A recent review of tornado warnings in the U.S. shows a decline in accuracy in the last five years. Is there cause for concern? Don’t sound the alarms just yet.
National Weather Service meteorologists report that when it comes to tornado warnings, the average lead time for the public has dropped from 15 minutes in 2011 to nine minutes in 2016 (or from 75% down to 58%). However, forecasters are doing well with storms that produce strong tornadoes – EF-2 or higher on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
The actual culprit of the decline is mostly because of weaker tornadoes, which are more difficult to predict and issue warnings over. But even if the decline seems inaccurate, it comes at a bad time, with the recent Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act calling for development of accurate forecasts that can predict tornadoes at least an hour ahead of time.
The more important question: how good are the alarms at actually warning the public? Advances in technology have made massive improvements in this area. Along with being able to issue warnings to more specific, targeted areas, weather officials can also utilize smartphone apps to quickly reach the people who need to know most, instead of hoping they hear a siren or catch a report on TV.