WX Works Tips & Tricks - One Stop-n-Shop

There are a lot of us chasers that are starting to come around to the thought of buying the WXWorks system. Now I know there are a lot of threads already covering this but I was thinking about starting a thread specifically for tips & tricks of using it and other things that relate to the system. A one stop-n-shop if you will.

I bought mine this summer (2005) and have not had the chance to mess with it. So I for one would enjoy any tips from the ones who have had it for a while.

So if anyone has any Tips & Tricks pass them along.

Mick
 
Apr 29, 2004
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Norman, OK
One important tip - remember to trust your eyes and your instincts and understand the strengths and limitations of the system. Don't let "Threat Net Cancer" take over!

For example, I can see how easy it might have been for folks on the May 12 2005 South Plains event to become glued to the Threat Net data, and not realize 1) the storm core was well above 55 dBZ (VIP level 6), 2) the data are not from the low-elevation scan (usually won't see hooks and other important storm structure), and 3) there was considerable rapid evolution of the storm between the 5 minute updates right at tornado time.

Bear in mind that in the NWS, the norm is for warning meteorologists to trust the base data over the algorithms, and that algorithms are only a "safety net". With Threat Net, you have algorithms, and then dumbed down base data. Just be careful, and then Threat Net could be used effectively.
 
Probably the best tip of them all.

I never have really put a whole lot of faith in it and that's why it took me such a long time to get, well plus $$$. The main reason I wanted it is simply to get to the storm and not having to rely on the scares wifi hotspot for radar data. We all know how hard it is visually on a great DL haze day at 4pm.

Mick
 

mrobinett

EF3
Feb 26, 2005
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Gainesville, FL
www.youtube.com
Thank you for starting this thread Mickey, if it evolves into a good One-stop as you said, itll be a great starter for those of us considering getting the setup for next spring!

Threat Net Cancer, honestly I can see how that would become a problem, more emphasis on data than actual experience and visual clues, great tip!!
 

Dan Robinson

There had been a discussion on WX-CHASE about the purple reflectivity cores on Threatnet radar echoes, the highest echo intensity on Wx Worx radar. That is, they do not always correspond to severe weather or even storm strength. A purple 'core' does not indicate the presence of hail, or if there is confirmed hail, it may be anywhere inside or even outside the purple core.

In my experience, the purple (55Dbz) cores on ThreatNet are mainly areas of benign heavy rain (benign except for the hydroplaning threat). Hail usually varies from small to nonexistent in purple ThreatNet cores. The largest hail I've run into is where we'd expect it, just to the north and/or west of a meso - and this area may or may not be inside the purple core shown on ThreatNet. The SCITS and shear 'blobs' have been more reliable indicators of where large hail might be hanging out.

In general, a massively sized, round/oval-shaped contiguous 'purple core' on WxWorx can *sometimes* be the indicator a supercell. If you have shear data and SCITs (the Responder package), the presence and location of shear 'blobs' and 'donuts' can help to confirm this.

These identifying features are not always consistent, though. Every storm is different.

Here is what the Kent County, Texas supercell on June 12 looked like as it was producing its first tornadoes near Spur. It is the southernmost cell in this image:

http://wvlightning.com/june122005/june12radar1.jpg
 
Apr 22, 2004
998
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CMI
www.atmos.uiuc.edu
Don't have a wxworks, nor plan to anytime soon, but will offer a few tips nevertheless based on what I've read from others, etc....

First, echo tops is apparently valuable in noting first radar echoes for developing storms that may not be visual owing to haze, or distance. Since precipitation in storms first develops at mid-levels, it can be several minutes after precipitations starts to develop in the storm before the first radar echo is displayed at the base scan. So, the echo tops product can give you a 'signal' of these developing storms earlier.

Second, since the levels of intensity and echo shape in the product lack much information, you should animate the reflectivity product to look for deviant storm motion as a possible indicator of a storm with a strong mesocyclone, as these are more likely to produce a tornado.

Third, take the time to make a good forecast before heading out and looking at other information sources. A good forecast will usually have you in the right area to begin with and make it easier to adjust based on informaion from the sources mentioned above.

Glen
 
Apr 29, 2004
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Norman, OK
First, echo tops is apparently valuable in noting first radar echoes for developing storms that may not be visual owing to haze, or distance. Since precipitation in storms first develops at mid-levels, it can be several minutes after precipitations starts to develop in the storm before the first radar echo is displayed at the base scan.
Since the reflectivity data is assumingly from a vertical composite (max in the vertical column), then any echoes developing aloft should immediately be recognizable on the reflectivity product.
 
Apr 29, 2004
769
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6
Norman, OK
Third, take the time to make a good forecast before heading out and looking at other information sources. A good forecast will usually have you in the right area to begin with and make it easier to adjust based on informaion from the sources mentioned above.
Agreed!

Here's an example of "Threat Net Cancer" (IMHO):

1. Locate bullseye of highest tornado probability contour on SPC outlook.
2. Drive there.
3. Watch for strongest echo with highest number of "low-level locks" on Threat Net.
4. Drive there.

Where's the challenge? Where's the the skill?
 
Apr 22, 2004
998
1
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CMI
www.atmos.uiuc.edu
Since the reflectivity data is assumingly from a vertical composite (max in the vertical column), then any echoes developing aloft should immediately be recognizable on the reflectivity product.
My understanding is that it is not a vertical composite reflectivity - since I've several times been told and read on ST and elsewhere the echo tops feature shows a signal earlier than the reflectivity plot. Perhaps a wxworks owner could shed more light on how these products are generated.

Glen
 
Dec 8, 2003
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www.ontheplains.com
To each their own I suppose.

While I would never rely solely on one source of information, I will admit WX-WORX would of been extremely handy once convection fired on 12 June 2005. We had no data once we left Childress. Had I'd seen the radar, I *probably* would of quickly ditched the northern storm... not even giving it a second thought (original plan, but it spun up nicely as we were drivng S). It hurts driving back home knowing you missed half a dozen tornadoes by a thirty minute drive when you are 4 hours from home.

Aaron
 
I don't plan on getting a "Threat Net" either. I would go for a mobile satellite internet service before I get one of those. I seriously hate the "cartoon radar" as some people like to call it - It looks more like the old MDR data than NEXRAD. But, I could see a use for it for data void areas, or those who don't want to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for a mobile internet setup. If the folks that make Threat-net were to provide a higher resolution image, it would be more worthwhile...

The internet has so much information that is useful to me, such as visible satellite, SFC data, mesoanalysis, etc.. I can usually just setup my GEMPAK machine to upload a visible sat image or L2 image centered on a location I select, which is pretty nifty...
 
I don't know how the echo tops feature on XM is generated, but I do know it works. I have found it to be very reliable in showing the stronger areas of convergence. Some times the tops feature will show towers going up for 30 minutes to an hour before anything shows up on radar (usually 15-30 minutes warning before showing up on radar). BTW You could accomplish the same thing and more with a visible satellite image, but internet via satellite phone is expensive and regular cell coverage is spotty.

The "satellite" feature on XM is a joke. Don't plan on obtaining any useful data from it.

I think the "winds" feature on XM is pretty worthless too. The only thing I ever use it for is locating approximately where the surface low is.

I wouldn't bother using the new "fronts" product either. I have only checked it a few times and it is usually off by hundreds of miles. It is accurate immediately after it updates on occasions, but not usually.

IMO the "sensor" product is one of the most valuable tools you get with XM. For those who don't know, it is essentially a surface chart updated every hour. It is great for last minute forecasting and identifying mesoscale features that could be very important.

The "strikes" feature is something I started using this year. When there are multiple cells competing it can give you a good idea of who is winning. I think it is pretty accurate and it is something I always watch when I am trying to figure out what storms are strengthing.

Don't rely too heavily on the "radar". When storms collapse they will continue to show strong reflectivity on radar for a long time. You have to pay attention and trust your eyes. If you are new to chasing and don't really know what you are looking at, your first clue that the storm is collapsing is that the updraft base will erode and the radar will start to show the storm West of its actual location.

I can't think of anything else worth saying except you should probably get the GPS unit if you don't have it already and you might have to reset your COM port settings each time you start up threatnet if your GPS isn't working.
 
The "satellite" feature on XM is a joke. Don't plan on obtaining any useful data from it.
I disagree with this statement. I use the satellite feature like most people are using the cloud tops feature. It only shows clouds ABOVE 5000 feet, so if you are under a low deck of clouds, it may show you under clear skies, but when towers start going up, you can see them 15 to 20 mins before precip starts. And its updated every 10 minutes.

I think the "winds" feature on XM is pretty worthless too. The only thing I ever use it for is locating approximately where the surface low is.
It is just model data. I use this feature to help determine a target when there are more than one hot spot. You can view the winds from the surface up to something like 30,000 feet, so its a good way to see where more backed winds are forecasted for the short term.


IMO the "sensor" product is one of the most valuable tools you get with XM. For those who don't know, it is essentially a surface chart updated every hour. It is great for last minute forecasting and identifying mesoscale features that could be very important.
Hmmm. Every hour? Am I getting this mixed up with a different feature? The surface obs are updated every 10 minutes on mine. And there is a fairly good concentration of them. Depending on how panned out or zoomed in you happen to be, will determine how many show up. I agree, this is one of the most useful features. Great to help find boundaries, and keep track of dewpoints, etc...


The "strikes" feature is something I started using this year. When there are multiple cells competing it can give you a good idea of who is winning. I think it is pretty accurate and it is something I always watch when I am trying to figure out what storms are strengthing.
It is also a good indicator for dying storms. I noticed the lightning stops a little before the storm visually starts to show signs of weakening or dying. Overall the lightning feature is nice, but for accuracy in individual strikes, I dont put much faith in it. I have sat in an area for 15 minutes with no close strikes, and a bolt may appear within a mile on the screen. The opposite is true as well. A close strike may not show up.

Don't rely too heavily on the "radar".
I am not going to jump on the radar bashing bandwagon here. It should be used to help find initial development, and to compare what storms are more dominate when approaching storms that are semi close to each other. I find nothing wrong with the radar other than the smoothing affect. For those that complain about this... So what if you cant see "details" of the radar. What have you been doing all these years while out in the field before threat net? Did not having detailed radar ever keep you from finding the meso of a storm? Were you unable to visually see that precip was wrapping around and forming a hook in the storm? So why is it such a problem now? In the heat of the chase, once you are that close to the storm, you should be looking at the storm for these features, and not relying on the radar. Use threat net to get you TO the storm, then go visual. OK, it would be nice if it WAS more detailed, but man, ill take what they are offering over having to be constantly looking for a wi-fi hook up. One thing I will add. If the storms are fast moving, you need to be aware that what the screen and your GPS location is showing, in relation to the storm, is going to be several miles off. If you are close behind the storm, it can show you in the heaviest precip, when in fact you have sun shining on you. Its just another tool. Not a "solve all" miracle.


Doug Raflik
http://www.wxnut.net
wxnut@charter.net
 
Doug the "sensors" feature updates hourly. Each station will update at a different time, but as far as I know it is in hour long intervals. When you click on an individual station it will display the time it updated above the other station measurements.
If you like the "wind" product now, start comparing it to actual surface observations and you won't like it for very long.
As far as the "satellite" product goes, I guess people can check it out and decide for themselves whether or not it is useful. For me personally, I look at satellite images to detect the subtleties that are not going to show up on the "satellite" product on XM. The smoothed gray blob just doesn't do it for me. There was one day this year when it was accurately showing where the break in the cloud deck was, but other than that, I haven't had much use for it.
I have checked the "satellite" product when towers were going up to see if the "satellite" feature would perform the same function as "tops". In my experience, the "satellite" product shows a wide area of light cloud cover where the "tops" feature shows one distinct tower going up (there have been times when "satellite" didn't show anything at all). Once again, people can check it out for themselves, but I really think "tops" is much better at showing you exactly where towers are going up. When you are waiting for storms you can overlay radar, satellite, and tops and see what shows up and when.
Whatever you do, don't get a Toshiba Qosmio if you plan on running XM on your laptop.
 
IMHO, these guys could have done a better job on the Responder package if they were going to charge and arm and a leg for it. Some of the features are pretty worthless not to mention how low resolution the radar data is. I mean, come on. 55DBz being the highest on the scale? That's pretty lame. My GRLevel3 will do better than this. No VIL or SRV products? I mean sure, you have the composite shear product which is great for determining areas of enhanced shear, but it doesn't show you if it is with strait line winds or with an actual circulation. They could do better to be from Baron....

:roll:
 
Apr 29, 2004
769
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6
Norman, OK
From this Web page:

http://www.mcwar.org/gallery/chase05/2005may12.txt

A recollection of one chaser's account of the 12 May 2005 South Plains event (while being pummeled by the large hail very close to the tornado), I found this quote:

We were in the area of rotation, according to Mobile Threatnet, but you have to remember those images are 10 minutes old.
An example of Threat Net Cancer. Ask me why they couldn't just look out the window to determine that they were too close to the low-altitude rotation!
 
I had WxWorx for about a year. My receiver stopped working propperly, and I opted to cancel the service rather than buy a whole new unit (the warranty was already out). I permanently installed a computer in my car, mainly for navigation and XM music radio. But it would also automatically load up Mobile Threat Net on startup. It was kinda fun being able to peruse the weather whenever I was at a stoplight. But since the first time I got it to run, it always felt like an over-priced toy.

Since the products are never real-time, and the delay isn't always a constant, it quickly became more of a verification tool to me, as odd as that may sound. I would watch the sky, and then see if it did what I thought it did twenty minutes later when the picture came up. I found that to be pretty useless. "XM said it rained here ten minutes ago. Good thing too, because I never would've known that by looking out the window."

Considering the nature of the data, and the compression it has to go through to get it all into the receiver in a timely manner (you may be looking at your location, but you're still receiving radar data from...say...Portland, Oregon), it becomes such an approximation of what's happening at the local scale that it doesn't provide anything better than what you can see with your eyes.