Accuweather Warnings?

Through a long series of email forwards I present this...

===========================================================================


An AccuWeather email communication to its customers and possibly the
media stating its intent to begin issuing severe weather watches and
warnings in Spring 2007 has received widespread distribution within the
weather community, including within the NWS. This email includes the
following:


Separately, AccuWeather is developing our own warning system as an


alternative to the NWS. Our belief is that we can:


- Deliver warnings with more accuracy. The NWS often over-warns the
extent of severe weather, issuing warnings that can cover hundreds of
square miles, when only tens of square miles might be affected.


- Deliver warnings that provide more detail. This detail would include
precise times various communities would be affected as well as what the
affects will be, such as 1" hail, or wind gusts of 65 mph, etc.


- More lead time of warnings. In severe weather situations, every minute
counts, and by providing a tornado warning 5-10 minutes earlier than the
NWS, lives can be saved.


This development effort is ongoing, and we are encouraged with initial
results. We will continue to work on this through the winter with an
anticipated launch date of spring, 2007. We will keep you up to date on
the latest developments on this project.
=========================================


As one of the forwarders pointed out... I'd like to see how they are able to gain 5-10 min of warning lead time...

Sounds like this will come out around the time when NWS will start polygon warnings (while it is a good idea, bring up a variety of new issues)

Discussion?
 
I generally hate Accuweather, but I don't think this is such a bad idea. Some of the points in the article are on target. I agree that the NWS does tend to over-warn, and their forecast zones can be very large in some cases.

Accuweather says they can improve on the NWS, but only time will tell. I think they can create a lot of hype, but who knows if their data will be better. For one, the NWS is made of dozens of offices around the country and the forecasters in each office have an intimate knowledge of their warning area. They know the micro-climates. Meteorologists in Pennsylvania don't know about the Wasatch Winds in Utah or the Seattle Convergence Zone or the thousands of other mesoscale features around the country.
 
That's interesting considering that in mid-October Steve Lyons posed this question on the Weather Channel blog, regarding a rain event along the Gulf Coast:

But very often in quiet years (and also active years) we find weather events with huge impact that never get their event stamped into the historical storm/hurricane record book. Some are tropical depressions; they are recorded. But there are also some pretty serious tropical weather events that don't even get the weakest tropical cyclone classification or even honorable mention.

...


Is it time to warn the public based on the potential impacts to land rather than on a sterile scientific definition of "what is a tropical cyclone?"
I thought it was simply potential for more hype; the NWS has an adequate warning system, and plenty of warnings were issued (but no TC warnings were issued because there was no tropical cyclone -- not even close). Can you imagine, if, every time there was an instance of severe weather, the Weather Channel, Accuweather, national news networks, and local TV stations, were all tripping over themselves to be the first to issue their own official-sounding warnings, using their own inconsistent definitions, and perhaps not even displaying the NWS warnings any more? It would be a mess.

Not to mention that as far as tropical weather, Accuweather makes a prediction every year, does no verification, and then quietly pulls it off their website by the next season (and in 2006, they basically re-used their 2005 tropical prediction -- if anyone is interested, I'll dig up the specifics when I get home).
 
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You could increase tornado lead time by 365 days if they went ahead and issued a tornado warning for the entire US effective immediately and valid for 1 year and 20 minutes. Never mind the fact that the false alarm rate would be terrible, the probability of detection would be an outstanding 100%! But seriously, I'm not totally opposed to the idea since private innovation and competition has pushed technology along in other sectors. But I am worried about the scope of the dissemination and whether they truly intend to provide the necessary resources necessary to do it right. Some private weather companies have been doing a similar service for private companies for some time, mainly to bring down work-stoppage times. As for being more exact about the potiental threat (size of hail, wind) that certainly isn't bad and I think has some useful benefit as compared to what the NWS provides, there are limitations to being so accurate given the current technology. I remain very skeptical.
 
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Does the NWS really tend to over-warn? I think there's a lot of "on the side of caution", which does lead to some false alarms (or quite a few for Tor warnings). But, there's a lot of outside, political pressure to overwarn at times, especially for tornado warnings. Heck, we saw what happened when a tornado hit Rogers, MN, a couple of months ago, unwarned. Next thing you know, there's a Senator calling for an investigation of the NWS and their procedures. A missed event, particularly one that results in casualties, is probably one of the worst things that can happen to an NWSFO, since you immediately have to face the "we weren't warned" and "Let's tar and feather!" garbage, regardless of whether or not the event could have been warned beforehand (e.g. the Roger's tornado had a max lead time of a couple of minutes in the 20/20 hindsight). Yes, at times, investigations are good, since good changes can come from missed events (or any events, for that matter), but tthere's no denying political pressures that are inevitable when the weather service misses an event.

Now, private companies would likely see ramifications for a missed event... Eventually, customers would stop paying for their service if their service is inadequate, unreliable, or inaccurate. However, there probably won't be a Congressional investigation of their duties, and they don't have that worry looking over their shoulder. I also have worries about any private company taking on actual watch and warning issuance (if they still call it "watch" and 'warning'), for there is, IMO, a great potential for public confusion. For example, let's say I'm watching some TV station, and they say there's a Tor warning in affect for some area (issued by AccuWx). I change the channel, and there is no warning in effect (as issued by the NWS). Ugh, I'm confused! What to do, what to do? Wait, I'm under a severe tstorm warning per AccuWx, but I'm not per the NWS. Should I pack up all my stuff and head indoors, or am I safe enough to wait it out? It's 3am, and the NWS has a tornado warning, but AccuWx doesn't. What should I do? People have a hard enough time remembering the difference between a watch and a warning, and this will only compound further confusion.

I have an unfavorable view of AccuWx from their past history of unfairly blasting NWS agencies (NWSFOs, NHC, etc). They can try it, but I'm hesitant.
 
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"Sounds like this will come out around the time when NWS will start polygon warnings (while it is a good idea, bring up a variety of new issues)"

NWS has been using polygons for quite a while - so far it's not working well at all...
 
Accu - Weather Warnings

I think Jeff has hit the nail on the head. I personally don't believe in anything that causes confusion when it comes to issuing public warnings, especially when the current system works. I believe that competition is fine if you're doing business, but in the case of public severe weather warnings, cooperation is, and should always be, the operative word, not competition.

Damon Poole
 
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"Sounds like this will come out around the time when NWS will start polygon warnings (while it is a good idea, bring up a variety of new issues)"

NWS has been using polygons for quite a while - so far it's not working well at all...

If I'm not mistaken, verification is still occurring on a county-by-county scale, which is why we see polygons that are merely county outlines. As long as verification continues on a per-county basis, I don't think we'll see polygons used to their fullest extent.

In addition, as was discussed at the SLS Conference last week, there are still some logistical issues to work out (e.g. dealing with a storm/polygon that straddles CWA boundaries, best way to word warnings so as to make the area outlined as familar as possible to those living in the area, etc).
 
As Jeff mentioned, I think there is already confusion and a lack of awareness on the part of non-mets and non-chasers (in other words 99% of the population) when it comes to the concept of severe weather warnings and watches. Another source for warnings and watches will not only add confusion to the mix, but I doubt it will really change anything as far as public awareness and action.

The North Carolina tornado is a classic example. As with most tornado tragedies, the news reports are awash with people saying "we had no warning". The warnings *were* there, and they were adequate for people to get to safety if they had done their part to prepare and/or pay attention to a threat forecast well in advance. But the people in the path had neither a plan of action nor a system in place to receive the warnings. The NC event was forecast days in advance in SPC outlooks, tornado watches were marching their way across the country as the event unfolded, news reports told of tornadoes and damage in Alabama. All that was moving toward the Carolinas. Despite all that, there were the stories of 'no warning'. The warning system is just fine as it is. It is much of the public that must change for it to be fully effective.

The 'end-user' response and involvement in the watch/warning system is the piece of the puzzle that is severely lacking, not the NWS or the warning system itself. Will AccuWeather or anyone else be able to change this - that is, people at the most having weather radios or at the very least paying *some* attention to the situation when watches are in effect?
 
As Jeff mentioned, I think there is already confusion and a lack of awareness on the part of non-mets and non-chasers (in other words 99% of the population) when it comes to the concept of severe weather warnings and watches. Another source for warnings and watches will not only add confusion to the mix, but I doubt it will really change anything as far as public awareness and action.

With our current technology, I'm of the opinion that warnings are about as good as they get as far as POD,FAR,and lead time goes. As Jeff mentioned, I was talking about the complete implementation of the polygons which was talked about at SLS. As one person at SLS commented, you have to wonder that while polygons will improve false alarms, will it actually harm users? This could lead to more scenarios where something goofs up and someone ends up without the warning. Another scenario involves many of our country's citizens... those that don't have a clue where they live in a county.

My concern with an additional company/agency issuing warnings is mass confusion among citizens. While I'm perfectly ok with enhanced warning etc. for companies (when to turn generators on etc.), I'm worried that we could actually increase loss of life by confusing the public (Who's warning is better? etc.).

Personally, I feel the best way to attack the problem right now is better education of the public. We need to drive a nail in the coffin that if you live in a mobile home and there are watch boxes out, you should be on your toes.

Finally, putting warnings into the hands of a private companies for general public use could cause many snowballs to form. What happens when someone dies because of a lack of warning? Will only those that buy the service receive warnings (yikes!)?

Aaron
 
Finally, putting warnings into the hands of a private companies for general public use could cause many snowballs to form. What happens when someone dies because of a lack of warning? Will only those that buy the service receive warnings (yikes!)?

Aaron

The best part is that you can sue Accuweather when they get it wrong, the goverment is generally immune.
 
Here's another question -- how on earth is AccuWx going to going issue convective warnings in the first place? Certainly they don't have the man-power to carefully investigate / interrogate storms like NWSFOs can... What are they going to do for large outbreaks, or "surprise" isolated severe convection? I don't think they have the personnel to use radar to subjectively issue warnings, which means that, I can only think, they will use some sort of objective classification for svr storms based on radar data and/or model analysis. As anyone who's been in this game for more than a couple of years can tell you, figuring out which storms are likely to produce severe weather and which ones aren't is not easy many times. This becomes even more tricky when issuing tornado warnings, where meteorologist experience and knowledge becomes very important. If they are going to use some sort of objective system (computer-based recognition of radar signatures, etc), I can't imagine the PoD or FAR will be nearly as good as the NWSFOs. There are a lot of elevated supercells that have nice mesocyclones but very little risk of producing tornadoes, and there are a lot of storms that look very good on reflectivity imagery but don't produce any severe weather... At least their Congressional insider (i.e. Santorum) is out, otherwise I'd think there's some push to test a nationwide objective warning system in way to completely remove the NWS... I suppose that's a little political, so I'll leave it at that.
 
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The best part is that you can sue Accuweather when they get it wrong, the goverment is generally immune.

They've never been sued successfully yet - so there's no reason to believe they can be sued now. Just as TV stations can make forecasts without fear of lawsuit - AW is no different.

Jeff, regarding AccuWeather's political insider - I find it hard to believe Santorum was the only politician they contribute to... Are you sure about that?

- Rob
 
They've never been sued successfully yet - so there's no reason to believe they can be sued now. Just as TV stations can make forecasts without fear of lawsuit - AW is no different.

Jeff, regarding AccuWeather's political insider - I find it hard to believe Santorum was the only politician they contribute to... Are you sure about that?

- Rob

I think it's pretty fair to say that Santorum was AccuWx biggest ally in the congress. That doesn't mean they don't have influence beyond him but apparently not enough to get ANY co-sponsors on the duties act or to get a represenative to introduce the bill in the house. It's been a while since I've looked at the FEC reports but the last time I did, aside from Santorum the contributions were pretty minimal. I'm not convinced on the liability issues, espically if they are going to call these products 'warnings' and have the media distribute them (as opposed to email/cell-phone subscription service).
 
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I think this needs to become political to some degree. It's obvious they're angry about they're guy getting ousted AND the bill they had him introduce died. I can see them going after the frequencies to broadcast on weather radios with the claim that the NWS has an unfair advantage leading to a court battle for anti-trust.

Of course, now we're getting into a real gray area as to how you could, constitutionally, react to make the NWS the sole source for watches and warnings.

When the bill was on in the committee I received a postive response from my senators so I'll be contacting them again. If nothing else we need to let our liasons to the gov't know we're concerned.

As to the liability of being sued should they not issue a proper warning... yeah, that's great and all, but it still doesn't save lives. There's nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution, most everyone who chases follows this mantra. We're just now getting to a point where people are learning about how to get notification (my city just finished outfitting all schools and public buildings with weather radios).

The whold argument over confusion is something that AccuWeather needs/should have taking in consideration. The bottom line is that we're assuming that AW can't do this right, but what if they can? For the sake of the people shouldn't we at least take a look at what they have and see if it can be used to help save lives?

If the case is that they can provide good information, why not maintain the NWS as the disseminator of the watches/warnings, but that the information could come from both the NWS and AW. Why can't the NWS just purchase or license the infomation from AW in areas that the NWS either doesn't want to devote resources to or feels would be cheaper to pay for. This could potentially allow the NWS to focus on other projects and research. Granted the NWS or some other government oversight body would have to verify that the data coming from AW, or any other source for that matter, would be safe to pay for and distribute, but we eliminate the potential of losing lives due to confusion. Or is the spirit of capitalism worth more and the lives of people?

The fact of the matter is that the government might have their hands tied to do anything at all. That leaves power to the one group of people no company has control over, the public. If AccuWeather is going to persue this strongly and it turns out they don't know their head from their ass, I think we need to work to let people know that they shouldn't pay attention.

Most of my friends call me when they need a weather update because I'm a single point of contact that they know they can call. Most of the time I'm just reading off of what's talked about here, the NWS, and radar, but at least they trust the source. Every time I see someone using AW on their computer I point them to Wunderground or help them bookmark the NWS page for their area. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people on here are the same way.

Those people that know us, friends and family, will pay attention to the fact that we don't listen to AW. Tell them to contact their TV and radio stations carrying the data, and local, state, and federal government officials, that we're not happy with this and greatly concerned. People know who the NWS are and will probably not feel comfortable knowing that the source has changed.

Quite frankly this really pisses me off and I'm going to do what I can to make sure our single source for watches/warnings does not go away. If AW wants in, that's fine, but you don't mess with something as vital as the radio/tv system already in place.
 
I find it all pretty amusing. AW has no clue what it's getting into. Issuing a 'warning' is much different than a tv forecast, and you'd better believe there are gonna be liability issues. No question in my mind that they will be sued to death for even the slightest messup.

As for the NWS overwarning, well...duh...of course it is better to overwarn than underwarn. Everyone here knows that tornadoes are not detectable by 88D radar, and obviously it is better to err on the side of caution. So, if AW issues a warning 10 min before the NWS, and it doesn't verify, what then? As a previous post pointed out, there's no real public accountability for FAR or POD, since they are not the "official" source of warnings. They'll trumpet their successes, and bury their mistakes.

I have no problem with the theoretical idea of issuing their own warnings in the spirit of resource sharing and seeing if they can really add anything of value to the current system. But, i wonder who it is they consider their clientelle? How are the warnings going to be put out, and to whom? Is every newspaper that has an AW forecast considered a "client", and by extension, the town that the newspaper serves? How directed or narrow in scope are the warnings gonna be? There's a lot of unanswered questions.
 
Considering warning science/technique/scoring is my research, I guess I'll chime in here. At NSSL, we've had a LOT of discussion about warnings and how to make them better. The problem is, ignoring the over-complicated social/logistic issues, technology is kinda stalled on our ability to do WAY better as far as warnings. The exception to this is the polygon (actually, the NWS is calling it storm-based warnings), which Sutter and Erickson (I think MWR in press) found that by reducing warning sizes to 1/4 of a county would be like reducing the FAR to 0! Further, scoring by reports is crap IMO--it gives no sense of value or skill IMO; if you read the NWS directive on how to score warnings, it makes no sense at all. I am going to investigate another way of scoring warnings which scores by affected areas rather than how many reports were received.

- Deliver warnings with more accuracy. The NWS often over-warns the
extent of severe weather, issuing warnings that can cover hundreds of
square miles, when only tens of square miles might be affected.
(my reply): that's nice and all...that's why storm-based warnings are coming from the NWS. Yes, right now the polygons are pretty crappy, but that's because the scoring system is still county-based. As much as I want to criticize the polygons right now, I really can't (but I probably will continue to do so anyways :D )

- Deliver warnings that provide more detail. This detail would include
precise times various communities would be affected as well as what the
affects will be, such as 1" hail, or wind gusts of 65 mph, etc.
(my reply): this is one thing I am looking at. The first question I am asking myself is can it be done? To truly provide more detail, the warning would need to be dynamic; how do you know if one echo will grow into a storm producing quarter-sized while another will produce golf balls (A: you don't and you can't right now)? Dynamic warnings, IMO, would increase workload without automation. And warnings auto made from cell-based (i.e., SCIT) statistics or identifications would be worthless and using grids (which is what I am doing) is a bit tricky. On top of all of that, more detailed warnings means that some sort of growth/decay considerations are going to be made and there is NO way to do that with any accuracy/skill.


- More lead time of warnings. In severe weather situations, every minute
counts, and by providing a tornado warning 5-10 minutes earlier than the
NWS, lives can be saved.
(my reply): lead time is tricky because an increase in lead time might not be helpful at all. What good is a 60 min lead time if it just gets people out on the roads, rather than in shelter? And everyone has different lead times that are needed to accurately prepare. A family might need a few minutes while a hospital would need upwards of an hour. Also, lead time isn't necessarily the best thing to look at as far as WHEN people got the heads up; as seen in NC, an area that has no warning sirens and it's early in the morning, the amount of lead time may not matter or maybe there needs to be a huge amount of lead time so whatever warning processes take place there can happen. Further, by making tornado predictions 5-10 minutes earlier, the FAR must increase...I see no way that it can't.
 
I'm not convinced on the liability issues, espically if they are going to call these products 'warnings' and have the media distribute them (as opposed to email/cell-phone subscription service).

This is the first I've heard indications it would be openly delivered by TV / radio outlets - and not what their email indicates... What sort of arrangement do they have?

"Yes, right now the polygons are pretty crappy, but that's because the scoring system is still county-based."

That excuse always confuses me... Why would the met draw a horrible polygon? You can still hit the same counties while using an accurate box, yet many polygons still look like county outlines?!?
 
This is the first I've heard indications it would be openly delivered by TV / radio outlets - and not what their email indicates... What sort of arrangement do they have?

Their email doesn't specificy who they are planning on disseminating it to, which is why I've raised that as one of my primary concerns.
 
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Gotcha - everything I've seen, including discussions on the TV met forum, indicates this is a subscriber-based service. I find it hard to believe any TV station would go on-air using the word "warning" unless it comes from NWS.

We go on-air and tell people to take cover from a potential tornado even when there's nothing from NWS, but I can't imagine any on-air met announcing an AW warning.
 
This is the first I've heard indications it would be openly delivered by TV / radio outlets - and not what their email indicates... What sort of arrangement do they have?

"Yes, right now the polygons are pretty crappy, but that's because the scoring system is still county-based."

That excuse always confuses me... Why would the met draw a horrible polygon? You can still hit the same counties while using an accurate box, yet many polygons still look like county outlines?!?

It's not an excuse. It's how WarnGen works in AWIPS. Basically, the forecaster can make up a warning polygon--basically a warning polygon pops up that is a skewed, smaller on one end and grows larger as it goes downstream. The counties overlaid by the polygon are then put in the warning. The forecaster then has the option to click off counties that they don't want to warn...unfortunately, they don't see the resulting polygon...so the new, crappy polygon is sent out. To clarify, by clicking off certain counties the polygon gets all messed up and looks stupid to users who can see them. The other problem is that even the polygon clipping is even county based (obviously), which makes it look like certain areas are not under warning. The new system will allow just for POLYGONS and the counties have no effect (Greg Stumpf and I have talked about experimenting to see what would happen by turning off county boundaries in the current system and letting forecasters loose in such an environment)...and old polygons can be displayed in the new system (the current system doesn't show older polygons because warnings are county-based). Hopefully I explained it right or Greg or any NWS forecaster can yell at me later :)
 
i think this all has to do with "whats your cup of tea" It is kind of like the evening news.....which one do you prefer to watch? in my area you have ch 2 5 7 9 and 32 news which one is the most accurate? this is just another option for people to use, you have the NWS, the TV mets, the SPC(not for warnings obviously but for watches and outlooks) its all about who you trust the most when it comes down to it. i think its kind of useless for someone to pay or suscribe to get there own weather service in essence when hypothetically any body with the technology to look at storms can do it and issue warnings.......I dont think its a great idea because at 4 AM if you use the ACCUWX system then you can draw conclusions that you dont have much faith in the NWS but if ACCUWX fails you too where do you turn then? I think instead of everyone whose tied up in the same issue pushing in different directions to try to be the best that they share info with one another and try to make what we have already better, this is human life this isnt about whose better at doing what.....The Nws can issue public warnings like they have been doing and doing a great job like Dan R. pointed out its not the Adminstrations fault people dont take light of the situation, but if the NWS does allthe public warnings then i dont see why ACCUWX cant do what was mentioned in the posts and articles where they can warn different businesses and schools who need more than 5 mins to evacuate.......

to make it clearer........a storm develops outside of dallas tx at 1 pm, lunch hour for most schools........the NWS and ACCUWX confer and talk about the possibility of something happening, AccuWx contacts their suscriber about a THREAT in the near future, the atmosphere is dynamic or w/e the conditions may be that day and they make a call to whoever suscribes to them and say "ok at 105 PM NWS radar detects a growing thunderstorm 45 miles to the southwest of your area we are under a SVR or TOR watch, please take extra caution, and listen for an official warning.....so that school can at least know someone has their back other than getting a warning with the storm bearing down on them and them having to worry about getting 500-1000 children into shelter with only minutes to spare, the same with hospitals and businesses....now this is all hypothetically speaking and probably will never see the light of day but if ACCUwX is serious about this then i dont think they should try to compete and say they are b etter than the NWS i think they should work hand in hand,

just my thoughts on an issue im not 100% familiar with :/
 
It's not an excuse. It's how WarnGen works in AWIPS.

I wasn't directing blame at the line forecasters - I'm saying that the end result right now sucks. Obviously someone developed the software and intended it to do that, and it was tested, and released for that reason...

Regarding NWS conferring with AccuWeather - I'm not sure that's what they want. Even if they did - it wouldn't happen that way.
 
Regarding NWS conferring with AccuWeather - I'm not sure that's what they want. Even if they did - it wouldn't happen that way.


i know i was just thinking outside the box to make both sides seemingly happy, but what do i know maybe accuweather is on to something ill believe it when i see the results
 
After one botched warning on a large deadly tornado.....

LAWSUIT TIME!!!!!

I know that AccuJack has not been successfully sued before, but the tide will turn when it comes to tornado deaths and the associated emotional toll.
 
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