Canary Corner: A Weather Blog

The Good and The Bad: 2014-2020 NWS Tornado Warning Verification Rates and False Alarms

In this blog entry, we will be taking a look at some of the best and worst National Weather Service Offices in regards to their tornado warning accuracy for 2014-2020. In this review, we are only including offices that averaged issuing 10 tornado warnings per year for the given timeframe. This resulted in a population of 72 offices. For reference, the average tornado warning verification rate for the entire National Weather Service for the timeframe was 25.59%. Yes. You read that correctly. NWS Tornado Warnings only verify 25.59% of the time. And remember, “verify” for this discussion means a tornado was observed or damage was determined to be from a tornado in the warned area during the time that it was in effect. Again all 2014-2020 NWS Tornado Verification Statistics were compiled through the use of the Storm Prediction Center’s Severe Weather Event Summaries and Iowa State’s IEM COW (NWS Storm Based Verification) webpages.

The Good

Top 15 NWS Offices in Tornado Warning Verification Rate from 2014-2020

Top 15 NWS Offices in Tornado Warning Verification Rate from 2014-2020

Top 15 NWS Offices with the Least False Alarms from 2014-2020

Four offices appear in the Top 15 of verification rate and fewest false alarms: NWS Wichita, NWS Columbia, NWS Chicago, and NWS Lubbock. It should be noted, however, that none of these four offices averaged issuing more than 18 tornado warnings per year. It’s a bit more impressive to see an office like NWS Birmingham rank third in verification rate. They averaged issuing 42 tornado warnings per year.

The Bad

Bottom 15 NWS Offices in Tornado Warning Verification Rate from 2014-2020

Bottom 15 NWS Offices with the Most False Alarms from 2014-2020

Five offices appear in the Bottom 15 of verification rate and most false alarms: NWS Mobile, NWS New Orleans, NWS Little Rock, NWS Lake Charles, and NWS Houston/Galveston. A large portion, but definitely not all, of these false alarms and extremely poor verification rates from offices close to the Gulf of Mexico can be attributed to tornado warnings issued during landfalling tropical systems. The problem is that there are still tornado warnings being pushed out to the public with no tornado occurring. Also, there are plenty of offices on these two “bottom” lists that are not issuing tropical tornado warnings. For example, NWS Blacksburg issued 104 tornado warnings from 2014-2020 and only 10 of those verified. 10.

The Ugly?

In a future blog, we will discuss what possible correlations can be drawn between verification rates/false alarms and tornado related fatalities. Obviously, there are numerous factors that play a role in why someone perished in a tornado. We recognize that fact. But, we also cannot ignore issues that we as a weather community can mitigate to help reduce fatalities from our side.

Don’t forget, Spring Severe Weather Season is right around the corner. Be sure to have multiple ways to receive warnings, including our Imminent Tornado Alerting Service (ITAS). Click here to sign up today.

2014-2020 NWS Tornado Verification Statistics

Here at The Guardian Canary, we have begun a research project that involves examining National Weather Service (NWS) Tornado Warnings and the verification of these warnings. Looking at the timeframe of 2014 to 2020, we are trying to see if any correlations exist between the amount of false alarms issued by a National Weather Service office and the number of tornado fatalities that occur in that same office’s territory. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing information on the data that we have gleamed from our research.

Overall Numbers

The main focus for today’s blog entry will be the Verification Rates for all NWS Tornado Warnings and the resultant false alarms for 2014-2020. For a tornado warning to be deemed verified, a tornado must have been observed or have produced damage for the area and time frame that the tornado warning was in effect. Local Storm Reports (LSRs) contain these tornado observations and damage reports, and they are produced by the same NWS office that issued the tornado warning. All information for this study comes from NWS Tornado Warnings and NWS Tornado LSRs. None of this information is created by The Guardian Canary. 2014-2020 NWS Tornado Verification Statistics were compiled through the use of the Storm Prediction Center’s Severe Weather Event Summaries and Iowa State’s IEM COW (NWS Storm Based Verification) webpages.

Overall NWS TOR Verification Numbers (2014-2020)

The NWS Overall Tornado Verification Rate over the timespan of 2014-2020 was just over 25%. That means 3 out of every 4 Tornado Warnings resulted in a false alarm for the selected years. 3 out of every 4 times that the weather industry and emergency management said “Hey, Look out! A tornado is headed your way!”, they were wrong. 3 out of every 4 times the strongest short-fused warning, outside of a Tsunami Warning and an Extreme Wind Warning, was issued, it was wrong. Perhaps we are being too harsh here. Perhaps others believe 25% is ok for this type of warning. But, how many times can they cry wolf before people stop taking action?

Total Number of NWS TOR False Alarms (2014-2020)

While 2020 was an improvement over 2019, the number of tornado warnings that were false alarms is staggering. 1589 times people were alerted by sirens, alerted on their phones, alerted by their weather radios, had their programming interrupted on television to be told there was a tornado coming and one did not materialize. 1589 times people were told to take life saving action for a tornado that wasn’t there. 1589 times people were essentially lied to about the weather. To think that this isn’t creating complacency in society is wrong and dangerous.

Upcoming Blog Entries

In the coming weeks, we will be discussing how all of this may be affecting the public and their responses. We’ll take a look at individual NWS Offices’ Performance, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In addition to services such as ITAS that are available through The Guardian Canary, we’ll discuss different options and ideas that could be implemented to reduce the number of false alarms. One thing that should be pointed out, this research and this blog are not designed to cast National Weather Service meteorologists in any negative light. NWS meteorologists are the best of the best and should be highly respected by our society. They warn on everything they deem a tornado based off of their training and experience. Their mission statement is to protect life and property. Ours, however, is not. We are only concerned with saving lives and feel that current practices may be hurting that effort during times of severe weather.

ITAS for Broadcast

Today, The Guardian Canary launched its “ITAS for Broadcast” Campaign making ITAS available to television stations. With numerous options, television stations now have the ability to incorporate ITAS into their severe weather coverage and help supplement false alarm tornado warnings. Since ITAS sends text alerts to customers, television stations can give their viewers alerts with confidence whether they are watching tv or not. From simple promotion and profit sharing to total station customization, ITAS can be the right fit for any television station, big or small.

For this campaign, we enlisted the help of four senior broadcast meteorology students from the University of South Alabama in creating videos simulating a severe weather scenario where ITAS is incorporated. Special thanks to Jenna Petracci, Katie Frazier, Joshua Culbreth, and Alex Carter for their assistance with this project. These guys are going to make phenomenal broadcast meteorologists. See all of their videos on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsvFDxO2FjVyRvfmhsICQvw?view_as=subscriber)

Jenna Petracci (Senior at the University of South Alabama) demonstrates how ITAS (called an “ON Ground Alert” in this video) can be used in Severe Weather Coverage

For more information regarding ITAS for Broadcast, email us at info@theguardiancanary.com or give us a call at 1-888-521-2811. Visit www.theguardiancanary.com/why-itas/ to learn more about how ITAS works.

Should Tornado Warnings Be Issued During Land Falling Tropical Cyclones?

With the overly active 2020 Tropical Season and numerous parts of the United States affected by hurricanes and tropical storms, I have been debating the question, “Should the National Weather Service issue Tornado Warnings during land falling tropical systems?” With the implementation of our Tropical Cyclone Initiated Tornado Index (TCITI) to aid ITAS (learn more at www.theguardiancanary.com/why-itas/), we have closely monitored the verification rates of the Tornado Warnings issued by each NWS Office. While the NWS’s performance during Hurricane Isaias wasn’t terrible, verification rates for Hanna, Laura, and Sally were dreadful (See chart below).

2020 Tornado Warnings During Land Falling Tropical Cyclones
All Verification Numbers taken from https://mesonet.agron.iastate.edu/cow/

There are almost assuredly multiple factors that contribute to this extremely low verification. For example, during Laura, the NWS Lake Charles office was evacuated and the city took severe damage which would not be conducive to getting together survey teams to travel long distances to assess possible tornadic damage. With most states having mutual aid agreements with other states, recovery occurs much quicker than in previous decades, allowing damaged structures and trees to be removed before being assessed by the NWS. Perhaps, the damage cannot be properly assessed because of the sheer amount of damaged caused by the overall tropical cyclone winds. Maybe with the overwhelming amount of work incurred by a NWS Office before, during, and after a tropical event, the Meteorologist-In-Charge (MIC) and staff simply deem tornado verification not important.

Do The Tornado Warnings Issued Do Any Good?

But, what about the tornadoes that do verify? We know there have been hurricanes that have produced deadly, strong tornadoes over the past 70 years. From Beulah to Agnes to Ivan, even most recently with Isaias, these storms have spawned EF-2 or greater tornadoes that have produced injuries and fatalities. I guess the issue I have is most of the time, these areas that experience tropical tornadoes are already under Tropical Storm Warnings or Hurricane Warnings. Shouldn’t these people already be in a safe structure, hunkering down, expecting dangerous weather conditions? It’s redundant to tell people strong winds are coming and then here comes some more strong winds that can produce damage. Not to mention, these warnings probably exacerbate the public’s numbness to warnings with the numerous false alarms. I would love to see an in-depth study on the issue or to know of any conversations that have occurred at the NWS in regards to this matter. If you know of either, please email me at ceo@theguardiancanary.com.

Double Trouble in the Gulf? Tropical Cyclone Mania

As of 1PM on August 21st, the National Hurricane Center is issuing advisories on Tropical Storm Laura and Tropical Depression #14. With both systems forecast to exist in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously, I wanted to discuss both cyclones separately and also address what might occur if they emerge into the Gulf together.

Tropical Storm Laura

Updated Forecast Tracks available at www.hurricanes.gov

Tropical Storm Laura is forecast to be just off the Northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning with minimal hurricane strength. Looking at the projected path, Laura faces a long road through the islands and if the center of circulation interacts too much with the mountainous regions of Hispaniola or the eastern Cuba, severe disruptions in organization will occur. This would lead to extreme weakening and would make it difficult for Laura to rapidly intensify once it reaches the Gulf. How it transverses the islands will determine its ultimate fate. Latest models are trending further west with Laura’s track (see below).

Model Runs on Laura from https://www.sfwmd.gov/weather-radar/hurricane-model-plots

Tropical Depression 14 (Soon to be Tropical Storm Marco)

Updated Forecast Tracks available at www.hurricanes.gov

TD 14 is forecast to cross the Yucatan Peninsula and enter the Gulf by late Sunday. There may a brief window for the system to strengthen into a hurricane before it encounters some strong upper level shear. Models are pointing to a Louisiana or Texas landfall. At this point, TD 14 appears to be the weaker of the 2 systems when approaching a Gulf Coast landfall.

Model Runs on TD14 from https://www.sfwmd.gov/weather-radar/hurricane-model-plots

The Fujiwhara Effect and What MIGHT Happen

Here’s a definition of The Fujiwhara Effect from the NWS:

“When two hurricanes spinning in the same direction pass close enough to each other, they begin an intense dance around their common center. If one hurricane is a lot stronger than the other, the smaller one will orbit it and eventually come crashing into its vortex to be absorbed. Two storms closer in strength can gravitate towards each other until they reach a common point and merge, or merely spin each other around for a while before shooting off on their own paths. In rare occasions, the effect is additive when the hurricanes come together, resulting in one larger storm instead of two smaller ones.”

So, how is this going to affect these 2 systems? Please keep in mind that the rest of this paragraph is pure speculation. First, I think it is highly unlikely that 2 hurricanes exist simultaneously in the Gulf at the same time. Yes, there have been 2 tropical systems in the Gulf at the same time (2 times in recorded history), but not with both being hurricanes. Also, I don’t think one system will be significantly stronger than the other, nor do I think there will be enough time over water, for one system to “eat” the other and become some sort of “megastorm”. What might be possible is that they do begin rotating around one another while in the Northern Gulf causing them to rake over the same areas, causing an almost double landfall in the exact same area. Also, the area between the 2 storms at landfall may see an uptick in tropical tornadoes due to an enhanced area of shear and helecity. Just thoughts and conjecture, It will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Go ahead and sign up for our Imminent Tornado Alerting System (ITAS) to give yourself added way of receiving warnings.

Severe Weather Outlook May 10th-16th

 

Most of the upcoming week looks to be pretty uneventful with the exception of Wednesday where the Storm Prediction Center has already highlighted a 15% chance of severe weather across parts of the Southern Plains in Kansas and Oklahoma. As for the severe weather outlook for today through Tuesday, there are only a few spots that have a risk for general non-severe thunderstorms and a few pockets of Marginal Risk (Level 1 out of 5) throughout the country. For a breakdown of what each Risk Level means, visit the Storm Prediction Center’s page by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 13 Severe Weather Outlook

 

 

 

Day 4 Severe Weather Outlook for May 13th

 

 

Storm Prediction Center’s Day 4 (May 13th) Outlook

 

 

 

Looking at the Storm Prediction Center’s written discussion for this day, the timing looks to be in the evening with supercells forming. All modes of severe weather are possible including tornadoes. The picture below is a “sounding” from a weather computer model. It is a snapshot of the atmosphere at a particular point in time above a selected place. This one is for Wednesday evening in Central Oklahoma. It shows a large amount of instability in the atmosphere that will help in storm formation. Wind profiles suggest that there is a threat for damaging winds and a few tornadoes. Timing and severity of the storms will be fine tuned in the severe weather outlook as we get closer to Wednesday. Always have plenty of ways to get your warnings. Be sure to include our Imminent Tornado Alerting Service (ITAS). Click here to learn more.

 

 

 

Weather Sounding for the Severe Weather Outlook

 

 

 

Sounding Created at www.tropicaltidbits.com

 

 

 

-Scott E.

 

 

Unusual May Cold Snap

       Arctic air has invaded portions of the Eastern U.S. with many locations breaking record low temperatures for today, May 9th (see map below), and some spots actually broke the all time record for the month of May. Along with the record temperatures, portions of the Northeast from New York to Maine saw snow with some cites receiving over half a foot of the white stuff. To put things into perspective of how extreme this May Cold Snap has been, Bangor, Maine typically sees Daily High temperatures around 65°F and lows around 42°F during the month of May.

Today, the High Temperature was 38°F in Bangor, Maine!! That’s nuts!! It’s May!! 

 

Most places will warm up as we go through the week. Next chance for severe weather looks to be on Wednesday across the Southern Plains. More details to come as we get closer to the event. 

Tornado Season Recap for 2020, so far…

Hi Everyone! It’s Scott Elmore, the CEO of The Guardian Canary. I have decided to start doing a weather blog for our website. Each day I’ll be bringing you a mixed bag of weather, insights, and just whatever topic strikes my fancy. Today, I thought for my first blog entry that I could do a short recap of the Tornado Season for this year so far. Through today, 73 deaths have been reported as the result of tornadoes in 2020. On average, 60 deaths per year are attributed to tornadoes. The current season is on pace to be one of the deadliest tornado seasons this century and is the deadliest since 2011. We still have the rest of the Spring Tornado Season, tornadoes associated with tropical systems, and the entire Fall Tornado Season to go. Click here for some detailed 2020 statistics.

 

 

 

A Map from the Storm Prediction Center showing all 2020 Tornado Reports through May 6th

How Can You Protect Yourself?

So, what can we learn from this tornado season so far? Make sure you have multiple ways of receiving warnings. I know you probably hear that spouted out of the mouth of almost every weather entity and weather person, but there’s a reason we say it. What if you lose power at the house or at work? Or what if the batteries in your weather radio stop working? How about if the weather app you have loses its ability to notify you? What if the cable or satellite goes out? I know these are a lot of what-ifs, but every one of these things could and do happen. That’s why our Imminent Tornado Alerting Service (ITAS) is a great addition to your “multiple ways”. I promise that I’m not going to make every blog entry a sales ad, but for this entry, it’s fitting. Check out the short video below if you don’t truly understand what ITAS does. It’s a great explanation. Tomorrow, I will discuss the very uncommon weather for the beginning of May most of the eastern half of the country will experience this weekend.

– Scott E.