We’re all familiar with those yellow and red polygons issued by the National Weather Service when a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado is bearing down on your area.
Those warnings tend to cover a large area that can experience a wide array of conditions. So could they be better? Or more hyper-local?
The Weather Service thinks so.
The National Severe Storms Laboratory is currently working on ways to improve those polygons.
KX News spoke with Kodi Berry, who’s heading the program aimed at updating the warnings. She says one change they’re working on would give people an additional heads up to seek shelter even if they’re just outside the warning.
“It gives you a little extra lead time if you need to take action BEFORE the warning gets to you. It gives you a better indication of when that warning might get to you and when you can take action sort of at an earlier risk threshold,” said Berry.
Another new tool being developed will allow the warning to interact with the storm as it develops and progresses.
“It would make the polygon move with the storm instead of being stationary and so that it’s up to date with the current state of that thunderstorm,” said Berry.
Every minute, the warning box will update based on new probabilities — with the most severe conditions expected near the center of the path.
“The biggest bang for the buck is going to be with your long-track supercells that are able to put a tornado on the ground for close to an hour, those are the storms we’re really going to see large increases in lead time,” said Berry.
And that lead time could be up to 30 minutes…it’s currently around 12 minutes now.
The project is still in the testing phase. Broadcast meteorologists from across the country are trying the system out in Oklahoma, and giving feedback for the development of the technology.
As weather modeling data continues to improve, experts say there could come a day when you get a warning on your phone, even before the storm forms and there’s not a cloud in the sky.
Meteorologists and scientists are still working out some kinks with the program. If all goes according to plan, it’s expected to be put into effect in the next few years.