A Look Inside the Storm Prediction Center

NBC 5 meteorologists work closely with the Storm Prediction Center, How their operation works

The heart of severe weather forecasting takes place three hours north of DFW in Norman, Oklahoma — the home of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

Steven Weiss is the Chief of Science Support Branch, where the meteorologists are responsible for nationwide prediction of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes and dangerous fire weather conditions.

On a daily basis, there are five meteorologists at a time. They put together products such as the convective outlook, fire weather outlook, mesoscale discussion and, if needed, severe thunderstorm and tornado watches.

Here at NBC 5 we work closely with meteorologists at the NWS as we prepare our forecasts. The SPC also works hand-in-hand with the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth.

"We collaborate rather closely with all of the local weather forecast offices, such as the one in Fort Worth on a regular basis using electronic chat rooms as well as telephone collaborations," said Weiss.

Severe weather outlooks are issued eight days in advance of a big event. SPC meteorologists are using some of the newest technology to prepare their forecasts, looking at high resolution models on a daily basis. Ariel Cohen, SPC meteorologist, said the difference between them and older models is clearly evident.

"A comparison for instance to one particular model to coarser resolution model guidance in the past really shows the major differences here between some the detail we can pick up on," Cohen said.

The models can also account for more of the details that could potentially influence the development of thunderstorms. This improves the accuracy of severe weather forecasting.

"It really helps us understand some of the characteristics of storms, whether they are going to be more organized as squall lines, or individual cells," said Cohen.

The meteorologists are also helping test the new GOES satellite. Weiss said "it's going to give us a lot more information on the structure of the storms themselves, overshooting tops, flanking line development and the fact that we will be getting imagery routinely in one min intervals instead of five or 15 minute intervals allows us to see the developing storms as they are developing instead of after they developed."

New research is also being done at the SPC every single year.

"In the spring, for a five week period researchers, forecasters from across the country and even other countries come here test through concepts, new ideas, new approaches to severe weather forecasting and warning," said Weiss.

Even though severe weather forecasting is done for the entire country here, North Texas isn't forgotten. One of the meteorologist, Joey Picca is from Irving.

"I want to make sure those thunderstorm forecasts are just right down in Dallas," Picca said.

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