National Weather Center tests new weather warning system

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Over the past week, I was a guinea pig at the National Weather Center's Hazardous Weather Testbed in Norman, Oklahoma. 

"The Hazardous Weather Testbed is a space where National Weather Service forecasters, emergency managers and broadcast meteorologists all come together and they test experimental products," says Holly Obermeir a research meteorologist at the University of Colorado. 

The space was created with the thought in mind that the people who use these products are just as important as the people who develop them.

"Forecasters can help develop products and the researches and more understand what it is like in the operational world. So we bring in emergency managers, and we also bring in broadcast meteorologists in addition to the Weather Service forecasters and try to recreate the communication process that happens," said Kodi Berry FACETS Program Lead at NOAA NSSL.  

The experiment I was a part of is a new type of weather warning. Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings will look a little different. They'll rapidly update and they'll focus on an area where the main threat exists. 

The National Severe Storms Lab is testing a 'heat map' of sorts, where the 'danger zone' would have brighter color closer to the threat and lighter colors farther away, giving people more lead time to get to shelter. This helps us identify the areas with the highest probability of severe weather and tornadoes. 

"They're warning products. The national Weather Service issues warnings, but we know that broadcast meteorologists are the ones that really do the communication work with making sure that the public receives those warnings. And that they're explained to them and well communicated and therefore then people can receive that information and then use it to protect their life, protect their property," says Obermeir. 

I was there to actually help make decisions on what these warnings are going to look like so i can help you understand what the warnings mean in the future.

But these new warnings are still being tested and it's going to be five to ten years before you see them on your TV screen. 

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