Are You Ready to Participate in Forecast Discussions?

Jul 2, 2004
1,775
90
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Severe weather season is rapidly approaching; indeed, meteorological spring is only a week away. As temperatures begin to 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.

Storm season is on its way. Here's to a 2013 that eclipses what last year offered. Have fun, stay safe--and good chasing to all.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Timothy Finn

I'll be honest.....I think I am ready. There's been a massive learning curve, and I have intentionally stayed out of the target discussions because frankly, I find a lot of people here intimidating, due to the VAST difference in skill, myself of course being somewhat slightly above the bottom, LOL.

But, I've been trying hard to learn, and I'm willing to give it a go, knowing full well that I will be wrong, or off base.

Tim
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
90
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Tim, I still feel that way sometimes. Putting one's thoughts out there in the Advanced Forecasting section can feel intimidating, particularly since there are some truly great forecasters and seasoned chasers here. I lurked on the forum a loooong time and asked a lot of questions before I finally ventured some tentative forecasting comments--and that was before we even had Advanced and Introductory divisions.

But nobody here is grading papers, just comparing notes, and hopefully we all learn from each other and hone our skills in the process. Feeling some hesitancy is a good sign; it means you know enough to respect what the Forecast Discussions are about and what they involve. The fact that you recognize the learning curve suggests that you've been tackling it and working with the concepts, which in turn suggests that if you think you're ready, then you probably are.

Some folks jump glibly into the deep end before they've learned how to dog paddle and without ever bothering to read the rules, and the result is shallow remarks that just aren't the stuff of serious discussions. Others feel too intimidated and hang back when in fact they're ready to participate. Between those two extremes lies the reality of the Forecast Discussions, which is that they're a place to talk shop about impending severe weather, and to learn and share and grow. Sometimes you come up looking like a genius and sometimes you wind up feeling like an idiot--after all, it's weather! There are always new things to learn about it, and it can make fools of the best of us. But I'll tell you, that first time when you share your forecast and then have it verify is magic! You find yourself thinking, "Hey, I guess I've learned a few things after all!"

Personally, I'd rather have folks approach the Forecast Discussions with a bit too much reserve than too little. But again, Tim, if you feel ready to take a crack at it, then you probably are, and this is a great group who will only encourage you as you join in.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Timothy Finn

Bob, thank you for the encouragement, and the great sage advice.

I've studied a lot over the last year, and been on a goodly number of chases, so, I'll make a better effort to participate. I have a much better idea of what goes on now, this is for sure.

Tim
 
Feb 17, 2012
142
110
11
Kearney, NE
www.facebook.com
I Might start posting in forecast threads this year. Want to contribute but I want to do it in a respectful manner. It can be intimidating with the high level of forecasting knowledge here. I've been studying but still a bit hesitant to post my thoughts concerning model outlooks. Maybe in the later part of this season, hopefully feeling more confident. This is my passion & want to be apart of every aspect to become a great forecaster/chaser.
 

STexan

EF4
Feb 11, 2012
316
38
11
Athens, TX
I think the protocol might be a little too stringent and intimidating here in the forecasting forum. While I understand the reasoning, I've seen countless slight risk days go completely un-commented on in advance, that put down a fair amount of significant weather events and I suspect I know why. You can be as "scientific and analytical" as you have the knowledge, training, and experience to be and I respect that and I wish I had a tiny fraction of the experience and knowledge that a few here do but for most (many?) of us, we can only do and learn what our other jobs and family commitments will allow. But since storms are only a fascination of mine and not my life, I suspect I'll merely observe and keep my "hunches and guesses" to myself.
 
Feb 27, 2009
447
57
11
Texarkana, AR
You can always post in Introductory weather and chasing with your guesses and hunches. I have no interest in "forecasting" like some do. I do keep an eye on the models past what the SPC comments on to aid in long range planning. I look at precipitation allowing models the morning of.... but just two years ago I didn't even do that. I picked a spot and waited for visible satellite to tell me what to do. I only had dial up for years so I never looked at anything other than SPC and was never tempted to sit at the computer! Like you, I use to be bothered by some of the rules, not even sure why.... but I just accept it now. And... you can post in introductory weather and chasing if you have something. So there's really no excuse to not post something if you want to.

There are many here that just enjoy forecasting. It's as much fun as is the actual chase. Took me a while to understand that. I view it as mostly a chore... other than it does bring some excitement and anticipation. Forecasting used to be more important than it is now I think, and there is a bit of a competitive aspect to it also. When it comes to finding tornadoes, the more knowledgeable don't have as much advantage as they did in the past, due to technology, and that is a bit sad. You have to understand also that there were many experienced forecasters here who got fed up with dumb comments. Some did leave. Others... generally the loudest ones who contibuted the least made a stink about it. I'm not sure what the answer is but you can't blame management for trying. I'm at the point now that I actually wish there was an invite only type of section for them that no one else could read or participate in. One of the things that I often want to comment on is topography or landscape or some other little thing that causes me to pick one place over another. It's good to remember that any of that would be allowed in the introductory section. This is all just my own opinion based on what I've seen since 2009. Others may see it differently depending on their own experience and how long they have been here.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
90
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
And... you can post in introductory weather and chasing if you have something. So there's really no excuse to not post something if you want to....One of the things that I often want to comment on is topography or landscape or some other little thing that causes me to pick one place over another. It's good to remember that any of that would be allowed in the introductory section.
Exactly! You can discuss forecasts and developing weather pretty much any way you want to in Introductory Weather & Chasing. That's why it's there, and there's no reason not to take advantage of it. It exists as a service to members and is designed to meet a certain set of needs, just as the Target Area Discussions (which includes the Forecast Discussions) meets a certain set of needs. As you have noted, Joshua, problems arise when those two sets of needs get crossed. Those who've been here for a few years know what I'm talking about.

For members who either don't care to or aren't ready to make their own forecasts but who still want to discuss developing weather, the Introductory section provides a place where they can do so on their own terms, and ask questions, and learn. If a person wants to go deeper, then it's just a matter of studying up and acquiring the baseline knowledge to participate in the Forecast Discussions. There are lots of very handy ways that can be done at one's own pace without spending a ton of money.
 
Dec 18, 2010
137
0
5
Florida Panhandle
I have refrained from posting in Forecast Discussions. I am not as skilled at forecasting long range as many in here are and probably never will be, though I do appreciate and learn from those that post what they are seeing through their eyes.
One thing that I have noticed is that nobody is perfect!
 
May 1, 2004
3,375
356
21
Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
I think the protocol might be a little too stringent and intimidating here in the forecasting forum. While I understand the reasoning, I've seen countless slight risk days go completely un-commented on in advance, that put down a fair amount of significant weather events and I suspect I know why.
Maybe 3-4 years ago, there were times when 200 posts per day were coming into this forum. People were excited about picking out targets and narrowing down the forecast area. With that volume of posts coming in we needed fairly strict rules in order to maintain the quality of posts in the forecast threads. Without them there would be an endless stream of people copying and pasting mesoscale discussions, warnings, and convective outlooks. I've seen this on some other forums, and it's what we were trying to avoid here. You've probably seen it on some Facebook pages as well, where their feeds are just endless streams of graphics and text they yanked from the NWS. As long as you wrote out your own thoughts with a little reasoning (it didn't have to be a novel or "scientific"), your Target Area posts were good to go. Mainly we were trying to keep the copied bulletins and frivolous comments out, because they add no value to the forecast discussion, nobody wanted to sort through several hundred of those posts trying to find ones with new or insightful information, and it was a huge amount of work for the staff to manage those posts.

Today we're running about 5% of the post volume that we were just a couple years ago. There's been a mass exodus from the forum. People leaving for Facebook seems to be the most cited reason, but this forum had a variety of its own short comings as well. That's a topic for other threads that have already been brought up on here, however. To address this issue we've been trying to rekindle the flame and encourage more posting and new users to post. Rules in the Target Area have been simplified and relaxed. Moderation of posts has been relaxed. Most of the staff doesn't do much of anything now except move the occasional from one forum to another.

So yes, the rules do seem strict, especially given our current traffic. However, you have to understand that we were trying to manage the quality of a much busier forum, and we're now playing catch-up as the atmosphere of the forum changes. Since posting has gone slack we've opened up significantly here. I don't think many have realized that though and still feel like the forum is being heavily scrutinized. At the same time, we are still trying to maintain the basic quality of the Target Area, for those that do want to have informative forecast discussions. I'd rather see several slight risk days go by with no posting, than the Target Area forum resembling the "Pigsknuckle Storm Spotters" Facebook page which copies and pastes every watch and warning that comes down the wire.


You can be as "scientific and analytical" as you have the knowledge, training, and experience to be and I respect that and I wish I had a tiny fraction of the experience and knowledge that a few here do but for most (many?) of us, we can only do and learn what our other jobs and family commitments will allow.
You're right. Most on here, myself included, are just amateurs with some tidbits of knowledge we've picked up on the internet and a few other places. That's the target demographic of this forum I believe. We're trying to encourage posting from those people, while also hanging on to our users who are professionals or have a lot more experience.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BK Noonan
You'll probably see the forecast discussions pick up more when the events are located in the Plains. People tend to more actively post when they have more than a passing interest in the event. For most Plains chasers, other than casual interest, they likely don't have much invested in an event in the Southeast or Ohio Valley simply because they won't really be involved in it. It's hard to get too worked about severe weather when you're still dealing with blizzards.
 
May 18, 2012
292
151
11
Gaines, MI
Bob, thanks for the reminder, sir. I've purposely stayed out of ant kind of forecast or target area the last year and a half and just spent my time learning, and soaking up as much as I can from various sources - and I know you know that having chased together. I think at this point I'm comfortable, and look forward to being a contributor to both areas. Have a great season my friend. I look forward to hitting the open road to the land of Oz with you again soon.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
90
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Rob, you'll be an asset to the discussions once the weather starts shaping up. It won't be long now and we'll be hitting the road for Convection City, brutha. :)

Skip's post brings a helpful and healthy perspective to this thread. The point is to neither treat the Forecast Discussions lightly on the one hand nor feel intimidated by them on the other, but rather, to understand and respect their purpose and protocol. They are more technical in nature than Introductory discussions, but they're still grassroots, not graduate-level dissertations. If you've learned enough about forecasting concepts that you want to start making your own forecasts and share your personal reasoning behind them, however uncertain you are of it, then you're good to go. Few of us here are experts, and certainly not me. Again, it's about comparing notes, not grading papers, and if you're ready to test the water, then this is a good group of people to do it with.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Like
Reactions: Lanny Dean
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
90
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Bob, would it be appropriate for us casual forecasters to post here with the same YYYY-MM-DD MODE: ST, ST, ST format as in the Target Area?
I just discovered your post, Kirk. Sorry for the delayed response. Do you mean, would it be appropriate to post in the Introductory discussions using that format? I don't see why not. I think it's a good idea; that way, when you do start posting in TA, you'll already be used to the proper format.

Now let's just hope this season starts offering a few reasons to post!
 
Good points Bob and Skip. And personally, I think it would be wonderful idea to allow causal forecasts into the introductory discussions for some newer folks. As Bob said, the format will have already been learned and I think it will help to build confidence as well!

FYI, hopefully it is just me, but I am having a hard time reading Neil Rasmussens posts - I am not seeing his reply for some reason. Am I missing something?
 

calvinkaskey

Guest
Feb 17, 2014
384
30
11
Honestly I'd be totally surprised if someone can chase better using their own brain rather than the power of hundreds of people with SPC, TWC, etc. I honestly don't know what the point is. I want to chase and I don't want to waste time and money on doing my own forecast just to bust. It's possible to have an intellectual discussion with how accurate each site, model etc is and come up with probably a much better forecast than if you studied stuff yourself for years.
 

Mark Blue

Staff member
Supporter
Feb 19, 2007
2,772
317
21
Colorado
The OP and thread were created to give members on ST a few guidelines to follow on whether or not they should be posting in the Target Area or Introductory Weather and Chasing forum. It's suppose to cause a person to do a little introspection and be honest with themselves on which forum they should be posting in. Consider it a litmus test of sorts that will help guide you through the decision making process, and where the most appropriate forum to create posts and threads in actually is in the future.
 
Mar 4, 2015
28
12
6
Matamoras, PA
Bob: Good ideas. While I'm always available to help with any questions about Skew-Ts, etc ... I also would like to know what you (and others) want to see on a sounding diagrams to better help with storm chasing.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Bob Hartig

calvinkaskey

Guest
Feb 17, 2014
384
30
11
Honestly I'd be totally surprised if someone can chase better using their own brain rather than the power of hundreds of people with SPC, TWC, etc. I honestly don't know what the point is. I want to chase and I don't want to waste time and money on doing my own forecast just to bust. It's possible to have an intellectual discussion with how accurate each site, model etc is and come up with probably a much better forecast than if you studied stuff yourself for years.
My point is this: If we are all about getting to the severe weather it shouldn't matter the exact way it's done as long as the person has been somewhat successful and may have a tidbit to offer. I think I've had very good success just using SPC and TWC along with forecast radar. A lot of times when I couldn't see a current radar view, just experience at looking at thunderstorm development has helped me a lot. I've refreshed my memory about Skew-t's, been educated on here about where to look for divergence and learned about shear from experience looking at SPC and current mesoanalysis. I"m not even close to becoming a meteorologist though. Experience can prove a very powerful tool that shouldn't be discredited.
 
May 1, 2015
10
3
0
Prairieville, Louisiana
Honestly I'd be totally surprised if someone can chase better using their own brain rather than the power of hundreds of people with SPC, TWC, etc. I honestly don't know what the point is. I want to chase and I don't want to waste time and money on doing my own forecast just to bust. It's possible to have an intellectual discussion with how accurate each site, model etc is and come up with probably a much better forecast than if you studied stuff yourself for years.
On principle I think you're correct, but I also think it depends on how much experience and knowledge the person has. Obviously an amateur shouldn't take matters into their own hands, but if we're relying on other people (no matter how credible), not only will we never learn how to forecast ourselves, I think we're selling ourselves short.

Evacuation decisions and whatnot should obviously be made by professionals communicating to emergency managers, and there's definitely utility in having outside sources make their own forecasts or verify your own. It's surprisingly easy to forget an important piece of data in a forecast if you go it alone, simply due to the sheer amount of time it takes to compile a decent forecast. As a whole though, I know some people that have come far enough to make chasing decisions on their own merits. It's not a common theme, though.
 

B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
260
66
11
I've been a "product chaser" for many many years now. I know storm structure at a look, and can judge and anticipate storm movement once I'm within viewing range with about a 90% success rate, provided that I have my mobile computer setup, a cell signal, and current radar data. That being said, I am a "product chaser". I require the SPC outlooks, NWS/TWC forecasts, and advance radar data, to be successful. I cannot forecast to save myself, other than walking outside on certain days and saying "it feels like it's going to be bad today", which is a 50/50 shot.

I'd like to learn, but some of the concepts are outside of my realm of understanding, and my ability to process math. The furthest I successfully completed math in high school (mid-1990's) was 9th grade-level Algebra and 10th-grade level Geometry, failed Algebra II, failed Intro to Trig, and in a record attempt, failed Algebra II a second time in college. My high school also didn't put a huge focus on sciences, and my last sciences class was Basic Earth Sciences in 1996.

Kind of sucks to say it. I do the best I can, but this is one subject that I could use massive improvement on. Problem is, I have no idea how to get around this issue. For having been in the field for 20 years, as of today all I am qualified to do is read the forecast discussions.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
90
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
I'd like to learn, but some of the concepts are outside of my realm of understanding, and my ability to process math. The furthest I successfully completed math in high school (mid-1990's) was 9th grade-level Algebra and 10th-grade level Geometry, failed Algebra II, failed Intro to Trig, and in a record attempt, failed Algebra II a second time in college. My high school also didn't put a huge focus on sciences, and my last sciences class was Basic Earth Sciences in 1996.

Kind of sucks to say it. I do the best I can, but this is one subject that I could use massive improvement on. Problem is, I have no idea how to get around this issue. For having been in the field for 20 years, as of today all I am qualified to do is read the forecast discussions.
It has been three and a half years since I posted the original sticky. Back then I was one of the moderators; today I'm just a civilian, and Stormtrack has fallen into a new, forward-looking ownership with a fine administrative team. Because I chase far less than I'd like to anymore, I've become something of a rarity on this forum. So I'm surprised, and rather gratified, to see that my post still has some traction. Having just reviewed it, I think the reason why is because the points I expressed remain relevant. I also think that while members who've been on this forum five or more years grasp the reasoning behind those points, my original post also remains prone to being misunderstood by some readers.

B. Dean Berry, I want to offer you a word of encouragement about learning forecasting. You don't have to be a math head to become adept at identifying chaseworthy setups and choosing a target area. My math skills stink like a cadaver fart, but that's not what it's about. You don't need to know calculus, physics, and a host of bewildering equations and such--not unless you plan to pursue a meteorology degree and move into the deeper end of things. To be sure, there are folks here who, since I first joined ST years ago, have done just that and acquired knowledge that easily eclipses mine. But I understand the basics, and I keep adding to them. All it takes is a desire to learn. I won't say it's easy, but it's not as hard as you think. Not if you stick with it and ask questions.

There are three ingredients necessary for thunderstorms: moisture, instability, and lift. For severe storms, including supercells, add a fourth ingredient: vertical wind shear. For tornadoes, add a fifth: low-level helicity. That's it. No math involved, just an understanding of how those things work together and of how the different forecasting tools--surface charts, satellite, upper air maps, the skew-T, etc.--can help you piece together a picture of what's happening and what to expect.

Learning that stuff is fun and rewarding, and there are all kinds of resources to assist you. If you simply don't care to do so and you're content to fly by the SPC forecasts, that's fine. If all you want to do is see tornadoes, doing so is much easier today than it used to be. But there's a certain satisfaction in making your own forecasts, and there's knowledge to be gained that can make the difference between boom and bust even on the "big" days.

I'll leave it at that and wish you well in your pursuit of convective magnificence.
 
Last edited:
Nov 13, 2016
13
2
0
29
US
Hi. I am new here, so I don't have much in the way of SCIENTIFIC knowledge of forecasting, but I do know a little bit about the OLD-FASHIONED way of forecasting, such as how the smoke from a chimney can tell you what type of weather you may or may not have on a given day. I would really like to know more than just old wive's tales of forecasting, though. If anyone wants to help me clean the knowledge and experience, please let me know.

Sent from my XT1585 using Stormtrack mobile app