Joe’s Weather Blog: Separating hype from meteorology (SUN-4/29)

It’s already starting…I can see it on twitter…and on TV. Folks are really talking and or hying up the weather this week in the Plains…and I see many caution flags in the data that may not support the “hype”. There will be thunderstorms…there will be rain…there will be Spring winds ahead of these changes…but how much severe weather there is…in a season that’s been mostly lacking severe weather remains to be seen. I saw one station already start wheeling out the “life threatening” weather terms. Give me a break. I want to talk to you about how you can elevate viewers “awareness’ of a situation without calling for “life threatening” weather.



Forecast:

Tonight: Breezy and milder with lows in the 50s

Monday: Windy and warm with highs closer to 80°. Winds may gust 35-45 MPH

Tuesday: Perhaps a fast hitting morning shower (20%) chance then variable clouds and warm again…windy too with highs around 80°

Wednesday: Variable clouds with a chance of some thunderstorms in the AM and again later in the evening. This is not a total rainout type day. Highs again near 80°



Discussion:

I want to start by talking about an idea I had about 15 months ago…and that was a way of trying to convey to our viewers about how, especially during this time of the year, there may be a day here or a day there that the weather is more important to follow. During the winter it could have to do with a winter related situation. During the Spring and Summer it will more than likely have to do with thunderstorms and the risks of severe weather from hail…to winds…to flooding…and perhaps even tornadoes.

At FOX 4 we’ve decided to create a moniker for these situations. We’re going to call it “Weather Aware”. When myself or one of my colleagues tell you that on this particular day(s) I want you to pay more attention to what wil be a chaging forecast and changing weather conditions for that particular day. Basically I want to to just pay more attention to that days expected weather.

The reason why we’re doing this is to cut through the clutter a bit. There are so many forecasts you may see or hear about, whether through TV…radio…newspaper…and especially apps…you may get a bit overwhelmed by the different sources of information, which is understandable. We wanted to do this so that you’re alert to the fact that we really want you to pay attention to that day’s forecast so that IF something were to happen, you’ll have plenty of heads up about things.

There’s a difference, in my opinion between saying be “weather aware” and watch out for “life threatening weather”. While the latter is certainly true to an extent…then again perhaps it’s more hype/scare tactics (intended or otherwise) than anything. ANY thunderstorm, by it’s nature has lightning. IF you get struck by lightning you can lose your life. The reality though, about 22 million lightning strikes happen in the US/year…a fraction in death (roughly 40-50/year). ANY thunderstorm can be considered “life threatening”.

Last year more than 35,000 people died from car accidents in the USA. That doesn’t prevent us from getting in a car a driving to wherever we go. Would the scare tactic here be….getting in a car tomorrow is a “life threatening” move. I don’t think so, in a common sense situation.

I’m not sure if I’m making the argument correctly…but see if you can understand what I’m trying to say. What I try to do on a day in and day out process, when talking about the severe weather risks is to use common sense “talk”. Not scare tactics. By the same note…since we’re coming to the anniversary of the N KC tornado on 5/4/2003…in that situation…YES I would be saying that those in it’s path may be faced by “life threatening” conditions. It’s not that I’m averse to stressing the danger aspect, it’s that let’s tap on the brake pedal a bit from 3-5 days away from any possible event. That’s my point I think.

Storms are scary enough for some people…the less (unless really warranted) TV weather folks throw terms around like “life threatening” the better in my opinion. YES we want you to be aware of what’s happening…YES we want you to take proper action if something really bad is coming towards your communities but to say “life threatening” for a weather forecast that will change a bunch several days out is nothing but weather hype in my opinion.

It’s with that set-up that we talk about this week…and we talk about a system that will alter our weather WED>THU. How exactly it does that remains to be seen. I think it will rain…beyond that, in terms of severe weather…nothing is set in stone. We may not get any severe weather (fine by me). Upper level storms that dive into the SW part of the country and are then ejecting out in pieces are notoriously difficult to predict. It was a few days ago that some forecasters were hitting severe weather in KC on Tuesday…not so much.

I was wondering about or risk on Wednesday…today’s data isn’t exactly overwhelming for that prospect. There may be some storms out there but things still don’t look right to me. There will be warmth…some instability and strong winds at the surface and aloft BUT there also may be capping issues as well. Would it shock me to see some severe thunderstorm warnings WED or THU…nope. The winds above us would certainly support that potential BUT this is by no means a slam dunk severe weather set-up for the KC area especially, at least based on today’s data.

The day that sort of intrigues me the most, regarding severe weather chances, may actually be Thursday. That is School Day at the K so we may be hoping to get the show in between clusters of storms…the main severe risk might be later that day or at night though.

I’m going to get more into the set-up tomorrow…suffice it to say though here are the things that I expect from MON>THU.

1…Strong winds. Gusts may approach 35-45 MPH…and don’t be surprised IF some of those strong winds are overnight too. Especially Monday night and Tuesday night. The winds a few thousand feet above us will be cranking away at close to 50 MPH on Monday night and close to 45 MPH on Tuesday night. Won’t take much for those winds to be realized a the the surface.

2…Warmer days. We may be in the 80-85° range a day or two. The only limiting factor is clouds and gulf moisture.

3…Higher Spring dew points. They’re heading into the 60s…that will keep temperatures up at night especially

4…Rain. In a word YES…but when…remains to be seen. The higher chances may well wait till WED and or THU. There is some data that suggests THU might be the day for the best widespread rain

5…Severe weather. Still questionable for KC. So many things will dictate that chance including proper timing of instability…cloud cover. The SPC folks seem a bit more convinced than I am at this point…especially for Tuesday.

 

Not saying there won’t be any in their higher risk areas…just wondering if that’s a bit too aggressive of a forecast.

There really aren’t any strong waves coming out of the SW through Tuesday…some small little things that could set off something…but I’m not that convinced at this point.

As you know there have been no tornadoes in KS/OK/IA so far this season. Let’s see IF that holds on the KS side later Wednesday especially out towards the I-135 region in central KS into northern KS.

After all…May 1st is Tuesday…May is a HUGE tornado month…there are supposed to be tornadoes.

Our feature photo comes from Carol Henderson up in Hamilton, MO

Joe

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