concept of those probabilities means in the real world.

It’s a much different matter when it comes to public safety. I can honestly say that prior to 2011, I never recall seeing the Moderate or High Risk regions being mentioned during national forecasts or from news outlets. This has changed drastically following a record T-storm observation and economic loss period the past 3 years.

But the tech side of life makes it extremely simple to keep abreast of any developing situations. Twitter feeds, Facebook, and blogs just like this one can serve as outlets traditionally covered by the TV and radio media.  Essentially, let the audience choose their medium, just as long as they get the message.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the coming months as the new categories are rolled out and traditional media chooses how to embrace the information.

-PMB-Z

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