Imagine being the person who can save an entire city's population from injury and death with just a few clicks of your mouse. This simulator from the National Weather Service lets you test your abilities and see if you've got what it takes to do just that.
The Warning Decision Simulator takes you through several real-world severe weather scenarios and allows you to issue severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings along the paths of the storms. You start with a baseline score that grows or shrinks based on how long your warnings are in effect, if you issue false alarms (warnings without severe weather reported), or if they receive a report of large hail, damaging winds, or tornadoes where you didn't issue a warning.
While different from how meteorologists issue real warnings, the process shows you how intense it can be, and that issuing a warning just a little too far off or missing the signs on radar could cost someone their life.
As a fresh reminder, a tornado warning is issued when a tornado is imminent. It means that meteorologists detect strong rotation on Doppler radar indicating the potential for a tornado within a thunderstorm, or that a tornado was actually spotted by those nearby.
A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when meteorologists detect a thunderstorm capable of producing hail the size of quarters or larger, and/or damaging winds in excess of 60 MPH.
If you don't know what to look for on Doppler radar in order to spot a tornado, here's a quick primer I wrote a few weeks back.
Are you ready? Here's the link to the NWS HotSeat provided by the NWS office in Peachtree City, Georgia. Give it a crack and see how well you do.
Once you read through the on-screen instructions and make it through the simulator, they give you your statistics at the end.
The gray screen will show your results. SVRs means "severe thunderstorm warnings," and it shows you how many warnings you issued, how many of your warnings verified with actual reports of hail or wind, and your lead time, or how long before the severe weather hit that you issued your warning). The same goes for TORs, or tornado warnings.
The three statistics at the bottom are the true tell as to how well you did.
POD = Probability of Detection, or the rate at which you successfully detected severe weather. 100% means that you nailed it, and 0% means that you missed every report of severe weather.
FAR = False Alarm Rate, or the rate at which you cried wolf.
CSI = Critical Skills Index, or "a combination of POD and FAR," according to the NWS in Morristown, TN. Think of it as your final grade. 100% is perfect, 0% means you're a nice kid but this just ain't your thing.
For this post, I did the fourth simulation on the list, "tornadoes and severe thunderstorms sweep across Alabama (easy)."
I issued 22 severe thunderstorm warnings and 15 verified; I only missed 3 severe weather reports (all three were dime size hail). I issued 7 tornado warnings and 4 of them verified — I didn't miss one.
My POD was 86% — I correctly issued a warning 86% of the time. My false alarm rate was 34%, and my overall critical skills index was 59%. Not the best, but I got all of the major reports (huge hail and the tornadoes).
Meteorologists in the field have around a 70% accuracy rate for detecting and issuing tornado warnings for confirmed tornadoes.
So, do you have what it takes? Tell us how well you do.
[Top image of a tornado-warned storm near San Angelo, Texas on Saturday afternoon via Gibson Ridge]