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Severe storms affect business operations and consumers everywhere, costing an average of USD 10 billion* in damages and taking about 500 lives each year. Constituents rely on weather data to assess how to prepare for storms.
Meteorologists are tasked with providing weather predictions to their viewers to help them make the most informed decisions. Accurate weather data is an important component in getting viewers the information they need to better prepare communities with recommendations on how to remain as safe as possible during severe weather events.
What is severe weather?
When discussing the weather, forecasters often cite the state of the atmosphere, including elements such as temperature, clouds and wind. Severe weather refers to the dangerous effects created by these changes in the atmosphere that result in tornadoes, extreme thunderstorms or blizzards.
Severe storms—often packed with heavy rains, strong winds, hail and lightning—can wreak havoc in a short time. When these fast-moving, highly localized storms move through a region, people and businesses need to be aware and take swift action.
The Weather Company, an IBM Business, has the tools necessary to provide timely, accurate data that helps businesses keep employees safe, better protect assets and convey vital information effectively. Our tools help you and your business prepare for the storm and react faster, all while minimizing disruptions and impacts using severe weather forecasting.
The effects of climate change on storms
As the atmosphere warms, the effects of violent storms are becoming more extreme. An analysis by Carbon Brief* revealed that 70 percent of the 405 extreme weather events and trends included in their map of attribution studies were found to be made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change.
In August 2020, Hurricane Isaias* wreaked havoc as it traveled along the East Coast, causing damage that had not been seen since Hurricane Sandy.* In California, the wildfire season is beginning earlier and ending later. California exceeded 4 million acres burned by wildfires in 2020. More than 8,200 fires have consumed more than double the previous record, fire officials said.*
Forecasting severe weather
There are various tools in a meteorologist’s toolkit to predict when violent storms are coming, including partnerships across the world and improvements in forecasting models.
Gathering weather data
In order to gather the vast amounts of data needed to make accurate weather predictions, observing stations are located around the globe. Many of the best gathering stations are located at airports,
which require accurate weather information to keep passengers and crew safe during takeoff and landing. However, this data may not be localized enough for specific industries that require more granular details.
Weather information is shared from these stations across the globe through channels such as the United Nations.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)* is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 193 Member States and Territories, which verifies that the data gathered from these stations is consistent across nations.
Forecasting severe weather also involves utilizing weather radar to determine the motion and intensity of precipitation. Energy pulses or radar beams are sent into the atmosphere to determine the type (for example, snow or hail). Weather radar can also be used to determine wind speed and predict the formation of tornadoes. It’s a valuable tool for meteorologists.
Weather balloons are used to gather information, such as temperature, from higher altitudes. Radiosondes are the devices attached to these balloons that gather the appropriate data. These balloons can reach as high as 24 miles* before disintegrating.
IoT data and sensors
With the emergence of IoT, there are ample opportunities to incorporate new data sources for accurate weather predictions. By leveraging IoT data and sensors from smartphones and self-driving cars, weather-forecast data can be more localized, which allows for more actionable insights and predictions for members of the community.
Forecasting the weather
This method involves looking at historical weather and trends to find patterns and make predictions. However, this strategy can be difficult to accurately apply, because no two storms are the same. Additionally, with the emergence of climate change, weather patterns may change.
This forecasting method assumes that unless there is evidence to the contrary, weather patterns will continue to travel at the same speed and in the same direction.
Forecasting models incorporate data sets, including inputs from weather radar and historical trends, to predict the course of the storm. With machine learning techniques, these models become more accurate over time. They run millions of equations to determine the course of the storm over short and long timeframes.
With the added capabilities from IBM, these models can extend beyond making storm predictions and translate these insights into actionable steps to help communities prepare (for example: helping utility companies determine which part of the grid may be most likely to face a power outage.)
Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP)
These particular models utilize mathematics and computers to make predictions on the weather based on the current state of the atmosphere. Though first conceptualized in the 1920s, this way of forecasting did not gain traction until the 1950s, when computers could be applied to mathematical formulas. In order to calculate the forecast for one day, millions of equations need to be solved. Before the advent of the computer, this was an impossible task for meteorologists to undertake.
An overview of violent storms
Severe thunderstorms 101
According to the National Weather Service
According to the National Weather Service*, a thunderstorm is considered severe when it creates hail that is 1 inch in diameter or has wind speeds 58 mph or greater. About 10 percent* of annual thunderstorms in the United States are categorized as severe. There are many dangerous aspects to these weather events, whether it be flash flooding, hail or lightning.
What is the most dangerous kind of thunderstorm?
Supercell thunderstorms are generally considered the most dangerous type. They are characterized by mesocyclones, which is a large region of rotation. Supercell thunderstorms can lead to tornadoes, produce large hail, and cause lightning.
What is lightning and what causes it?
Lightning is a huge spark of electricity that can be created within and between clouds, the air and the ground. When water and ice are moving within a cloud, pressure starts to build. This is due to the warmer air currents moving the elements upwards, and gravity forcing them back down. This charges the particles in the cloud. When the negative and positive particles in the cloud seek to neutralize, and the air acting as an insulator breaks down, there is a discharge of electricity, also known as lightning. On average, NOAA reports that lightning strikes the US about 25 million times* each year and injures hundreds in the process.
What are the types of lightning?
There are three main kinds of lightning. These include:
Cloud-to-cloud (CC) or intercloud
Intracloud lightning occurs within the thundercloud since the cloud has both negative and positive charges. This is the most common form of lightning. This discharge can also happen between clouds, which is known as cloud-to-cloud (CC) or intercloud lightning.
Cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning is the least common type of lightning and occurs when electricity strikes the ground. Although CG lightning can be either charge, it tends to be negative.
Wildfires: how are they related to severe weather?
Wildfires are heavily influenced by the climate. Due to droughts caused by climate changes, the risk of wildfires is expected to increase. Since 2000, an average of over 72,000* wildfires has destroyed 7 million acres of land each year in the US.
What causes wildfires?
Ten-fifteen percent* of wildfires occur naturally. This includes lightning strikes and severe thunderstorms.
Eighty – ninety percent are caused by humans.
Eighty – ninety percent are caused by humans. Through dry vegetation, drought, and other factors related to climate change, these wildfires can quickly grow out of control.
An overview of tornadoes
Tornadoes are columns of rotating air that usually result from a severe thunderstorm. Wind speeds can reach up to 200 miles* per hour and the results of these weather events can be devastating for communities and business owners.
How are tornadoes forecasted?
In 1973,* tornadoes were first identified on weather radar before their formation. This breakthrough has allowed meteorologists to better prepare communities prior to these extreme weather events.
Meteorologists and other industry professionals can use Doppler radar to detect tornadoes. What is typically seen on the radar is a mesocyclone, which is an area of rotation often within a thunderstorm. These can span between 2 – 6 miles and can indicate the threat of an upcoming tornado.
What are the types of tornadoes?
There are two main categories of tornadoes—supercell and non-supercell. The first type develops from supercell thunderstorms and often results in more damage. Scientists do not yet understand why these kinds of tornadoes form, as only 20 percent* of all supercell thunderstorms result in these severe weather events.
An overview of blizzards
Blizzards are storms that result in vast amounts of snow with little visibility and 35 mph winds. In particular, driving conditions can be dangerous because whiteouts can hinder a driver’s ability to see, leading to accidents.
How are blizzards forecasted?
For blizzards to develop, wind needs to move quickly, temperatures must be low, and humidity must be high. If the temperature isn’t cold enough, snow will melt once it hits the ground. A wide variety of tools are used to forecast if a storm will become a blizzard and the rate of precipitation, including satellites and Doppler radar. Weather forecast models are used to track blizzards and predict how they will progress.
Dust storms are a more unusual form of severe weather. They are characterized as a strong windstorm that carries sand or dust particles. These storms can be particularly damaging to the agriculture industry, ruining crops for farmers.
Hailstorms are characterized by balls of ice falling from the sky. These are generally formed in a thunderstorm and can damage windows, cars and other structures.
How does hail form?
Hailstorms form in cumulonimbus clouds, which are large mushroom-shaped clouds that are characteristic of a severe thunderstorm. Strong upward currents (also known as updrafts) must accompany these clouds, bringing water droplets up through the atmosphere. These droplets become ice, resulting in hail.
Don’t let a severe storm catch you off guard. Leverage our solutions and tools when violent weather approaches.
Advanced warning. Actionable information.
Severe storms—no matter the form they take—can develop quickly, change rapidly, and pack a punch. Heavy rains, wind gusts, lightning, hail (or any combination of elements) can put a field crew in danger and disrupt regular business operations.
The most accurate and timely information
The most accurate and timely information on these highly localized weather events needs to be communicated quickly. Whether it’s alerting field workers of lightning in their area, rerouting a flight or informing the public of storm details across multiple channels, businesses need specialized weather forecasting technology.
Broadcast media storm solutions
When a storm is in a local station’s coverage area, the latest severe weather information needs to be communicated across channels. People have always counted on their local TV station to provide severe storm information, but now broadcasters have to reach their audience on mobile apps and alerts, web and social media. The Max Ecosystem is designed with efficiency in mind and allows presenters to disperse information across multiple channels in just a few clicks—a critical need when a severe storm is approaching.
Additionally, by leveraging augmented reality solutions from The Weather Company, your team can better showcase the effects of violent weather to help your viewers visualize the impacts.
Avoiding Severe Weather
Tune a portable radio to a local station to monitor any weather reports.
Be alert to weather conditions. Danger signs include dark clouds, graying skies, distant thunder, lightning, and rough water. Shifting winds usually indicate a weather change.
Be particularly aware of weather to the west, the direction from which most bad weather arrives.
Watch for fog that creates problems in inlets and bays.
Head toward the nearest shore if heavy rain, a thunderstorm, or a hurricane is approaching.
Severe Weather: Go to Shore or Ride it Out?
If you are caught in severe weather, decide whether to go to shore or ride out the storm.
If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach.
If already caught in a storm, it may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.
Head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. PWC should head directly into the waves.
Keep a sharp lookout for other vessels, debris, shoals, or stumps.
If the engine stops, drop a “sea anchor” on a line off the bow to keep the bow headed into the wind and reduce drifting while you ride out the storm. In an emergency, a bucket will work as a sea anchor.
Without power, a powerboat usually will turn its stern to the waves and could be swamped more easily.
If the sea anchor is not sufficient, anchor using your conventional anchor to prevent your boat from drifting into dangerous areas.
Before a Hurricane
To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:
Make plans to secure your property. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
Gather emergency supplies including: emergency medications, nonperishable foods,
a non-electric can opener, bottled water (at least three gallons per day per person), a battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, extra clothes, important documents, cash and credit cards, a first aid kit and other items for infants, elderly or disabled family members and pets
Store supplies in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container, such as plastic tub with handles
You should evacuate under the following conditions:(when should you expect dangerous weather?)
If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure—such shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened to the ground.
If you live in a high-rise building—hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway.
If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
During a Hurricane
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
Listen to the radio or TV for information.
Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
Turn off propane tanks.· Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
Moor your boat if time permits.
Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
After a Hurricane is Over(when should you expect dangerous weather?)
Keep listening to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for instructions from your local government
If you are evacuated, return home when local officials tell you it is safe to do so.
Inspect your home for damage.
Use flashlights at all times; avoid using candles.
Know the Terms(when should you expect dangerous weather?)
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:
Tropical Depression: An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 MPH (33 knots) or less. Sustained winds are defined as one-minute average wind measured at about 33 ft (10 meters) above the surface.
Tropical Storm: An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39–73 MPH (34–63 knots).
Hurricane: An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 MPH (64 knots) or higher.
Storm Surge: A dome of water pushed onshore by hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high and be 50–1000 miles wide.
Storm Tide: A combination of storm surge and the normal tide (i.e., a 15-foot storm surge combined with a 2-foot normal high tide over the mean sea level created a 17-foot storm tide).
Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch: Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are possible in the specified area, usually within 36 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
Hurricane/Tropical Storm Warning: Hurricane/tropical storm conditions are expected in the specified area, usually within 24 hours.
Short Term Watches and Warnings: These warnings provide detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such as flash floods and tornadoes.
Here are some things to keep an eye out for that will let you know when bad weather might be approaching, and it is time to head to shore for safety.
1. A rapid buildup of clouds, especially tall clouds, could mean a potential storm.
2. Look to the west. Most weather changes come from the west, so look in that direction to see what’s headed your way.
3. If the water is becoming increasingly choppy, it is likely being kicked up by a weather disturbance.
4. Pay attention to the wind. A change in wind direction or the unexpected arrival of a cool breeze could mean a storm is approaching.
5. A sudden drop in temperature is a sign of a potential storm front.
When bad weather does strike unexpectedly, it’s good to have a boat that can offer some protection from the elements. The flush mount bow closeout doors on Crownline’s E-series and larger bow riders offer weather protection and also allow for boating on cool evenings. Also, the standard full canvas on Crownline’s cruisers is another great feature that provides protection when the weather turns sour.
Blizzard(when should you expect dangerous weather?)
A blizzard is a dangerous weather event, bringing with it frigid temperatures, howling winds, and decreased visibility. Blizzards can be deadly, which is why it is important that meteorologists accurately measure atmospheric conditions and provide the public with timely warnings.
The United States National Weather Service’s winter weather advisory, watch, or warning system helps meteorologists determine whether atmospheric conditions should be classified as typical winter weather, a snowstorm, or a severe blizzard.
In order for meteorologists to classify a winter storm as a snowstorm, the air temperature high in the atmosphere and near the ground must be below 0°C (32°F). There also needs to be enough water vapor in the air to form snowflake crystals. While snowstorms do not typically last very long (less than a few hours), they can bring high snow accumulations, which can be hazardous.
a snowstorm(when should you expect dangerous weather?)
For a snowstorm to be considered a blizzard, it must also meet specific, though more severe, conditions. To be categorized as a blizzard, the storm must last for at least three hours and produce a large amount of falling snow. Blizzards also have winds measuring over 56 kilometers (35 miles) per hour. These winds cause a large volume of snow to blow around in the air and near the ground, decreasing visibility. Meteorologists will declare blizzard conditions if the snow limits visibility to the point where it is difficult to see an object more than 0.4 kilometers (0.25 miles) away.
The most famous recorded blizzard is the Great Blizzard of 1888, which occurred between March 11 and 14. This blizzard extended all the way from the American states of Maine to Maryland. About 139 centimeters (55 inches) of snow brought newly growing cities in New England and New York City, New York, to a screeching halt. During this time, about one in four people living in the United States lived in one of the New England states, which made the blizzard all the more devastating. About 400 people died during this storm.
A more recent example of catastrophic blizzards would be when two 2010 blizzards formed back-to-back in the Washington, D.C., area on February 4–7 and February 9–11. The first storm brought snow to Pennsylvania and extended through North Carolina. The total amount of snow from this first storm varied from 25 to 76 centimeters (10 to 30 inches). The storm impacted over 45 million people in the northeastern part of the United States. Then, before the states could completely dig out from the storm, a second blizzard hit. The Washington, D.C., area reported snowfall totals of 15–38 centimeters (6–15 inches) from the new storm, and nearby Maryland reported over 60 centimeters (24 inches) on top of the snow that was already on the ground.
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