We’ve seen many warnings for severe thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes this spring. If you get the feeling that there seem to be more of these now versus a few years ago, you’re right, and it has nothing to do with climate change.
The more frequent warnings for storms these days is due to two things; (1) better radar, and (2) improved understanding of the meteorological conditions that lead to severe weather.
Technological advances have made it easier to spot signals for severe weather within radar imagery. For example, rotation aloft within a thunderstorm often will prompt issuance of a tornado warning, even though an actual touchdown might not occur.
Better visualization of the vertical structure of thunderstorms, again via radar, will give forecasters evidence of potentially damaging wind gusts and large hail, often before it manifests at ground level. The bottom line; there are more warnings for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes now than in days of yore because of better tools to see them, even before they strike.
There’s also a potential problem with this, though, and it’s called the “false alarm rate”. The meaning of the phrase is self-evident. Are we becoming desensitized to the warnings because we see them so often? I’ll discuss this more in a future blog.
Posted by Jim Duncan