Storm Prediction Center: Nerve Center of Severe WX

DSC00767 Greg Carbin is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center.  He came to the Severe Weather and Doppler Radar Conference to show off some products the public doesn’t get to see.  The reason they’re not public is because they are still highly experimental and not reliable.

But as forecast models and computer algorithms improve, they give us a glimpse into the future of more accurate severe weather prediction.  Currently the Storm Prediction Center posts severe weather risks based on threats of three types of severe weather; wind, hail and tornadoes.

day1otlk_20090426_1630_prt Those risks are filtered down into three severe risk categories; slight, moderate and high.  These of course are pretty general and have a fundamental flaw.

The slight, moderate and high risk gauge is based on tallying the threat of all three modes of severe weather.  Often times, the most severe weather reports will occur in a moderate or high risk.  But the deadliest weather often does not.

That’s where the new models come in.  They take into account some of the most concentrated reports, almost forecasting specific reports and the types of reports (wind, hail or tornadoes) expected in any given area.

DSC00774 Carbin showed us these models runs, which included projected radar imagery.  The image on the left was the forecast model’s radar prediction 13-hours into the future.  The image to the right is how that storm actually looked once it developed.

Carbin admitted he was only showing us the scenarios where the models got it right.  The unreliability is the reason the models are not yet used in day to day operations, but someday… they could.

DSC00773 The goal? To not only explain the risk to the public in simplest of terms, but to also better specify WHAT type of severe weather is threatening.  In my mind, the overall goal of this is to better predict the areas that stronger, long lived tornadoes could develop.  Today Carbin showed us a number of ways the Storm Prediction Center is inching closer to that goal.

To give you an idea of what the SPC goes through everyday, Carbin said the amount of model data running through their systems totals roughly 1 TB of data each day. Yes, that’s 1,000 GB.  A lot for computers and humans to sift through.

720px-US-StormPredictionCenter-Logo_svgAs i said in the title of this post, the Storm Prediction Center is the nerve center of severe weather.  Another way to put it? They are one of the first lines of defense in notifying the public.  From extended severe weather forecasts right down to issuing watches for the entire country.

It’s great to see some innovative and cutting edge products form the SPC that will hopefully better detail our severe weather forecasting in the years to come.  I look forward to utilizing these models someday down the road.

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