The Weather Channel's TOR:CON Actually Isn't a Bunch of Crap

I am not a fan of what became of The Weather Channel after NBC bought it. The station quickly started a downward spiral of suck that was a slap in the face to both viewers and science. But I have to give them credit when it's due: when they stick to the weather, The Weather Channel is surprisingly good.

A couple of years ago, TWC's excellent severe weather expert Dr. Greg Forbes began issuing his "TOR:CON" forecasts. The TOR:CON, short for "tornado condition index," is an innovative way of boiling down the threat for tornadoes in a general area ("southern Arkansas," for instance) based on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 indicating a 100% chance for a tornado within 50 miles of any given point in the area.

TOR:CON has done wonders for conveying the threat for severe weather to the general public in a way they can actually understand it. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) issues extremely accurate severe weather forecasts, but the wording of their forecasts sometimes proves confusing to the public.

Dr. Forbes assigns TOR:CON values by studying the same model data that the Storm Prediction Center (and every other meteorologist) uses to write their own forecasts, but generalizing it to a fairly accurate 0-10 scale is an incredibly useful way to get the word out in a way people will comprehend and use to take action.

The great thing about the TOR:CON is that it's a standardized index that isn't influenced by television ratings or what would generate the most social media hype. Unlike TWC's winter storm names or their new "STORM:CON" index — a similar but television ratings-driven index that analyzes the hyped-up impact a winter storm will have on a city — the values hold the same meaning for everyone. A TOR:CON of 3/10 in Boston is exactly the same as a TOR:CON of 3/10 in Oklahoma City.

It's based on science rather than hype and ratings, and that's what makes it good. If only they had more good ideas like this, they wouldn't catch nearly as much criticism as they do now.

[Screenshot via The Weather Channel]