It is that time of year when the transition from the cooler spring like weather becomes summer like... which can bring severe thunderstorms. It's our number one priority at NewsChannel 7 to bring you the most clear and accurate updates about severe weather when it happens. Stormteam 7 Meteorologist Chad Franzen takes us behind the scenes as to how meteorologists stay ahead of the storms... as he spends the day in the life of a National Weather Service Meteorologist.
"One of the most important things we do and is our mission, is to issue severe weather warnings, to protect life and property. so when there is severe weather, it is one of our most important things we do," according to Warning Coordination Meteorologist Jeff Last. He stresses the importance of the National Weather Service and its goal to protect people and communities from a variety of weather conditions. While on a quiet day, only a handful of people are required to work in the office, it's on the severe weather days when the national weather service office buzzes with activity. For example, during the big severe weather outbreak in June 2007, they had as many as ten people working in the office to ensure warnings were getting issued and out to the media and public in a timely fashion.
While their focus is on forecasting severe weather, that only happens a handful of times each month. The rest of the time their job is a lot like ours, in the Storm Team 7 Weather Lab. Their staff will come into work, review the past 24 hours of weather and then check and see how accurate the forecast was. They then analyze the current weather situation, examine computer models and then work on issuing their forecasts for the next few hours... all the way out to 7 days.
When severe weather watches or warnings are issued, they are then sent out to the media and public via the internet, satellite feed and NOAA Weather Radio so that information goes to as many sources as possible, all at the same time. You can sign up for text alerts to your cell phone from NewsChannel 7 by clicking Here
In addition to severe weather and daily weather forecasting, the National Weather Service Office has many other responsibilities. Each forecaster at the National Weather Service Office has an area of expertise, such as an Aviation Forecaster, Fire Weather Program Leader or the Hydrology Program Leader, each employee has more than just one responsibility in the day to day operations of the office.
Getting the most accurate weather information and most reliable forecasts requires the office to stay up to date with the latest technology. The National Weather Service has made numerous changes in technology within the last decade, most notably the WSR-88D Doppler Radar. This change makes it much easier for the forecaster to look into a storm to determine if any severe weather is occurring. "The Doppler Radar is a big help that we can see inside of the storms, look at pre-cursors to tornadoes (and) that has increased our tornado lead time by at least 5 to 10 minutes," according to Jeff Last. With more lead time, those precious minutes can best be spent by someone seeking shelter from a severe thunderstorm as it moves through.
As with any newer technology, the cost can be enormous when upgrading to it. Each one of the 122 National Weather Service Offices in the United States has tens of millions of dollars of equipment in each office to ensure timely and accurate forecasts all year long.
For more information, check out National Weather Service.