Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Severe Weather Season. Thoughts and Forecast

It has been quite awhile since I updated the blog.   Sorry for that.  I have been working on a presentation I'm giving at the National Severe Storms and Doppler Radar Conference in Iowa.  They asked me to present on the Mayflower/Vilonia tornado from last April 27th.

As I go through all the data and look at our coverage from that night, it really makes me think about things we need to work on.  What really strikes me is the immediacy of social media and the reluctance I had that night to use photos at first.

We were getting pictures sent to us via twitter of the damage in Mayflower seconds after it hit.  At that time, we knew we had a tornado on the ground, but we didn't know the size and the scope of the situation.  I don't think anyone knew early that night it was a wedge tornado (a violent tornado that is wider than it is tall).  I thought someone was sending me fake pictures on twitter.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  Just a few weeks prior to the tornado, we had a problem with fake flooding pictures floating around social media.  These are the things we must deal with in a life and death situation.  Social media is a fantastic resource for information, but it also allows some to post images that may not be real or were taken from many years ago from somewhere else.

This brings up a very, very important topic that must be addressed as we go into severe weather season.  PLEASE KNOW WHO YOU ARE FOLLOWING ON SOCIAL MEDIA!  There are so many people out there now who think they know what they are talking about, but in reality, they don't.   I hate to have to say that, but it's true.  They hide behind titles and they do not use their names.  That should automatically raise suspicions.  Some may know what they are talking about, but others do not.   How do you know what kind of experience or education they have?  Ask questions!  For example, when we had that big winter weather event a couple weeks ago, prior to it, there were rumors floating around social media that it was going to be the Christmas 2012 storm all over again and many would lose electricity.   I was asked this numerous times, but didn't respond.  All I can do is stand by my forecast and the one made by Channel 7.

I think some of these pop up twitter accounts with no names attached to them are run by aspiring meteorologists.  I can actually relate to them.  I wanted to be a meteorologist since I was 6 years old.  If twitter and facebook was available then, I would have been all over it.  I do not want them to stop.  They are passionate about the weather and that's a good thing.  I just hope the ones behind these accounts are more open about who they are so no one is confused when we do encounter life and death situations.

Will this be an active severe weather season?  That's a great question.  Last year was very quiet with the exception of 1 storm and that's all it takes... ONE STORM!  We are off to another slow start, but I hear from very experienced long range forecasters who are saying this will be a very active season starting in April and lasting into May.  Their reasoning is based on science. One of those forecasters is Joe Bastardi with Weatherbell Analytics.  His seasonal forecasting has been very, very good over the past few years.

We have above average sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico which could add more fuel to the atmosphere.  Also, it is possible for  the trough over the eastern and central United States to retrograde more to the west which would put this region in a more active pattern.  Coming up soon here on the Arkansas Weather Blog, I will have more about this forecast and hopefully talk to Joe about his thoughts on this upcoming spring and summer.

As for my presentation, I can't promise this, but I'm going to try to stream it live here on the blog.  So look for that next week.  I will also do a special presentation here on the blog once I get back.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Joe Bastardi says prepare for quick but active tornado season. Primarily Mid-April thru May. In the words of Joe, let's hope the season isn't hyperactive.

John Sacrey said...


You make a great point on the use of social media during severe weather. In addition to pictures, the same can be said for watches and especially warnings. I have seen on both FB & Twitter time and time again, the re-posting of warnings for an area well after the warning expired. Very annoying. On Twitter, I follow you, Melinda, Barry, weatherninja, and Paul the weather guru.

On the current severe weather season, or lack thereof so far, I am concerned about complacency among folks not being ready because of the slow start to this and past severe seasons. In addition, the "mis"use/abuse of sirens within the counties is very annoying and frustrating, especially when people are using these as their first form of warning. It concerns me enough that a lot of folks are ignoring all warnings until they see a live picture of a tornado, etc., at which point a lot of people will begin to take action. At that point, it could be too late, especially with the way tornadic supercells are in Arkansas (fast moving, after dark, rain wrapped). I feel like folks are setting themselves up for another Joplin, MO, as much as I hate to say that.

My apologies, folks, for getting on my soapbox.

John Sacrey
Benton, AR
CoCoRaHS Member AR-SL-23

Anonymous said...

Important to remember the April/May tornado season isn't just in Arkansas. Surrounding states carry the same risk. Let's get everybody prepared now. Pay attention to what is going on. Don't be caught off guard.

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