ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – From April 26 to May 2, the National Weather Service (NWS) in collaboration with the New York State office of emergency management have deemed severe weather week to be a time to help educate the public on how to be “weather aware” during severe weather situations.
The NWS Buffalo office is where we get our watches, warnings, and advisories issued. These are tools for the weather community to get out what to expect for incliment weather. The only problem is if no one knows what they are, they are essentially useless. Look at the example below.
There is a signifcant difference between a warning and a watch, yet many people may not know it. Forecasting has made massive advancements over the past few decades with more accurate models, better observations and better predictions, yet many consider communication of those forecasts lagging behind. What good is a perfect forecast if it is not communicated properly to the people that need it the most?
Confusion and frustration can happen when citizens either do not know the forecast or the message is not properly conveyed. That can ultimately lead to inaction; the worst reaction to a forecast that could have dire implications on one’s life or property. The forecasting community has recently started working with social scientists on how to better communicate the forecast in a clear and concise way in order to get potentially life saving information to the public. Below is a more illustrative image of watch vs. warning from meteorologist Brad Panovich in Charlotte, NC.
A better understood forecast will lead to better action. More attention is now being paid to communication with a focus on severe weather. TV meteorologists are using lifestyle forecasts to express different types of threats rather than just giving a raw forecast with highs, lows, and precipitation chance. A greater emphasis is put on making sure you have a way to get notifications when a storm is approaching (Like the News 8 weather app on apple or android). If there is a flood warning, tornado warning, or snow squall warning, the NWS has the ability to trigger a Weather Emergency Alert (WEA) that triggers your phone regardless of any app.
Knowledge is power, and staying weather aware is ultimately the most important thing a citizen can do and that is where the NWS is trying to guide the public. The Weather Ready Nation (WRN) campaign is a relatively new push for more concise, and simply more communcation of the forecast to those that need it. All of the recent goals through 2022 are publicly available here.
Every spring, NWS offices across the country hold skywarn spotter training to help educate the public on severe weather threats and recruit them to help spot severe weather that may not be visible on radar or satellite. This is a crutial aspect of NWS observations during severe weather and a good way to connect the public with forecasts. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 these had to be condensed and made virtual. Above is the registration for those training sessions which are and have always been free (paid for by our tax dollars).