Tornado Forecasting and Warnings
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Response Includes Weather, Research, Satellites,
Oceans and NOAA Corps Offices
Each year, the United States experiences approximately 1,300 tornadoes. No state is invulnerable to the twisting, destructive winds that emanate from dark thunderstorms. Under the proper conditions, tornadoes can grow to more than one mile wide and can travel up to 70 miles per hour.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has in place a multifaceted tornado early warning system that includes general area outlooks up to eight days in advance and that gives individual cities and towns an average of 14 minutes warning before the potentially deadly tornadoes finally touch the ground.
Through investment in research, observing systems and forecasting technology, National Weather Service (NWS) issues more than 1,000 watches and nearly 30,000 warnings for severe storms and tornadoes each year. Advances in research and technology have increased the average warning lead time from only five minutes in the early 1990s to 14 minutes in 2010, thereby giving people and communities more time to seek shelter and secure property.
Watches and warnings are credited with significantly reducing loss of life and limiting the high costs of property damage.
Several organizations within NOAA are dedicated to protecting life and property by using cutting-edge scientific research to improve severe weather forecasts and warnings. For example, the NWS Storm Prediction Center.
The NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Okla., is responsible for hazardous weather forecasting across the contiguous United States and provides short- to medium-range guidance and tornado and severe thunderstorm watch products. SPC forecasters constantly evaluate the potential for dangerous and economically disruptive weather events, from tornadoes, large hail and dangerous fire weather conditions to everyday thunderstorms. Every tornado and severe thunderstorm watch issued in the United States originates at the SPC. The SPC issues watches when short-term conditions appear supportive of widespread thunderstorms capable of producing large hail, high winds and/or dangerous tornadoes.
Each watch is discussed and refined in partnership with local National Weather Service forecast offices to meet local community needs. The SPC makes maximum use of observations, numerical forecast models, Doppler radar, satellite data and the best available science and technology to generate their forecasts.
Read more about tornado forecasting and warning by dowloading the PDF at the link to the right.