A Great Time for Weather Weenies

By Jack Williams ©2013

The timely updates on severe weather events that most National Weather Service offices now publish on their Web sites are one of the reasons why I say on page 6 of The AMS Weather Book that, “We are living in a golden age for those who consider themselves weather weenies (i.e., those for whom weather is a passion bordering on obsession).”

The Little Rock, Arkansas NWS office’s work in getting information onto its Web after a tornado smashed through Mena, Arkansas, on April 9, 2009 is a good example. Within hours after the tornado hit, the Little Rock NWS office had a complete report on the meteorology of the storm, including an animated Doppler radar map showing the rotation connected with the twister. (This report was on the NWS Web site but is no longer there.)

Many local broadcast stations and newspapers have a long tradition of getting out the news about the destruction, deaths, and injuries, and deaths caused by tornadoes and other weather disasters. But, except for those by broadcast meteorologists, few of these reports say much about the weather conditions that caused the disaster. And even the reports by broadcast meteorologists often don’t go into the detail that a dedicated weather weenie wants.

NWS map showing weather patterns from the surface to 30,000 feet before the April 9, 2009, tornado hit Mena, Arkansas.

Until the Internet came along and NWS offices learned how to use it, the most dedicated weather weenie, including those who were professional meteorologists, would not have been able to easily obtain the kind of information that anyone with an Internet connection can see on the Mena tornado report pages.

Many NWS offices also help beginning weather weenies who haven’t yet learned all of the jargon. The Mena tornado page is a good example; it has an image and text explaining the “storm relative velocity map,” like the animated one showing the Doppler radar image before and during the Mena tornado. It not only explains such maps, but also the meanings of the different colors on the map.

When you want to learn more about severe weather that has hit some place in the United States, you can go to the NWS Organization Page, where you’ll find links to NWS offices all around the nation.

At the bottom of this page you’ll find a map of the forty-eight contiguous U.S. states showing the area that each forecast office is responsible for. The tab at the top of the map labeled “NWS Offices and Centers” takes you to forecast offices.

The tab, marked “River Forecast Centers” takes you to the offices that forecast floods and water levels for the largest rivers. The “Center Weather Service” tab is for NWS offices at the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control centers, which handle air traffic between airports.

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