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How a site in Oklahoma affects Louisville's forecast

A woman walks down South Fourth Street during a thunderstorm on Tuesday, July 3.
Michelle Hanks
A woman walks down South Fourth Street during a thunderstorm.

Every week WAVE 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew breaks down what we know and what we don't about the climate and weather here in Louisville.

Bill Burton: It's time for us to take a look at the Science Behind the Forecast as I am joined by WAVE 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew. Good morning, Tawana.

Tawana Andrew: Good morning. Today's topic is kind of helping to clarify some aspects of the National Weather Service I don't think a lot of people know about.

BB: Yeah, we're going to be talking about the Storm Prediction Center and everything that it does, what does it do?

TA: So of course, everybody knows more about their local National Weather Service, our office. So shout out to the one in Louisville, who was incredibly helpful all the time.

BB: They do great work.

TA: They do amazing work. And there are other divisions of the National Weather Service that provide more specific and critical weather products. And one of those divisions is the Storm Prediction Center. So the Storm Prediction Center or the SPC, as you'll hear us, say, you know, we love our acronyms. It is a subset of the National Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental prediction, and they're located on the University of Oklahoma's campus in Norman, Oklahoma. And that is a perfect spot to be when you're focused in on severe weather threats.

BB: Right in the center of Tornado Alley.

TA: Exactly, so the Storm Prediction Center issues tornado and severe weather watches across the US. And then they'll also issue what's called a mesoscale atmosphere analysis. So basically, what they do is they break down the forecasts a little bit more out ahead of severe weather. They also will monitor winter weather and fire hazards across the country. So they do a lot of work. The SPC will produce an organized severe weather forecasts in as much as eight days in advance. And they will continue to update that information until the severe threat is completely over. And the SPC forecast is used by local National Weather Service offices, on air meteorologists like me, the entire aviation industry, farmers, emergency managers, and so much more. So a lot of people rely on the information that they put out. They issue what's called a convective outlook. So this is a forecast of the potential for non severe and severe thunderstorms. And this is this is where you will hear a lot of meteorologists start throwing things out like a marginal risk, a slight risk, enhance, moderate, high risk, in terms of severe weather, they issue those convective outlooks, you know, the ones that kind of look like an avocado sometimes. And they can be issued up to three days in advance. And they break down the potential for severe weather by type. So by tornado, by damaging wind and by large hail threats. And they also issue what's called a day four through eight Severe Weather Outlook. So this doesn't really break down everything by type. But it does give a generalized area of where they think in the country has a better chance to see organized severe weather. And now let's say, we already have the convective outlook out, then they'll issue a mezzo scale discussion. And what that is, is a breakdown of a more localized focus of these thunderstorms and how things are evolving. So if we have that severe threat likely to occur within the next couple of hours, then they'll put out the severe thunderstorm or tornado watch. So that is the SPC.

This transcript was lightly edited for clarity

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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