Wednesday, July 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Change in air for blizzard of winter weather terms

Richard Emanuel, a National Weather Service forecaster in Cheyenne, Wyo., looks at radar images of a storm as it dumps heavy snow on the western plains and Black Hills. The language Emanuel uses to describe what he sees may soon be changing.   AP photo

In a Jan. 10, 2013 photo, Richard Emanuel, a National Weather Service forecaster in Cheyenne, Wyo., looks at radar images of a storm as it dumps heavy snow on the western plains and Black Hills. This winter, the Weather Service is trying out simple, descriptive language to possibly replace its 14 watches, advisories and warnings for wintry weather _ from ice storms to blizzards, wind chill to lake-effect snow. (AP Photo/Mead Gruver)

By
From page A2 | January 17, 2013 |

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Ever hit a mental whiteout pondering the difference between a winter storm watch and winter weather advisory?

The National Weather Service is looking at the idea that less is more when it comes to such jargon.

This winter, the federal forecasting agency is trying out simple, descriptive language to possibly replace its 14 watches, advisories and warnings for wintry weather — from ice storms to blizzards, wind chill to lake-effect snow.

Recent example: Alongside a winter storm watch for northeast Wyoming, the Weather Service released a possible substitute statement: “The National Weather Service in Rapid City (S.D.) is forecasting the potential for a significant winter storm.”

“The purpose of this project is to use language that is self-evident, that everybody would immediately understand,” said Eli Jacks, the forecaster leading the experiment.

The experiment began in December and runs through March 31 at 26 Weather Service offices covering Alaska, Oregon, the northern Great Plains, Michigan, New England, Appalachia and Oklahoma. A separate website for the project avoids confusing people who just want to look up the forecast.

The clear-and-simple approach could be carried over to heat waves, flooding, dangerous wind and other conditions, but that will depend on what the public has to say.

Reaction so far has been partly cloudy. Many people don’t want to give up familiar terms that have been around for generations, Jacks said.

“But then other people say, ‘Well you know what, I’ve always been confused by ‘watch’ and ‘warning’ because they both start with ‘wa.’ Or, ‘I’ve never quite known what an advisory means,’” he said.

Jackson said he’s thought about the problem for years and got to work on changes about two years ago. Hear, hear, said one Cheyenne-area man as he waited for his flight to California at the city’s tiny airport.

“It is confusing. What is the difference between a warning and a watch? To just have it spelled out in plain English would be handy,” Roger Longstreet said.

The new approach targets watches (which predict the potential for hazardous weather while the likelihood, timing and/or location remain uncertain) and advisories (for weather hazards that are imminent or occurring but are not inherently dangerous.)

The Weather Service would continue to issue warnings when it means serious business with dangerous weather.

The Weather Service isn’t alone in reconsidering how it communicates with the public.

Remember “Snowmageddon,” the East Coast blizzard of 2010? Federal forecasters aren’t getting that creative yet, but The Weather Channel this winter has formalized naming winter storms like hurricanes, typhoons and tropical storms.

“When they get named, they’re instantly raised in the public consciousness. People just pay more attention to storms when they get a name,” explained Bryan Norcross, a content director for The Weather Channel who helped develop the naming system.

In December, the storm Draco (named for an ancient Athenian legislator) dumped a foot of snow from Wyoming into the Upper Midwest. Next up were Euclid (ancient Greek mathematician), Freyr (Norse god) and Gandalf (“Lord of the Rings” wizard).

Social media played a big role, starting with an October 2011 snowstorm that The Weather Channel’s social media specialists gave the Twitter hashtag snowtober.

“What we realized was that, in the future, with the reality of Twitter and the fact that we’re going to send information out about storms all winter long, we’re going to have to come up with some kind of hashtag for every storm,” Norcross said.

He pointed out that a pre-decided list of names gets around the problem of having to come up with a creative name for every storm.

The National Weather Service in the late 1990s toyed with rating winter storms on a 1-5 intensity scale, as is done for hurricanes, but the idea didn’t catch on.

The public can see how the Weather Service’s proposed new wording works and comment on it at http://nws.weather.gov/haz_simp .

Ideas submitted by the public so far include trying a color-coded scale for severe weather.

Jacks said he’s read all 3,000 or so surveys returned to date.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “These are all interesting comments and we have to take some time to think about them.”

————

By Mead Gruver. Follow him at http://twitter.com/meadgruver

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

 
 
Center for Families hosts Summer Carnival

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Vintage car show planned this fall

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Davis native named a Schweitzer Fellow

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Share your love of nature with young wetlands visitors

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Movies in the Park return this fall

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Biggest book sale to date opens Friday at Davis library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

Tasting event benefits Yolo Land Trust

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

 
Tips, techniques will give you a green thumb

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

How the Bockler wasp got its name

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
DHS Class of ’94 set 20th reunion

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Kiwanis golf tournament supports local agencies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Grief support focuses on journaling

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Drop off school supplies at Edward Jones offices

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Wine-tastings will benefit YCCC

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Yolo County CASA seeks volunteer child advocates

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
UC Davis alumnus hopes to bring amateur radio to Nepal

By Rachel Uda | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Recycle old paint cans for free

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
.

Forum

Violence as entertainment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Shocked at vampires story

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Paul Krugman: Corporate artful dodgers

By Paul Krugman | From Page: A6

 
Nicholas Kristof: The world’s coolest places

By Nicholas Kristof | From Page: A6

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

 
Gravel mining affects us all

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Morse homers but Giants lose 6th straight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Nightmare on Ballpark Drive for River Cats

By Will Bellamy | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Fiona Buck pushes the limits in para-athletics

By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A’s rally to win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Schaub settles in as Raiders starting QB

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Features

.

Arts

RootStock kicks off ‘Día de Albariño’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Folk musicians will jam in the Arboretum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

YoloArts to host a state of change exhibit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
UCD professor Andy Jones named Davis’ new poet laureate

By Rachel Uda | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Molten art on display at Davis Arts Center

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Brady earns top honors at State Fair

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Smither releases new CD Saturday at The Palms

By Kate Laddish | From Page: A9 | Gallery

.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, July 30, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6