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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 04/23/2009

National Weather Service Media Day

By Kevin Ambrose

* Full Forecast: 80s on the Way | Climate Change Chat *

group_std.jpg
Group photo from media day at the National Weather Service's Sterling forecast office, April 21, 2009. In attendance were on-air meteorologists from D.C., Baltimore, Charlottesville and Winchester. Also included were NWS meteorologists and myself, representing the Capital Weather Gang.

Every spring and fall, the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va., hosts members of the media for a workshop to exchange information, discuss new NWS products, and address questions and comments. Topics for this spring's workshop, held on Tuesday, included a look back at the past winter; the snowstorm of March 1-2, 2009; the severe weather outbreak of June 4, 2008; the Atlanta tornado of March 14, 2008; and an update on climate histories for Washington and Baltimore.

Keep reading for more photos and tidbits of information from the workshop.

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Christopher Strong, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist, discusses the snowfall accumulation map for the snowstorm of March 1-2, 2009. Southern Maryland was the big winner for snow while far western areas, such as Winchester, missed most of the action.

The four-hour workshop included too much information to cover in a single post, so I selected a few tidbits from the meeting that I found particularly interesting:

* The NWS offices are graded on accuracy for winter storm and severe thunderstorm warnings. The grading is based on whether the counties and/or regions under a warning experience weather that meets the warning criteria. Last winter, the Sterling forecast office achieved 90% accuracy for winter storm warnings. Winter storm warning criteria for the D.C. area is 5" or more of snow or snow-sleet combination, or .25" or more of freezing rain.

* New radar data, lightning detection and improved weather models have helped NWS meteorologists provide better forecasts. Much of this data is available on the Internet.

* Some years have spikes in tornado activity, while other years have very few or no tornadoes. In 2004, Virginia had over 90 tornadoes recorded for the season. Maryland's average of 10 tornadoes per year is less than Virginia due to Maryland's smaller geographic area. Most tornadoes in our region are weak, F0 or F1 on the Fujita Scale.

steve_std.jpg
Steve Zubrick, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist, discusses the College Park tornado of September 24, 2001. The tornado briefly reached F3 status and produced one fatality.

Other topics discussed:

* On-air meteorologists are increasingly being tasked to provide Web content and blogs in addition to their broadcast responsibilities.

* A few members of the media would like the NWS evening forecast updates to be provided earlier to ensure that they have adequate time to prepare for their 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcasts.

* Steve Zubrick, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist, explained that a gravity wave may have hindered snowfall in the D.C. area the evening of March 1, 2009. The collective group agreed that the forecast was saved by a trailing area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere that dumped snow during the early morning of March 2. Most forecasters were sweating the forecast, but it ultimately verified.

* Both Baltimore and Washington had multiple weather recording stations during the early-and-mid parts of the 1900s. That leads to the question: When determining records, should today's weather data be compared to the historic data from the multiple recording stations, or just a single recording station? For now, it's compared to the single recording station for any given time period.

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An NWS presentation slide shows the area for which the Sterling forecast office is responsible. The area includes 27,000 square miles and 8.5 million people.

By Kevin Ambrose  | April 23, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Media, Photography  
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Next: Photos: Early Spring at Niagara Falls, New York

Comments

After reading this article this morning, I found this video of time lapse gravity waves on digg.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXnkzeCU3bE

Posted by: Havoc737 | April 24, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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