Here at WxOrNotBG, we reference a lot of weather websites, but we don’t always explain them or their uses to us. While the weather is quiet across much of the country, I feel like it is a pretty good chance to go through and list these websites for you! These websites are likely staples for some of you, but some of you may end up using them to learn different things!
The Storm Prediction Center (spc.noaa.gov)
We often reference the SPC in our daily posts, and I have written a couple of articles suggesting things they should do differently than they are now.
The SPC issues convective outlooks, mesoscale discussions, watches and fire weather outlooks. The latter of the four, many of you likely won’t be using, but the three initial things they issues are very useful to many of you. Their convective outlook scheme can be confusing, and we post that on here and break it all down for you usually. However, the SPC has an awesome discussion portion of that underneath. Growing up wanting to be a meteorologist, this was my go to place on their site. I ate that information up. I loved (and still do) to learn what the forecasters knew, and it is very interesting to read what is going on and learn from the forecasters.
Mesoscale discussions and watches go hand in hand, as the SPC typically won’t issue a severe thunderstorm/tornado watch without issuing a mesoscale discussion. Mesoscale discussions are basically mini forecast discussions for a small region of the US, outlining whether or not the SPC is going to issue a watch. They are also used to discuss intense winter precipitation during winter storms.
Watches are one step up from warnings, as the National Weather Service offices are the ones who issue warnings. Basically, a watch is just stating that conditions are favorable for either severe thunderstorms, tornadoes or both. Warnings are issues when a severe thunderstorm/tornado is confirmed or indicated on radar. The SPC issued 576 watches last year, but had already issues 279 watches by this time last year. We are only at 239 so far this year, giving us a 40 watch deficit. It’ll be interesting if those numbers will catch up or stay low.
The National Weather Service (nws.noaa.gov)
You all have likely heard about the National Weather Service way more than once on the site or on Landon’s Twitter feed. The National Weather Service is essentially your local level of forecasting. There are 121 offices around the United States, including offices in Puerto Rico, Alaska and Hawaii.
Each of these offices have a coverage region called a County Warning Area, or a CWA. These are the counties that they issues forecasts for, warnings for and do many other things for.
We are lucky to be located within one of the best offices in the entire country (in my opinion, THE best office in the nation), and the meteorologists there are fantastic. Meteorologists at these offices do waaaaay more than the public knows about. They work long hours during severe/winter weather, they do research, travel, do Storm Spotter training, rate tornado damage, etc. It is wild.
As I mentioned before, the biggest thing that many of you know them for is for issuing warnings. As I said before, a severe/tornado warning is issued when the threats are either radar indicated or confirmed. For other warnings, the criteria is a bit different, but that is for another day and post.
The National Hurricane Center (nhc.noaa.gov)
The National Hurricane Center is one that we really only use in Weather Buzz posts, so in the general forecast, you probably won’t see it used very often.
They are the organization that issues forecasts for tropical systems, initiates them in the Atlantic and Pacific and issues watches and warnings along the coast where they may hit. They also issue interesting discussions that can get pretty crazy sometimes.
Other than that, the NHC doesn’t do a lot for us here locally. A very cool website, though.
The Weather Prediction Center (wpc.ncep.noaa.gov)
The WPC does so much stuff that I’m not sure I would be able to list it all on here. They are called The Weather Prediction Center for a reason!
They issue many forecasts, including 3-7 day forecasts for precipitation accumulation, sea level pressure and more. They issue winter outlooks much like the SPC does, but their outlooks are a bit simpler to understand. They do it by percentages of seeing 4″ of snowfall, 8″ of snowfall and 12″ of snowfall.
They only have three categories, which keeps their forecasting simple. They also issues mesoscale discussions for heavy rainfall and flash flooding, which is really nice to have.
While there are many other website that we use, these are the uses of much of the websites that we use. We use these for mesoscale analysis, for better forecasting tools, etc. These are the sites that provide many of the tools that aid us here at WxOrNotBG to provide the best forecasts possible!