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8.2.4 Location-Specific Threat Tracking Tool For Better Warning Response


Summary: Social scientists have indicated the importance of location-specific threat information for personal threat confirmation when it comes to correct response to NWS warnings. Warning areas tend to be many times larger than the actual area of imminent threat. People tend to ignore warnings without personal threat confirmation due to the very high location-based false alarm rate. The NWS has rather archaic tools for providing threat information…primarily in the form of generic text products. It is difficult to assess the threat specifics as to what, where, and when from these products. This unmet need exists because NWS field offices are restricted from creating such resources. The private sector has primarily created online applications that simply display radar imagery and warning polygons, with very little innovation beyond that. They may display automated or model-defined guidance such as storm track and future radar, but have very little forecaster-based threat guidance that may be more accurate and timely, and the output may be difficult for a non-scientist to understand. The only tool that NWS field offices have for providing location-specific threat information is social media posts, for which the information provided, and access by the public, is generally limited, and as a privately owned entity, could become unavailable to the NWS in the future. The NWS needs an innovative tool that allows forecasters to easily provide real-time threat tracking information to be used by the public to confirm the existence and location of a weather- or water-related hazard. Likewise, a tool that allows a user to create their own alert criteria based on his needs, communicated in a manner a non-scientist can understand, is not presently available. Providing the best threat information possible, in support of the NWS mission of protecting life and property and enhancing the national economy requires an innovative online resource that 72 allows NWS field office staff to track and alert people to a variety of weather- and water-related hazards, and provide this information in a form that non-scientists can understand. Such a resource, that supports the NWS mission, would be of value to all residential and business entities, and thus have considerable commercial value. TV meteorologists across the country, for example, could provide the resource output to their viewers.


Project Goals: The NWS needs a truly innovative resource that provides location-based threat information on the following hazards for which warnings are issued:

- Tornadoes and Severe Thunderstorms

- Floods - Hurricanes and Storm Surge

- Winter Storms

- Extreme Heat and Cold

It could optionally provide a means for NWS staff to provide threat information on other deadly hazards for which warnings are not issued, including:

- Excessive Lightning

- Rip Currents

Innovation can focus on how NWS staff could provide the following to the public through this resource. Some potential examples:

- Accurate hazard tracks and pathcasts (based on an entered motion vector)

- Simple threat indications for hazards that the non-scientist can understand (e.g. green, yellow, red stoplight colors based on threat level).

- Linkage to appropriate threat response information for a given hazard and threat level.

- Incorporation of real-time radar imagery with a feature to indicate user’s location.

The desired online resource would achieve the following goals:

• Have a means for NWS staff to develop hazard tracking displays (e.g. tornado signature track, hail core location/track, etc.) that can be easily accessed and interpreted by the general public as well as specific user groups (e.g. emergency managers, hospitals, etc).

• Have an efficient means of displaying the following hazard threats: winter storm conditions, severe t-storm, tornado, flood, hurricane, excessive lightning, extreme heat/cold, etc), perhaps incorporating a threat level color coding that a non-scientist would understand (e.g. green, yellow, red stoplight colors).

• Have a means for alerting the user based on user-defined criteria (e.g. alert me for baseball or larger hail, excessive lightning, etc) rather than NWS-established criteria or warning type.

• Have a simple means for NWS staff to provide and adjust information through this resource, particularly for rapidly changing situations.

• Be able to incorporate existing useful data sets, such as real-time radar imagery and animations.

• Be able to plot warning areas, as well as allow NWS staff to plot location and track of particular hazards (e.g. tornado).

This project requires considerable innovative thinking. While there are online applications that provide a few of the above goals (e.g. warning alerts, radar displays, etc), there is no known application that accomplishes all of the above goals in a manner that is easy for non-scientists to interpret.

If successfully designed, it aims to be the most powerful threat resource provided by the NWS in meeting its WeatherReady Nation mission to create communities that are more resilient to disasters. It would have considerable commercial value given its potential utility for every person, business entity, government entity, school, etc.

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