What goes into a storm report? Why are they important for meteorologists? You can make a great difference in how storms are reported, just by saying what you see.
Forecasting, nowcasting, and the communication of threats involving inclement to severe weather may be some of the most important responsibilities for a broadcast meteorologist. However, many of these functions would not be possible without observations, actual reports of what is occurring weather-wise around the area, the state, the country, and the world. And you can play a big part in the information they receive.
During a severe weather event, no matter where you live, reports from out in the elements are key in validating what may be occurring and to prepare residents who may be further down the path of these storms. While meteorological tools like automated weather stations and radar imagery can help a forecaster deduce what may be occurring at a certain location, “ground truth” is the best form of confirmation in most situations.
For example, while radar may indicate signs of hail, prompting the National Weather Service office to issue a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, there may not be hail falling at that time. It is also challenging to tell how large the hail will be with certainty until reports come in as to its size. This is where the NWS offices and your local TV stations rely on trained weather spotters and viewers like you to come in.
Of course, it is equally as important to make sure that those reporting in information to the media and forecast offices are reliable and do not sensationalize the situation. Often TV meteorologists will build a rapport with viewers who frequently contact them through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter and may rely on them more for storm reports. Further limitation of hype-reporting can be accomplished more easily by using pictures and video instead of just words. After all, a picture tells a thousand words.
For those in the broadcast industry, early reporting from viewers has become paramount in being able to keep up with and ahead of big stories, especially weather ones. It is therefore important for broadcast mets to engage with their followers and acknowledge their contributions, whether verified or not.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for ways to help your local area during a weather event, it can often be as simple as snapping a picture or taking a short video. Just be sure to share that information with the proper authorities and keep up with what your local NWS office and media are talking about.