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April 22, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Storm Reports via Twitter?

If you’re a weather enthusiast and a regular tweeter, you might want to check out the National Weather Service’s experimental program for sending in storm reports via Twitter. Geotagging is a recently added application for Twitter which allows your geographical information to show up in your tweets. The National Weather Service believes this capacity will help enhance and increase timely and accurate online weather reporting and communication between the public and their local National Weather Service offices.

Image: Geotagging-for-twitter

Of course we’ve all heard of storm spotters – they’re extremely valuable in disseminating reliable weather information. They’re specifically trained to watch for the development and progression of weather events while actively relaying important information to the local weather agency in a timely manner. However, it doesn’t take a trained professional to be able to tweet storm reports and anyone would be able to do it with this specific program. On the one hand, it could be a valuable tool.  On the other hand, how reliable will the tweets be both in timing and who the source is? For instance, can an untrained “spotter” distinguish between a wall cloud and a scud cloud?

Wall Cloud. Image: NWS Minneapolis

Scud Cloud. Image: NSSL Photo Library

Scud clouds are commonly mistaken for wall clouds. Scud clouds are small, ragged, low cloud fragments that are unattached to a larger cloud base. These clouds are often seen behind thunderstorm gusts fronts and are associated with cool moist air, such as thunderstorm outflow. Wall clouds, however, are isolated clouds lowering attached to a rain-free base. They’re typically about 2 miles in diameter and mark the strongest updraft in the storm. Wall clouds need to be watched for signs of persistent, sustained rotation and/or rapid vertical motion which may potential result in  . . .

I guess we’ll just have to see how the test pans out.  It might prove beneficial to get more people involved in reporting significant events, such as severe weather, snowfall, flooding, etc. According to the National Weather Service, here are some examples you can tweet about:

  • Damage from winds – briefly describe what was damaged and time it occurred.
  • Hail – include size of hail and time it fell.
  • Tornadoes or funnel clouds.
  • Flooding – briefly describe what is occurring.
  • Snowfall during an event and storm total.  When reporting snowfall, include the time period when it fell.
  • Freezing rain or freezing drizzle producing a ‘glaze’ on objects or roads.
  • Dense fog restricting visibility to less than a half mile.

The National Weather Service says that the reports will be carefully evaluated to ensure quality and timeliness while they work on this experimental program. To find out more information on this particular program, you can visit the National Weather Service website.

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