Joe’s Weather Blog: Trying to change the government ways (WED-1/24)

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Good morning…frosty out there this morning but a nice warm-up coming into the region today and for the rest of the work week before some more seasonal air heads our way over the weekend. Highs may indeed get into the 60s(!) for Thursday…and maybe Friday too depending on clouds.

The blog today will be about something that I’ve written about in the past that I want to catch you up on. I find it interesting and you may too.


Today: Mostly sunny and more pleasant with highs well into the 40s to near 50°

Tonight: Mostly clear and not as cold with lows down to near 30°

Thursday: Sunny, windy and milder with highs around 60°. Winds may gust to 35 MPH

Friday: Variable clouds with highs 55-60°


In all honesty there isn’t a lot of weather to talk about right now here in the Plains so we’ll take a break from that discussion for a couple of days. I think Thursday’s blog may be a “clean off my desk” blog. I do those several times each year as I cull lots of random pieces of information that has no particular rhyme or reason to it…but in a package is stillvery interesting…so that may be coming on Thursday or Friday.

I’m keeping an eye towards the start of FEB for perhaps a more dramatic cold shot of air…and perhaps some wintry weather too…long ways off though.

So let me tell you how I spent my day yesterday. For the last couple of years I’ve been talking to our weather community (the National Weather Service, the Emergency Managers, my colleagues in TV, and others with an interest in weather, about what I consider a real weakness in the severe weather picture.

That weakness to me is the overuse of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings.

In a nutshell…I feel that there are too many of them…that you and my “customers” who watch us on the air, have essentially stopped paying attention to the issuance of these warnings. To catch you up…a severe thunderstorm warning is issues when a storm may have winds of around 60+ MPH and/or hail at least the size of quarters (1″).

The problem in my eyes is that the criteria is set to low…as a result typically more than 200 warnings are issued each year. In my opinion so many that you stop paying attention to them. I want that to change…and the crux of my talks within our weather community and with you is trying to look at coming up with different changes that could be made so that we eliminate the lowest end of these warnings…and focus our attention and your attention on the storms that are most likely to do damage (from wind or hail).

For those who want to catch up on my writings about this subject…I originally wrote this blog back in 2016.

March 2016 Severe Thunderstorm Overuse blog.

I then followed up with this blog last year…

As a result of the various poll questions…I think I’ve got something here…and in conversations with many in the weather enterprise…most feel that there is a problem that I’m peeling back the skin on. Many of my colleagues at the NWS at various offices in the Plains that I’ve talked to or have reached out to me feel that it would probably be better to “cull the herd” of you will and try to reduce the number of warnings.

The issue is how to do that.

This is where it gets complicated…

The folks at NOAA mandate that the NWS issue severe thunderstorm warnings based on storms that may create 58+ MPH winds and/or 1″ hail. So the folks at the local offices are doing their job when they issue these warnings. So this whole effort isn’t a criticism of what they do or how they do it when it comes to these warnings…it’s their mandate to do it.

I’m trying to change/alter the mandate…

So yesterday I drove more than 400 miles round trip…spending 6+ hours in the car out to Lyons, KS (NW of Wichita) to talk to various media, private forecasters, emergency managers and other NWS personal from other offices in KS about my thoughts and solutions and was happy to do it! I know that’s not exactly how many would spend their day off but I love these conversations with my colleagues.. They give me ideas that I may or may not think off when coming up with solutions to this issue.

Regardless though of whether this is a good idea or a bad idea…it’s a great platform for discussion within our weather community at something that is just assumed to be “the way it is” without really thinking about “does it have to be this way” and “is there a better solution”. These are things that we don’t look at too often in our enterprise.

As part of my talk yesterday I did some polling…allowing them to give me their thoughts before the talk and afterwards. I haven’t looked at their responses yet…so I’ll post them here and comment.

These were the questions I asked before I started talking…we were having wifi issues…but hopefully this was a well represented sample.

The 2nd question seems to be about the same percentages that I see when I’ve done this question in previous surveys. The last question is the one I’m trying to see IF what I talk about changes. The 1st question I think is under-representing the number of Emergency Managers that were in attendance.

Then I did my presentation…again most of what I talked about, including all the data I presented are in the links I gave at the beginning of the blog.

After my talk I asked these questions in a new poll that they had to go to to answer.




The majority of the group, even after my presentation, thought that things should remain the same. This is an interesting contrast to a poll I did after my presentation to our local group of NWS, media and emergency managers that showed 92% in favor of a change to the “system”. Perhaps I didn’t make a compelling enough reason for a change? Perhaps they just disagreed with me…and there is nothing “wrong” with that at all. It’s very possible that their interests (customers) and my interest (customers) are varied enough that they’re “happy” with the current system.

The question above typically gets mixed results. In previous surveys…there is a change that’s wanted but in general the answers reveal that folks aren’t sure what change they want to go with. The group though yesterday didn’t want one of the options I talked about.

Then there was this final question…which I’m looking at the results for the 1st time and reacting. It’s somewhat a contradiction to the  first question I asked after my talk…

Now all of a sudden 63% want to change the warnings in one way or the other and 36% want to keep it the same. 

I’m somewhat stumped about the differences now.

One possible explanation is that we were having serious wifi issues that affected the polling both before and after the presentation…I’m concerned many couldn’t get the polls up on their computers/smartphones. I should’ve also made a change in the polling set-up so I could see the number of responses to give me a better idea of how many were actually responding…Ii too was having so many wifi issues that I was lucky to get the polls to post at all. Also the poll questions could’ve been worded differently…that is definitely not my area of expertise and could be a factor in the answers given.

It’s possible that some answered the poll questions after and not before the talk. I took down the poll questions when I started my presentation so that I could better get a sense of their thoughts going in to my talk.

So all this is an interesting discussion. For those that were there…feel free to send me your thoughts privately or even responding in the comments section. If you’re a regular reader of the blog…feel free to tell me your thoughts as well…just tell me in your response that you’re a reader or you were in attendance.

Anyway I wanted to share this with you…so you can see what I’m up to behind the scenes. My feeling is still the same though…I still feel that there is an issue…I still feel that there may be a solution…I still feel that I’m onto something with this…and I’m still not sure what the solution exactly is.

So have at it…and as I mentioned to the group yesterday…”Am I crazy”?

Our feature photo comes from Rodney Chai…down towards Kaw Point


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  • Nick

    reader here. On the ‘enhanced’ svr storm warning idea, maybe it’s possible to change the def. of a “tornado” warning to a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado, producing a tornado, and or producing the need to take cover on par with a tornado( I know that the NWS would issue tornado warnings for landfalling eye walls of hurricanes( although they now have an extreme wind warning). But maybe the key to some degree is a bit of flexibility, ( like when the NWS had decided after sandy to allow “hurricane warnings” to stay up even if a hurricane transitions into a mid latitude storm if the conditions are going to be the same.

  • Brian Stertz

    I think there should be an enhanced severe warning Joe. These for supercells with strong golf ball hail cores and bigger…and 80 mph winds and stronger. Known significant damage producers. As far as increasing criteria for existing severe storm warnings…that is hard to call because at times a storm may drop quarter sized hail… cross a boundary…then drop baseball hail without radar catching up. But it’s a good topic before the spring season cranks up.


    A 60 mph warning does little for urban response and actually does nothing. Standing in an urban region with trees you feel very little. On the other hand a rural region where very little housing and very few trees has potential to get your attention. Stepping past Topeka you have a tendency to notice blowing vehicles off of I 70. Base changes for what fits you region and not state wide. Thanks