Changes to Severe Weather Outlooks this Season


With severe weather season approaching, I have been making changes to how we will run things this severe weather season at the Cirrus WeatherLab for our live streaming coverage. Just a few changes include having an in-house live streaming producer as well as detailed storm tracks with estimated times of arrival and street-level tracking. You’ll also be seeing MUCH more coverage with me in front of the green screen this season as well. You’ll see more of all of this in upcoming promos as severe weather season approaches.

Just as we are making some changes, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma, the branch of NCEP which issues all of the severe thunderstorm and tornado watches for the Lower 48, is making some changes as well. The changes will affect the severe weather forecasts from the Storm Prediction Center made up to 8 days in advance. They are the source that we use most of the time for our severe weather outlooks.

For years the SPC has issued their outlooks with 3 main categories: Slight, Moderate, and High. Changes in 2014 will be to have 5 categories:

“See Text” will become “Marginal”. See Text used to not give an exact area on the map, but now See Text will become an actual highlighted area.

“Slight” will remain “Slight.”

A new category will be “Enhanced”, which will be used for what used to be “higher-end” slight risks where the situation required more emphasis.

“Moderate” will remain the same.

“High” will remain the same.

I won’t go into the details of the percentages in which the enhanced risks will go into effect, as I don’t want to explain the whole within 25 miles of any one point deal (some of you know what I’m talking about, if not, ignore this section), but for those of you who actually check out the SPC website during storm season and know how to read these outlooks, please refer to the picture below to see what percentages the enhanced risk will go into effect.


The new “enhanced” risk has been created to add more emphasis on the “higher end” slight risk days, for days when the threat is there for more significant severe weather, but not high enough to warrant a moderate risk, but also high enough to want to give a little more emphasis on the threat than just a “slight” risk.

If you are confused up to this point, here is an example of an outlook with old categories, as to what it would be with these new categories in place.

An example of an outlook with the original outlook areas.


A proposed example of the outlook with the new “enhanced” category.

As for us at Cirrus Weather, we may not go with the exact wording for the categories like I have shown on the example of the new map, but you can expect changes on our outlook maps as well this coming severe weather season.

An implementation date for these categories is not currently set, however, when the SPC updated their design of the outlooks on their website in 2011 it was done in April. Therefore, with the approach of severe weather season, I would not be surprised to this go into effect in a few months, no later than April.


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