NWS Watches, Warnings, Advisories May Soon Be Changing

Posted at 7:28 PM, May 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-03 19:30:35-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 3, 2014) — At our semi-annual media seminar with the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, the movement is on to eventually change the way watches, warnings, and advisories are issued. No…the image you see attached to this story is NOT a rare winter storm…it’s simply an example of one of the slides used to illustrate the change!

In short, the trend is a slow and gradual process to headline simplification. The NWS would like to focus more on a color coded system in place of issuing actual watches, warnings, and advisories. The movement is part of something known as WRN, or Weather Ready Nation.

So far it’s just a discussion, but local NWS Meteorologists hope to see this on the fast track in a reasonable amount of time. They hope a more simple, easy to understand color coded system will be better for the masses. NWS Meteorologists would like to trend to more of a risk-based and impact-based warning system in place of issuing weather warnings.

For example, the color green on their map would denote little/no action will be needed in a given weather situation. Yellow may mean minor actions (by the public) might be necessary. Orange may indicate major actions/changes would be likely, and red would mean life saving actions would rule. Think of how this would be applied if a major winter storm was barreling down on us!

They’re also considering WSII, an acronym for Winter Storm Impact Index. Here, there may be a five color risk based alert system instead of traditional watches, warnings, and advisories. Conversely, there would also be a summer color coded impact based system too. That means instead of issuing a Winter Storm Warning, the forecast area might be placed in to an orange or red alert depending on how much snow, wind, time of the day, how many people will be impacted, and other similar factors directly related to each and every person would occur.

We’d likely see something similar in the summer time. Instead of a tornado warning being issued, we might see a color coded level of yellow or red to denote the expected impact and risk.

Again, it’s important to note this is only discussion currently, although the local Grand Rapids NWS office was already gravitating toward the color coded alert system this past winter. Perhaps the challenge may lie more on the broadcast meteorologist’s end since we’ll need our weather graphics system to have the ability to be able to interpret and plot these color codes. This is the way things are moving. We’ll, of course, keep everyone informed and abreast of any future changes that come down the pipe!

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