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Jo Farrow

Weather Warnings - How to improve the whole system

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The Met Office warning system is impact based, so not just the amount of snow, strength of winds and gusts, how much rainfall is expected. It's about time of day/week, location, population centres. Also does the public take yellow warnings seriously, they are still a warning of severe weather, but do people only adjust their behaviour for an amber or even the rare reds. Met Eireann go by numeric categories from yellow to orange and so name more storms

Risk has been mentioned rather than impact. On Sunday 10th March southern England and particularly London was hit by gusts over 65mph and many falling trees. It seems no-one was injured but if that had been 8am on a Monday it would have been a different story. The impacts from the same weather would have been different.

Is that just luck and not suitable for a national weather warning. Over-warning adds to the background noise phenomenon. Warning further ahead means a wider area is often mentioned when in the end only a small area gets affected.  Not IMBY then leads to the perception that the warnings were wrong and a waste of time. 

What would make it better ? The MEt Office display has just been altered, but still the impact matrix is buried away. 

3101amberMOinsta.jpg

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It's misleading so you could end with severe weather but because there's only one man and his dog that lives in the area there's no warning given. So a group of people decide to go out for the day and get into trouble. Also there's been times when there certainly has been an impact and no warning issued. This could be simply could be because the system is to slow to update in September for example Sheffield had 70mm of rainfall mostly in a few hours during the afternoon. No warning and 15 minute car journey took an hour due poor visibility and flooding. I think on that day the very heavy rain went from north Wales all the way across to eastern England.

I'd rather a warning went out regardless of presumed impact and also a more rapid update of the system so if a forecast period of bad weather doesn't materialise the warning is removed and not left on for hours.

At the moment people don't take much notice as it seems rather haphazard whether there's a warning or not.

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Have to agree with @The PIT. I do understand that impact is important, but when I look at Met Office warnings I want a warning for the severity of the weather. I'm currently outside the Met Office yellow area for Storm Gareth (who names these? Gareth???), yet the isobar charts project stronger winds for my area than areas in England within the yellow warning area. Now, at a glance, I could heave a huge sigh of relief and think "I'm outside the area of the worst of the winds", but I'm not. I just so happen to be in an area that's quite rural. So these weather warnings tell me very little about what I can expect, in fact they can be downright misleading. I can tell you that if I'm out in this at 2 am tomorrow morning desperately trying to anchor my stables down with two panicky horses inside, I won't be taking into consideration how populated the area is or that it's in the wee hours of the morning.

In my humble opinion, the Met Office should tell us about the severity of the weather expected and either government or local authorities can tell us about the impact based on population. It isn't much comfort as you sit looking at a tree on your house knowing that at least those in the south east got warned, but you didn't cos you're in a rural area. An 80 mph gust is 80 mph, whether you're in Sidcup or Shotts.

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Recently Met Eireann's tactic of just warning for the whole of Ireland has been more effective in the Feb snow and really for this storm. It's windy here, no warning and a tree could fall. The impacts are a judgement but as you said Fiona, do the public then view the none warned areas as being okay. Here the Storm Gareth label does work as an event, wild weather from Storm Gareth today and tomorrow, but the warnings almost work against that. Are there confines about issuing weather warnings in respect to councils and govt agencies? but that doesn't work alongside the public just glancing at them.

1203meteireann.png

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50 minutes ago, Jo Farrow said:

Recently Met Eireann's tactic of just warning for the whole of Ireland has been more effective in the Feb snow and really for this storm. It's windy here, no warning and a tree could fall. The impacts are a judgement but as you said Fiona, do the public then view the none warned areas as being okay. Here the Storm Gareth label does work as an event, wild weather from Storm Gareth today and tomorrow, but the warnings almost work against that. Are there confines about issuing weather warnings in respect to councils and govt agencies? but that doesn't work alongside the public just glancing at them.

1203meteireann.png

To answer the really important question you just asked, yes, the public do view no warning areas as escaping the worst of the weather. I just did a straw poll and yup, that seems to be the consensus. It does seem as if this acts as an impact warning and not as a weather warning. It appears to be a pedantic argument, but it makes a huge difference to how people perceive the expected weather. Can you imagine what it could be like tomorrow morning rush hour when the rural peeps try to make their way to the M8 to get to work? Stirling, Callander, the Forth Valley, Lanark, Dunbar, Fife... peeps from those places work in Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Looking at the gust strengths for tomorrow morning, I wouldn't be venturing out on the many wooded roads which lead to the M8. Good luck to anyone trying to cross the Forth.

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There's also an issue where the local forecast can contradict the weather warning which happens a lot. So you can have a forecast for a sunny dry day but at the same time have a warning out for severe Thunderstorms. Of course then you need to look at the chance of precipitation which may say 20%. Many people would miss that. Ideally the forecast should say isolated Thunderstorms rather than dry and sunny. The forecast then would make more sense for those who are not so eager eyed weather enthusiasts.     

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Here's the perfect illustration to show what is wrong with a warning - in particular, the blanket warning for wind.

WindDay.thumb.png.2a87800880566b11398109783b2f3ada.png

Look at the time of when the wind dropped as the cold front passed. That is pretty much at the same time that the yellow warning for wind became live.

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1 hour ago, Mapantz said:

Here's the perfect illustration to show what is wrong with a warning - in particular, the blanket warning for wind.

WindDay.thumb.png.2a87800880566b11398109783b2f3ada.png

Look at the time of when the wind dropped as the cold front passed. That is pretty much at the same time that the yellow warning for wind became live.

Might be higher winds coming in on the back edge.

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The biggest problem is that few people actually read the warnings.  Instead, they pick up on what the media tell them (by definition, guarannteed to be inaccurate if not and out and out lie) or just assume - for example - that because they live in Birminghams and there's a warning for the Midlands, then there is a warning for their back garden (in fact, the warning applies only to the Peak District) ......   And even fewer understand them.

They could try just issuing warnings to authorities, rescue services etc and others who actually know what they mean.   But then, as we see with the health warnings issued on behalf of the NHS when there's hot/cold weather, they still get picked up by the media/public and are entirely misunderstood .....

Until the Met Office are able to issue the back garden specific forecasts that the majority of people seem to think they are already issuing, they really are on a hiding to nothing.

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They should be based on the severity but also partly on the area in my opinion.The highlands and islands for example don't really need a yellow warning for 45-55mph gusts as it's unlikely to cause any disruption in those areas but it might through the central belt.70mph might be worth an amber through the central but in less populated areas a yellow would suffice.The difference between amber, yellow and no warning is the problem areas.Red warnings are usually reserved for the very worst conditions and often don't get used at all during a year so i'd keep them as is.

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If there is severe weather on the way, it's severe whether you live in a city or in the middle of nowhere. As I said earlier an 80 mph gust is an 80 mph gust regardless of how populated the area is. I think there needs to be 2 different systems. Members of the public want to know how the weather is going to affect them, they're not interested in how many others are affected. That's a concern for the authorities in an area. I want to know if there is  a risk that I'll get flattened by a tree if I go out in the car, if it's too dangerous to walk down my avenue of beech trees to get to the local shop, if I'm at risk of a tree falling on my house, if my stables will blow over, and all of that is totally independent of how many people live in my area.

 

The problem lies in the dual purpose that they're trying to foist onto weather warnings. Since a weather warning also triggers various measures by local authorities, they seem to underplay each warning for fear of wasted expenditure should the severe weather be less severe than expected or be a bit further north or south. Personally I want to know if I'm in a area "at risk" of severe weather. Now that doesn't mean that I'll definitely get it, but there's a chance and so I can take appropriate measures for myself, my property, my family and assorted critters.

 

A weather warning should be a warning about the weather.

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Basically the requirements are

1) Weather warning based on severity

2) Don't base warnings on impact or suspected impact as people may expose themselves to risk as the weather in the area or time isn't forecast to be bad.

3) Quicker updates to warning system to reflect changes in the weather. This should be 24 hours as well. 

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@The PIT, your number 2 better expresses in fewer words what I was trying to say. I wasn't even in a warning area yet a 40+ year old tree narrowly missed our car. I walk under it (well used to) every single day taking the horses out and bringing them in. I'm glad I decided to bring them in early yesterday. You see, I looked at the Met Office warning and according to them I was way outside the yellow area, but another site had me right on the edge of an amber warning. I decided to play it safe cos horses are spooky in the wind. I don't know when the tree came down, but it snapped off 6 inches above ground level. But according to the Met Office I wasn't at any risk at all.

I make decisions for my safety. I don't work for a local authority. The overall impact based on population is irrelevant to me if a tree is heading for my noggin. Yesty's Met Office warning maps conveyed a false sense of security.

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Well I don't know when the warnings were removed but still gusting to 50mph here not long ago and no warnings. I wouldn't like to be walking in places like Mam Tor. or riding a bike round the peak district right now.

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No warnings today for us so lets see what happens.

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Flooding in various parts of West Yorkshire and Lancashire today. Some road and rail services affected. 

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Sustained winds of 35mph, gusts just shy of 60mph in CS England, albeit for a short time

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A #WeatherAware from MetOfficewarnings for snow and ice tonight/Weds in SCotland 

 

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