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When am I ready to participate in forecast discussions?

Courtesy Bob Hartig:
As temperatures warm and the Gulf conveyor advances northward, the Forecast Discussions will come out of hibernation.

Are you ready to participate meaningfully in those discussions? They are the crown jewel of Stormtrack and subject to higher standards than most other categories in order to maintain quality content. If you are new to Stormtrack, or if you have been here for a while but have contributed infrequently, then before you jump into the deep end of the pool, please acquaint yourself with the rules that govern Target Area discussions.

Here is a simple self-test to determine whether you're prepared to contribute to Forecast Discussions. The scenario is this: You have no access to SPC convective outlooks, NWS forecasts, local media forecasts, the TWC--no one else's weather forecast of any kind telling you what sort of weather to expect and why. All you have to go by are station obs, soundings, surface and upper-air maps based on numerical models such as the GFS, NAM, and RAP, satellite, model skew-Ts, and other forecasting tools.

Using those resources, can you offer your own ingredients-based forecast and share your thinking behind it using terminology familiar to forecasters? Can you, for example, weigh 3,000 J/kg MLCAPE against 11 degrees C at 700 mb and factor those considerations together with others into the odds of either a chaseable setup or a blue-sky bust? Which model are you looking at, how well does it align with other models, and is it demonstrating run-to-run consistency?

If the above scenario feels comfortable to you, then you are ready to participate in Forecast Discusssions. If not, then I encourage you to lurk in the discussions and get acquainted with their language, the thinking that goes into them, and the interplay between contributors. And if you have any questions or comments, or if you want to talk about developing weather situations and NWS forecasts in simple, non-technical terms, then please use the Introductory Weather & Chasing section. It is designed specifically for the many members here who are learning the ropes and aren't yet ready to create their own forecasts. The rules there are much more relaxed.

Here are three things that will not fly in the Forecast Discussions (but are fine for Introductory Weather & Chasing):
  • Copied-and-pasted SPC text and/or graphics. FD participants already know and appreciate what the SPC has to say. The only time such material is acceptable is when you refer to specific parts of it in the context of your own personally reasoned discussion. Do not post an SPC Day 2 graphic along with a short, non-substantive blurb like, "Here's the SPC map. Looks like there could be tornadoes tomorrow in Kansas." In the Forecast Discussions, that's non-information, and it irritates long-time members.
  • Comments about personal chase plans that lack substance. For instance, "Wow, 5,000 CAPE in Illinois, and the local forecast is calling for severe storms. Guess I'll be heading out, LOL! Anyone else going?" Such statements are perfectly acceptable for Introductory Weather & Chasing, but please do not post them in the Forecast Discussions.
  • Mere reiteration or paraphrasing of existing forecasts. If you're simply echoing an NWS or TWC forecast, seasoned contributors will know. And what would be the point? Again, the Introductory section is where you want to share such information.
Any of the above is completely appropriate for Introductory Weather & Chasing. But if you make a post that doesn't meet the Forecast Discussions criteria, one of the administrators will delete it and inform you why. Our goal in so doing is twofold: (1) to maintain the quality of these technical discussions, and (2) to take the opportunity of a teachable moment that can help you grow in your knowledge and your ability to contribute productively as a member.

It's not about ego. Just be realistic about where you're at on the learning curve. If you're new to this forum, then unless you're a weather professional, chances are you don't yet know enough to realize how much you don't know. Our goal is to help you get up to snuff without compromising the quality of discussions among more seasoned chasers and forecasters.

If, after reading the above, you think that you might be ready to try your hand at the Forecast Discussions, then please do! The discussions may be more technical, but they're still informal, non-professional, and very much grassroots. You don't have to be an expert, just knowledgeable enough to share your own thoughts, insights, and experience meaningfully.

Again, the Forecast Discussions are the centerpiece of Stormtrack. Long-time members who have experienced the peaks and valleys of this forum will appreciate how important it is--and how difficult at times--to uphold higher standards for the Forecast Discussions and for the other Target Area discussions.

In case you missed it the first time, here again is the link to the Target Area Rules. Be assured that lots of folks here need to get acquainted with them, so there's no need to feel embarrassed or singled out after reading this post. Hey, it's good that you're enthused about storm chasing! Just direct your enthusiasm to the proper place on this forum, that's all.
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Jan 25, 2015
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