Had some fun today at the National Weather Service office in Burlington. Meteorologist Steve Glazier and I were invited to present at the annual summer severe weather workshop that the NWS hosts. The day is typically filled with presentations from the office staff regarding the upcoming warm season and the threats of severe summer time weather. Presentations also include case studies from past events (usually from the previous warm season), so we can analyze just what happened on particularly "bad weather days", and how we can better forecast and warn for similar events in the future.
Among the talks today, a case study review of, what else, but the biggest event last season...tropical storm Irene. Also a case study of the May 26th severe flash flood event in northern NY and Vermont. Some other topics included forecast accuracy and warning lead time of severe thunderstorms. Finally, some talks on general summer severe weather threats including flash flooding environments, large hail, and tornadic events in New England (Springfield, Mass was the highlight from last year).
Steve and I were proud to be the only presenters today from any local media. We presented our findings from an independent survey that we conducted this winter regarding forecast value and interpretation by the public (aka: YOU!). We also presented this work in March at the Northeastern Storm Conference hosted by the Lyndon State College AMS/NWA. Our main findings that we shared were about the need to continue learning more about the way the atmosphere and weather work, in order to better forecast the impact it will have on life and property. While forecast accuracy improves every new with further research and study, the impact is something that still needs work. It is difficult. There's no single answer, to be frank. But we suggested the idea of simplicity when relaying forecast information to the public. Yes, the issuance of severe thunderstorm warnings are critical to making timely decisions and get to safety...but does the average person know what a "severe thunderstorm warning" means???? You might think you do, but our findings say otherwise. A good majority of the people who took our survey thought they knew, but when asked to define, they were mislead.
So, with that. I would like to also point out that it is severe weather awareness week! What's that, you ask? Let me enlighten you!
Severe Weather Awareness Week is a week long campaign promoted by the National Weather Service along with New York and all New England States. The idea is to remind the public of the dangers of summer time severe weather that nearly always makes an appearance in our region each warm season (aka spring and summer). Thunderstorms, severe thunderstorms, flooding, terminology and actions plans, and even tornadoes are among the topics that you need to review in order to be prepared should it happen.
Here's your first test...do you know the difference between a WATCH and a WARNING? If not, check out this short simple YouTube Video (click).