Friday, May 31, 2013

Time Magazine On The Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado

The current issue of Time Magazine (issue of June 3, 2013) has a multi-page story on the deadly tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, on Monday, May 20th. The article is written with much hyperbole and has sparse, and sometimes garbled or inaccurate, factual content. Thus, it represents a fairly typical media exercise, written for an audience with short attention spans. However, a bar of brief graphics (what I'd call factoids) and text runs across the top of pages 30 and 31. The following caught my eye - "Nationwide percentage of tornado warnings that are false alarms - 76%". I wondered whether this could be right and thought I'd check. The most recent reference I found was several years old, but it did indeed indicate a fairly constant false alarm rate for tornado warnings. The false alarm rate (FAR) is essentially the number of warnings issued that do not verify with an observed event, as per the boy crying wolf.  It has stayed right around 75% for tornado warnings ever since the installation of the Doppler radars and seems like a very high percentage to me. I went looking for more current information on NWS warning verification and found the following web page:             

It appears that there may be current and interesting information here. However, there is a catch. The products and information on this site are restricted and can only be viewed by persons having an email address within NOAA (see registration form below). This seems like a very strange way to do business.

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