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Author Topic: TV Meteorologist "Too frequent tornado warnings are causing people to ignore"  (Read 10529 times)
K1CJS
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« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2011, 04:51:34 AM »

....and which is what we do NOT currently have.  There is no signal that says absolutely there is a tornado since a warning can mean either there is one or that there might be one forming due to cloud rotation.

To simplify the system, make a 'watch' mean one might be forming due to rotation...ie, be on the 'watch' for one...a warning means one has definitely formed.  Sounds the sirens for the warning only.


There CAN'T be such a signal for the simple reason that the weather IS totally unpredictable.  There may well be cases that doppler radar can see the rotation, but the tornado hasn't formed as of yet--nor will it.  On the other hand, there can be formation of a funnel that is there one minute--and disappears the next, or of a funnel that never touches down.

As one person already said, the only sure way to tell there is a tornado on the ground is to see it--and then the warning time is way too short to do anything much about it.  Trying to outguess Mother Nature is an exercise in futility.  You can only guess, and all too often, you're wrong--which is the state of tornado prediction at present time.
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #16 on: June 29, 2011, 05:51:10 AM »

Can't never could do anything! Cry
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W6RMK
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« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2011, 07:14:23 AM »

>With the general public when you communicate to them you must simplify: 
>black/white, A/B, Tornado/No Tornado

....and which is what we do NOT currently have.  There is no signal that says absolutely there is a tornado since a warning can mean either there is one or that there might be one forming due to cloud rotation.

To simplify the system, make a 'watch' mean one might be forming due to rotation...ie, be on the 'watch' for one...a warning means one has definitely formed.  Sounds the sirens for the warning only.



That actually is the distinction as far as the NWS is concerned.
watch = possible, even likely
warning = been seen or identified

Immediately after earthquake -> Tsunami Watch
When Tsunami observed to have formed and heading your way -> Tsunami warning


There is a whole art to "what area does this apply to", especially for localized phenomena.  If you're 20 miles away, upwind, a tornado on the ground might not be a big deal, if the storm is moving away from you.

OTOH, they need to be able to identify areas that people understand, and for which the status won't change on a 30second time frame.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2011, 10:01:46 AM »

Yeah, the article in the first post mentions the issue that while the NWS may give a watch or warning for only part of a county, most weather radios and sirens will sound in the whole county, with details only given in voice or on TV.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2011, 07:54:06 AM »

Yeah, the article in the first post mentions the issue that while the NWS may give a watch or warning for only part of a county, most weather radios and sirens will sound in the whole county, with details only given in voice or on TV.

Well, that is not the fault of the weather service, it is more the fault of the way the weather alert system has to be set up.  The weather service has to have some standard of location in place so it can direct alerts, and the county/area system was already there.  Weather isn't going to conform to county boundaries any more as the sun is going to rise in the west.  It stands to reason that some areas will be alerted when unnecessary while others may be alerted just in time for the incident.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #20 on: June 30, 2011, 01:20:01 PM »

Exactly, I agree. Granted, I don't live in tornado alley, I live in Norway, but I don't quite get how anyone would consider it a "false alarm" just because the tornado is a few miles away on the other end of the county. The sirens and weather radio alarm calls you to the radio set, pointing out that there is tornado danger in the area. You might not want to cower in the shelter all day, but if you go back to working outside, you'd sure as hell have the radio on and using your local knowledge to know exactly where the supercells and squalls are, and that you can get to shelter in time. I know I would be listening to the storm spotters on a second radio as well.

On the other hand, it might be more of a problem that MOST of the alerts turn out to be wrong. We had an old joke that since the forecast was only 40% accurate, and the weather was mostly the same as yesterday 50% of the time, we could just replace the weather update with "same weather as today". The joke's no longer true and the meteorology is more accurate today, and hopefully the false-alarm rate for tornadoes will be reduced. Of course the consequences of one too few is a lot higher than one too many, so that's just how it's got to be I guess.
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #21 on: June 30, 2011, 06:33:57 PM »

I don't have a problem with county-wide tone activation as long a they are just for Warnings and not Alerts too. Multiple County/Area tones for Watches and Warnings are too much. The public has responded (myself included) by turning off their weather receivers to avoid the constant racket in Florida. This defeats the purpose of the whole system!  Sad

They need to upgrade and change what they are doing and be county specific for Warning tones!  Wink
« Last Edit: July 01, 2011, 05:00:23 AM by KI4SDY » Logged
N0YXB
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« Reply #22 on: July 01, 2011, 09:38:47 AM »

In my view it's not the NWS that's the problem, but the local TV stations who break into programming and spend hours speculating and playing with their radar tools live on the air.  All for a thunderstorm.

The other night one of our local TV "meteorologists" was zooming in and creating possible storm tracks live on the air.  The problem was that she really did not know how to use their radar's capabilities and was reporting nonsense.  I'm all for the NWS warning people about storms and their potential, but what the local news has done to weather alerts in this area is pathetic.

Vince
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2011, 05:45:11 AM »

This is the current state of news media that is constantly reporting nonnews. You will see stories about puppies, minor auto accidents and people down on their luck. This phenomenon has crept over into weather reporting. The NWS says they forecast the weather and the local stations predict the weather, admittedly with some accuracy. When we have a hint of a hurricane forming miles from Florida, we are barraged with constant fear mongering weather reports, even if the weather system is far out at sea and never gets close.  Roll Eyes

Unfortunately, the NWS seems to have taken the same route with the tone warning system, alerting larger areas, rather than being county specific.  Sad  
« Last Edit: July 02, 2011, 06:14:45 AM by KI4SDY » Logged
K1CJS
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« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2011, 06:06:00 AM »

In my view it's not the NWS that's the problem, but the local TV stations who break into programming and spend hours speculating and playing with their radar tools live on the air.  All for a thunderstorm.

The other night one of our local TV "meteorologists" was zooming in and creating possible storm tracks live on the air.  The problem was that she really did not know how to use their radar's capabilities and was reporting nonsense.  I'm all for the NWS warning people about storms and their potential, but what the local news has done to weather alerts in this area is pathetic.

To TV stations, their ratings are somewhat more important than serving the public.  Most TV weather reporters are nothing more than semi-knowledgeable newspeople.  Oh, sure, they've got the basics down, but they really don't know what they're doing--although they may have a scrap of paper in a frame that says they do.  They repeat what they're informed about by the NWS--and then to fill out their few minutes, they blather around, saying the same thing over and over.

Maybe its time that the NWS called on the FCC to demand TV stations use well trained people instead of news flunkies to report the weather.
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2011, 03:10:03 PM »

The main problem is the breathlessness and the filling of air time until the next commercial break - whether it's weather, car chases, "reality" TV or drama shows. The popularity of pay-TV shows, shows that people want more depth and substance rather than content designed to make you sit through the next commercial break.

Like the US midwest, Japan has natural emergencies pretty often - but they usually limit themselves to periodic updates on the situation as well as putting a text crawl and a map overlay on top of their regular programming for those who just tune in. The article in the first post mentions this kind of approach as a possible solution, and I think it's the right thing to do for local news stations. Keep an alert crawl up and mention it by voice at every commercial break - let the weather buffs go to the internet or the Weather Channel for more details.

PS: On Norwegian state TV, they have honest-to-goodness meteorologists presenting the weather. I hope they keep that tradition. On the commercial stations, the "weather models" in front of the camera are at least are supervised by a qualified meteorologist.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2011, 03:14:08 PM by LA9XSA » Logged
AE5J
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« Reply #26 on: July 05, 2011, 09:35:25 AM »

Let me preface what I have to say by noting that I have been chasing tornados since the mid 1970's. I was trained originally by Alan Mueller, who was one of the ones who really started the spotter program. He also worked a lot with Dr. Fugita. I have spent many hours under their tutelage. All that to say I have lived with NWS Skywarn spotting and warning for many years.

We need to go watch how the NWS actually does the process of warning today. The Doppler radar systems we were so eager to put on line have progressed to the point that most of what we see in the NWS center are computer controlled systems that actually "spot" wind patterns that might indicate tornado formation. As has been said, 99% of those observations do not produce a tornado - or even a funnel cloud. The computer alerts the forecaster who issues a tornado warning.

I have watched as three warnings were issued while a trained ham spotter was actually observing the cell in question and could not even report a wall cloud, much less a rotating one. However the warnings went out because "doppler radar indicated a possibility of a tornado." More precisely, what the computer and doppler observed was an intake to a thunderstorm that approcahed the velocity vectors that have been set to indicate a "possibility" of a tornado.

I have observed, in the field,  a thunderstorm that I know was incapable of producing a tornado (because of atmospheric conditions) produce a tornado warning based solely on doppler observations.

In the "old days" (pre-doppler) it took a radar-observed hook echo (observed by a trained radar operator) and some kind of human visual confirmation of storm structure before warnings were issued. Only rarely did we miss one. In fact, in nearly 40 years, I can't remember ever missing a tornado. We missed some that produced no tornado. To be sure, seeing a rain-wrapped tornado on a dark night was not easy to spot. But we spent a great deal of time training our spotters and fine tuning the system. And it worked. When we issued a warning, you had better take cover.

Today countless warnings are issued, we again hear the cry of "wolf" and no one pays any attention. Why? I think possibly because EVERY thunderstorm has an intake. Air is drawn up into the storm around a small, intense low pressure area and consequently produces a doppler "footprint" that looks like a tornado. The warning goes out and frequently the storm has dissipated before it ever reaches public ears. (I hope I'm being clear about this life and death issue.)

Gentlemen, the problem IS with the NWS. Only the NWS can issue a tornado warning (by law). TV stations with radars can play all they want. I will say it again. Only the NWS may issue tornado warnings. If anyone is to blame for the terrible tornadic death toll, it IS the NWS. The warning went out, you (and they) say. Fine. But no one paid attention because hundreds of warnings go out each day and only a few kill. In my humble opinion, some changes need to be made to the system, before more people die.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2011, 09:47:37 AM by AE5J » Logged
N0YXB
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« Reply #27 on: July 05, 2011, 11:31:58 AM »

I don't disagree with anything you've said, but the way local TV "news" stations are run also contributes to the problem.  For instance this past weekend there were thunderstorms in my area.  Two of the local TV stations kept breaking into programming to update us about these small thunderstorms.  These were small, localized, normal summer thunderstorms.  No large hail or extremely high winds, and no rotation noted on the doppler radar.  Just ordinary thunderstorms.  Talk about crying wolf.

Vince   
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KF9ZA
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« Reply #28 on: July 05, 2011, 11:56:59 AM »

From 1979 thru 1995 I worked for various CBS network affiliated TV stations in the midwest.  I ended my TV career at WISH-TV in Indianapolis.  For my entire TV career I worked in local the TV news business.  I will emphasis the last word "business" because that's just what it is.  TV news is a public service, but it's a business first.  As a business it must make money.  More viewers means higher ratings means more $$ from advertisers. 

Back in 1995 TV news was a money printing business.  Every station made tons of money because there was little competition.  Yes, there was cable, but for the most part a network TV station, and their news operation made lots of money.  Also, back then we found that most people had their favorite news station/anchor/sports guy and they watched the same station for news every day.  We also found that the one story that affected everyone was the weather.  Everyone talks about the weather, and stormy weather was scary stuff.  When the weather got bad, people tuned in.  Plus, when those people tuned in something happened that the audience consultants called "sampling".  What people did was tune in their favorite TV news station, and if that station didn't have weather coverage on, they would turn the channel and "sample" one of the other TV stations.

So big, bad scary weather was very important.  It was important to be on the air to either make sure your core audience didn't change the channel, plus to be on the air if one of the other stations viewers happened to "sample" your station.  So when you tune in during bad weather the TV stations are doing "wall-to-wall" weather coverage.  Being on air whether the weather was severe or not.  It's just good business, but it's not good public service.  Here in Indy they are pretty good and they don't go "wall-to-wall" unless there really is severe weather.  But from the previous post, it seems that other stations go all out even if the weather is not that bad.

Perhaps the previous poster should contact that TV station and tell them that they are doing a dis-service to their audience by crying wolf and broadcasting non severe weather news.  Odds are that the station will ignore your plea because bad weather is good business for TV News.
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TKENDALL
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« Reply #29 on: July 05, 2011, 01:29:40 PM »

From 1979 thru 1995 I worked for various CBS network affiliated TV stations in the midwest.  I ended my TV career at WISH-TV in Indianapolis.  For my entire TV career I worked in local the TV news business.  I will emphasis the last word "business" because that's just what it is.  TV news is a public service, but it's a business first.  As a business it must make money.  More viewers means higher ratings means more $$ from advertisers. 

Back in 1995 TV news was a money printing business.  Every station made tons of money because there was little competition.  Yes, there was cable, but for the most part a network TV station, and their news operation made lots of money.  Also, back then we found that most people had their favorite news station/anchor/sports guy and they watched the same station for news every day.  We also found that the one story that affected everyone was the weather.  Everyone talks about the weather, and stormy weather was scary stuff.  When the weather got bad, people tuned in.  Plus, when those people tuned in something happened that the audience consultants called "sampling".  What people did was tune in their favorite TV news station, and if that station didn't have weather coverage on, they would turn the channel and "sample" one of the other TV stations.

So big, bad scary weather was very important.  It was important to be on the air to either make sure your core audience didn't change the channel, plus to be on the air if one of the other stations viewers happened to "sample" your station.  So when you tune in during bad weather the TV stations are doing "wall-to-wall" weather coverage.  Being on air whether the weather was severe or not.  It's just good business, but it's not good public service.  Here in Indy they are pretty good and they don't go "wall-to-wall" unless there really is severe weather.  But from the previous post, it seems that other stations go all out even if the weather is not that bad.

Perhaps the previous poster should contact that TV station and tell them that they are doing a dis-service to their audience by crying wolf and broadcasting non severe weather news.  Odds are that the station will ignore your plea because bad weather is good business for TV News.

I agree with this. TV news is certainly a "business" and that explains the overboard coverage and information overload especially when it comes to weather. Think of all the weather graphics and slogans, things like "Super power Doppler 3000", etc.

I do agree there needs to be a change in the NWS system. I am really amazed at how most people I talk to still do not know the difference between a watch and a warning...they just use the two terms interchangeably.
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