Author Archives: Mike Eilts

Cold Weather to Impact Natural Gas Prices

emo_flash_20151113_Page_1Anomalously cold weather is likely to arrive in the West and Central Plains in the next few weeks.  Most of us are not ready for it because it has been a warm fall thus far. Natural Gas prices are priced as if it is going to stay warm too…

WDT’s long range forecast experts, Ed Berry and Dr. David Gold, along with our partner Andy Weissman, launched a Special Alert to our customers yesterday stating that cold weather is coming.

Here is that SPECIAL ALERT.

  • The chances of a cold shot through the middle of the country have been developing throughout the day; see Weather Decision Technologies’ newest forecast, below
  • With the natural gas market struggling to find direction, this could be particularly significant for  the winter-month contracts
  • Any cold development, even if short in duration, would be a significant departure from current market expectations
  • Given the record number of net shorts, the front-month contract could rise sharply from currently depressed levels
  • Tomorrow’s issue of Andy Weissman’s Energy Flash Report will provide further updates and analysis

A follow-up Energy Flash Report was sent to our customers this morning indicating, much colder temperatures over the next 3 weeks resulting in potentially higher natural gas prices. Natural gas prices are already moving this morning!

If you are interested in receiving a free trial subscription to the Energy Flash Report, containing industry insights and the most accurate long-range forecasts, click here! 

View this morning’s Energy Flash Report here.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From Lab to Living Room: OnAir Mets Bridge the Gap

eilts-blog-5-11-15I have spent quite a bit of time watching the local television meteorologists the last few days (as have most of you!) during the severe weather events we have had in Central Oklahoma. As a meteorologist who has been part of the Norman weather community for 30+ years it makes me proud to see how far we have come in providing life-saving information to citizens at large. On the other hand, on social media I constantly see negative comments, statements and jokes about the local television meteorologists. But I am here to tell you, that Mike Morgan, Damon Lane and David Payne all do a particularly credible job in communicating severe weather information to the public. Are they perfect? No. But do they provide a great service to the central Oklahoma community, hell yes! How many of us could be live on air for 5 hours straight, ingesting huge amounts of information from the NWS, storm spotters, etc. and managing storm chasers, on-air presentations, staying cool and relatively calm, and somehow doing that without a break? It is actually quite impressive. They earn their salaries on the few severe storm days that we have every spring.

I have seen a number of studies that show that during benign weather days, over 60% of people get their weather information from apps from national brands, but during severe weather over 90% of people turn to the local television meteorologists because they are local and they trust them.

We in the weather community should all rejoice in what they represent. They are the “tip of the spear” for the weather community, saving lives, communicating weather information that helps people stay safe, and providing assurance to hundreds of thousands of people on a regular basis. They showcase the technologies and severe storms’ knowledge that the Norman weather community has developed over the past five decades.

These television meteorologists’ main tool during severe storms is the dual polarized WSR-88D Doppler Weather Radar which was developed and proven at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and is now controlled, operated and continually enhanced by the NWS Radar Operations Center in Norman. The automated software used to detect and nowcast severe storms, tornadoes, hail and flash floods were initially developed at NSSL and have been embedded within the WSR-88D and in private sector television display systems.

Early storm “chasers” from NSSL and from the broader Norman weather community, and large experiments like VORTEX and VORTEX2 led by NSSL, have provided huge gains in knowledge about the structure of severe storms and tornadoes and the knowledge to understand what signatures in Doppler radar are associated with severe weather at the ground. This knowledge is utilized by these meteorologists in real-time during severe events.

Local television is also the primary way that citizens consume Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm Watches produced by the Storm Prediction Center based in Norman and also local warnings produced by the Norman Weather Forecast Office.

And even private sector companies, like our Norman-based company, Weather Decision Technologies, provide mobile apps (News9 Weather App, WeatherRadio and RadarScope), interactive weather maps (iMap), and other tools the television meteorologists use to help pass information to consumers.

I know many television meteorologists from all over the country, and I can tell you that each one of them is extremely passionate about their job. They are visible celebrities in their communities, with large responsibilities during severe weather events and take those responsibilities seriously. They make large investments in infrastructure and planning during the “off season” and then act on those plans during an outbreak.

In Oklahoma City, the three main meteorologists mentioned above have spent their whole careers building their knowledge of severe weather, Doppler weather radar, numerical models, and of course on-air presentation of weather. They provide great value to central Oklahoma, as do other local television meteorologists to their communities all over the United States. In OKC the investment in Doppler radars, on-air presentation capabilities, helicopters, storm chasers, etc. far exceeds other communities. The end result is a service to the society that saves lives and keeps people informed far better than any other medium. We should feel lucky that we are all benefactors of these large investments in our community that help keep us all safe.

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Response to May 20th Oklahoma Tornado

To all my friends and family that have been asking, our family and house are all fine. No one in the WDT family was hurt, but many people had damage to their homes. I am in San Jose tonight, hating that I am not in Norman with my family. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people affected, especially for the families of the 90+ people that perished.

WDT sent out over 2.25 Million tornado warnings on Monday to mobile devices. All of the efforts we have done over the past few years to build the capability to deliver that many alerts, all in less than 30 seconds after we received the warning from the NWS, were utilized during the Moore event. I am proud of our team and we hope and pray we saved lives on Monday.

Categories: Severe Weather, Tornado | 4 Comments

Hurricane Sandy by the Numbers…

As you might imagine, the past 7 days here at WDT® have been very demanding! We knew Sandy had characteristics that would brand her a “historic” storm; but just how historic was yet to be determined. With our custom products though, we were able to provide our customers with very specific information prior to landfall. Economic impact by industry, potential damage to residential zones, even details as specific as areas with broad leaf trees that are more susceptible to wind damage are examples of the information we provided.

Our WeatherOps™ team of meteorologists worked 24/7 delivering custom maps and forecasts, expert interviews for television coverage, and 16 separate webinars to participating customers. After the storm made landfall our WeatherOps Forensic Analysis team activated and has drawn a set of post Sandy GIS product layers that depict Rainfall Totals, Extreme Precipitation Index, and Wind Analysis for the entire path of Sandy. You can contact for details.

Over the course of this event, WDT served over 500 million requests for data, amounting to 10 terabytes of data transferred. We sent 1 million alerts to our iMap Weather Radio App customers and our RadarScope App served 1.5 million requests for radar information during the period.   All without a glitch!

Here are a few Sandy-specific stats from the Associated Press we think you will find interesting:

  • 50 – Estimated (and rising) number of people killed in the U.S. from the storm, more than half in the state of New York (22 in New York City alone)
  • $17.6 billion – WDT’s HurrTrax- Hurricane damage model estimated economic impact due to U.S. damage from Sandy
  • 932 – Sandy’s size, in miles, as measured by diameter of tropical storm–force sustained winds at landfall — nearly double the diameter of Hurricanes Isaac and Irene
  • 11.91 – Inches of rain from Sandy recorded in Wildwood Crest, N.J., as of Oct. 30
  • 15 – Hours it took to evacuate 300 patients — including 20 infants from the neonatal intensive care unit from New York’s NYU Langone Hospital using darkened stairwells
  • 2.7 million – Mentions of Sandy on Twitter in the 12 hours before and 12 hours after landfall

We want to thank all of our customers for riding out the storm alongside WDT. We invite you to contact us for notification of future special event coverage and remind you we are here every day to satisfy your custom weather needs, regardless of industry.


Categories: Hurricane, Severe Weather | Leave a comment

Linkin Park and Weather Safety

WDT and NWS partner to make Linkin Park “Storm Ready”

Linkin Park’s touring manager, Jim Digby, is passionate about the safety of outdoor concerts and weather is one of the biggest hazards.  He likes to say “nobody’s kid should go to a concert and not come home.”

Mr. Digby is one of the co-founders of the Event Safety Alliance, a new organization made up of entertainment industry veterans, of which WDT serves as a sponsor. ESA was formed in the wake of several recent large venue incidents that have resulted in injury and even death of event attendees.

Over the past month, WDT has worked diligently with Jim Digby and Rick Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist of the Norman NWS forecast office, to meet the necessary requirements for the 2012 Linkin Park Tour recognized as a “StormReady Supporter”.

This recognition was given to Linkin Park because they have taken a very proactive stance with regards to weather safety. WDT has customized a weather decision support service called WeatherOps where-as our expert meteorologists provide forecasts and advisories to Linkin Park with a primary goal of allowing 2-hours lead time for any weather event that will result in evacuation of an outdoor venue.  Additionally, WDT provides all NWS watches and warnings to Linkin Park.

Linkin Park has established a weather “decision matrix” which they use to make decisions in real-time during hazardous weather so they do not need make critical decisions on the fly. When their point person receives an advisory or warning they have already decided what actions will be taken for a given event.

On Monday, August 28th, Rick Smith presented to the band members and Jim Digby the Storm Ready certificate.  I had the pleasure of talking to the group at this event for a few minutes and the band members were genuinely interested in weather safety and appreciative of the NWS and WDT for providing information that keeps their fans and crew safe.

Linkin Park is the first touring band to take a proactive weather safety stance.  The Event Safety Alliance, WDT and the NWS are all working hard together to make outdoor concerts safer, hopefully Linkin Park will be the first and set an example that other big and small artists along with outdoor venue managers will follow.  This is a perfect example of a public, private partnership that is providing great value to outdoor concertgoers!

Categories: Alerting, Severe Weather | Leave a comment

Storm-Based Tornado Warnings Reduce False Alarms and Hopefully Will Eventually Lead to Better Public Response

After experiencing a tornado in my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, and hearing all of the stories of many people’s experiences during the event, I am very worried about the public’s general apathy toward tornado warnings and the resulting lack of taking any action.

What worries me? Many things, but my basic premise is that people do not respond because they perceive that most NWS tornado warnings are false alarms, i.e.,” I have lived through many tornado warnings without taking any action so why should I worry this time?”

I believe this lackadaisical response to tornado warnings is mainly caused by the perceived very high false alarm rate for tornado warnings, and there is something we can do about it now! The National Weather Service does a credible job of warning for tornadoes. Average lead-time between the issuance of a tornado warning has gone from zero minutes to 14 minutes in the past two decades mainly due to the use of the NEXRAD Doppler radar network and its capability to observe circulations in storms. But the false alarm ratio is still ~75%, meaning that 3 out of 4 tornado warnings do not subsequently have a tornado in them.

A second reason for the perceived high false alarm rate is the way that media relay information about storm warnings and how local emergency management activate sirens when tornado warnings occur.

The National Weather Service has been issuing their warnings (tornado, severe thunderstorm and flash flood) as “storm-based” warnings for many years now. That means that they do not issue warnings based on political boundaries (like cities or counties). Rather, the warnings are issued as polygons which precisely outline the area that the expert meteorological believes is in the hazardous path. Yet, many communities continue to set off their sirens for the entire city or county.

Also, warning graphics shown by local television meteorologists often show whole counties rather than the actual polygon warnings. And warnings provided by many “weather alerting” services alert for whole counties too.

So, can you imagine if 75% of tornado warnings are false alarms and if you also hear sirens, see graphics or get alerts every time a warning is anywhere in your county, (I get about 3 warnings from a county-warning based service for every warning that actually covers my location) then the total “perceived” false alarm ratio is nearly 90%. This is even a fundamental issue with traditional weather radios, which offer only county-based granularity even when equipped with the S.A.M.E. decoding technology.

We have a weather alerting app, called iMap Weather Radio, that alerts only if your location is within a NWS storm-based polygon. We have over 250,000 users of this app, and we have many testimonials about how we have saved people’s lives during tornados. However, our biggest complaint is: “I did not get an alert for the tornado/severe thunderstorm warning in my area even though the sirens were going off and the television meteorologist was showing I was in the warning.” We actually had to build a tool so that we could investigate each of these complaints……and guess what? EVERY single complaint we have received we have shown that the location of the person was actually NOT in the warning polygon even though they were getting alerts from multiple credible sources!

Two steps can be taken now to help address this issue. First, the technology exists to control siren networks in a way that only those within a warning polygon are activated. There should be an emphasis by federal, state, and municipal authorities to implement the use of such technologies. Second, media outlets needs to cease using county-based displays of warnings. These issues greatly accentuate the perceived false alarm rates that ultimately lead to lackadaisical response from the public!

Categories: Alerting, Severe Weather, Tornado | 3 Comments

Do Early Tornado Events Portend for an Active Tornado Season this Spring?

After 2011’s tragic number of tornado-related deaths, and the large number of destructive tornadoes that hit densely populated areas, many people ask me if 2012 is going to be as big of a tornado year as last year. Now that we already have had deadly tornado events in February, plus the historical tornado outbreak on March 1st and 2nd in the Southeast, the interest in this year’s storm season is even more intense. The March event was historical because over 110 tornadoes were reported during the 2-day period, surpassing the largest number of tornadoes reported in any tornado outbreak in the month of March. Sadly, there were at least 40 fatalities from this outbreak.

US Tornado Deaths

provided by Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory

As you can see in the Figure (provided by Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory), the 552 deaths in 2011 were anomalously large compared to the number of deaths over the past 25 years, and so were the number of tornadoes (1,690 as reported by SPC). For comparison, in the past 10 years, we averaged 1,274 tornadoes per year in the US and an annual average of 56 deaths. In general, the National Weather Service did a great job in providing watches and warnings for the large events that caused a high proportion of deaths in 2011, with warnings often providing more than 20 minutes of advance notice. You can see from the figure below that there is a steady downward trend of tornado-related deaths in the United States over the past 50 years, which is attributable to the continuous improvements in technology and techniques made by the National Weather Service during that period. But last year was far from the norm or trend, hopefully we will not see another year like it for a long time.

Will 2012’s tornado season be as terrible as 2011? The short answer is that statistically speaking, it’s highly unlikely that the number of tornado deaths in 2012 will match or exceed the numbers in 2011. The reason for this is simply because in 2011 many EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes struck high density urban centers, and simple odds make it unlikely this will happen again in 2012. This is not based on any physical reason other than statistical probability.

Regarding the number of tornadoes expected for this year, that is an interesting scientific question. I have talked to many people in the Norman weather community over the past couple of weeks and asked them what they thought the Spring Severe Storm season would be like. The consensus is that Spring 2012 will likely be an active severe weather year but no one believes it will be as active as 2011. I have heard this from research scientists, storm chasers and operational meteorologists. The reasons that each knowledgeable person gave me varied, but in general most people agreed that the large scale weather patterns are different now than they were in 2011 so we should expect different results.

Looking back at 2011, there were many meteorological reasons for the large number of tornadoes and strong destructive tornadoes; one of the key reasons was that a very strong jet stream set up which frequently pushed upper-level energy to the Southeast part of the U.S. contributing to the outbreaks. This is more common during La Niña events, which is a phenomenon where sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific around the equator are cooler than normal.

In early 2012 La Niña is still around, but climate forecasts for the next few months suggest that the current La Niña condition is fading fast and likely by the May time frame will be in a near neutral (normal) pattern. Another key ingredient to severe weather is warm moist air. And in the South and Southeast this winter there have been very few strong cold fronts that have penetrated all the way through the Gulf of Mexico; so Gulf sea surface temperatures are already near 70 degrees.

What does this mean for weather and storms east of the Rockies during the spring storm season? Based upon discussions with a large number of my “severe weather expert” friends, I would say there are two camps, one that believes that early events this spring in the SE will likely continue due to the large scale weather patterns and the warm moist air that is nearby, creating a good environment for storms; then as La Niña abates and upper level patterns shift, storms and tornadoes will be reduced and tend more towards climatology as we get to the May time frame, this would result in a slightly above average year for tornadoes with the biggest events in the Southeast in March and April.

The second camp is similar in that they believe that early in the year there will be the strong and frequent severe storms in the SE for the reasons stated above but this camp believes that as La Niña abates and upper patterns shift, that energy will be directed over the Central Plains causing more frequent and severe events in that region in May and June. In this scenario, we would expect a very active year in total with the number of tornadoes well above climatology.

I personally am in the second camp. I believe that the most likely scenario is for the most frequent and severe storms to be in the SE in the next two months and then we should see that energy and thus storms move west into the Central Plains culminating in a very active severe weather and tornado season.

March 1st starts the unofficial “tornado season” in the Central Plains. There will be big tornado events and sadly people will be killed. Everyone that lives east of the Rockies should own a weather radio for your home and have the iMap Weather Radio App on their iPhone (WDT launched version 2 on March 2nd, Android launches in late April). Both provide lifesaving alerts. iMap Weather Radio provides “follow-me” alerts plus an interactive map with your location and the warnings overlaid on top of radar data. Additionally, in areas where WDT has media partners you can watch their live streaming television feed within the app during severe storm events. WDT has spent three years developing iMap Weather Radio and has a fully redundant computing infrastructure to ensure that watches and warnings are delivered in a timely manner. We are very proud of the app and the alerting systems we have built, and our goal is to save lives.

Over the coming months I will post to this blog at least once a week and more often during severe weather events.

Categories: Alerting, Severe Weather, Tornado | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hurricane Irene – The biggest impacts are not going to be winds.

As I write this on Friday afternoon, Hurricane Irene is a Category 2 Hurricane aimed directly at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. After Irene pummels North Carolina, she will move up the Eastern Seaboard almost paralleling the coast. When Irene gets to the North East it will cause havoc in some of our biggest cities. By that time Irene will “only” be a Cat 1 Hurricane or Tropical Storm, but winds will still be very strong (60-90 mph). It is likely that the biggest impacts will be from storm surges and large waves in some of the most important waterways in the North East, including Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the waterways in Atlantic City and New York City.

precip forecast

Precipitation Forecast

Additionally, 10 inches or more rain will fall in some areas on top of already wet ground. This will cause significant flash flooding. WDT has partnered with Metstat to produce a new product, the Forecast Potential Flood Index, just launched today in beta mode. By combining the forecast rainfall amounts with regional climatological values, we can actually characterize the amount of rain expected in terms of how “rare” it is to get such amounts. This makes it much easier to ascertain potential impacts such as flooding than using simple amounts, since what is deemed heavy rain in one part of the country may be typical in another. The attached graphics show the forecasted rainfall amounts from WDT’s advanced, high-resolution numerical weather

"ARI" How Often This Occurs

prediction model along with the Forecast Potential Flood Index derived from those values. The first graphic shows the rainfall expected for the 24 hour period ending Sunday morning, and the second shows the 24 hour period ending Monday morning. This forecast suggests that some portions of New York state will see rainfall amounts that typically only occur once every 500-1000 years!

There is also deep concern that in areas where there has been significant rainfall in the past few weeks plus the additional rainfall from Irene, that tree root systems will not hold up to strong winds, so a big issue will be toppling trees which will lead to widespread power outages.

WDT has recently signed an Agreement with the National Hurricane Center where we are working with them to distribute real-time video from experts at the NHC on an hourly basis during the period leading up to landfalling hurricanes. These experts are describing the latest thinking on Hurricane Irene and updating you every hour. We have these videos on 600+ websites. To find a local media site that is carrying these videos, please go to or go to

Categories: Alerting, Hurricane, Severe Weather | Leave a comment

Smartphone – Key to Weather Safety

Driving in a car in a place that you are not familiar with can be a harrowing experience at times, especially if there is severe weather in the area. If you do not know which county you are in or what the local towns are, it is very hard to decipher whether a severe weather or tornado warning you hear over the radio is for where you are at or where you are driving to.

iMapWeather Radio iPhone App

WDT's iMapWeather Radio App for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch

This happened to me early last week when I was driving my family from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Northern Minnesota. But with today’s smartphone technology and WDT’s iMapWeather Radio app, I was warned in plenty of time to take action and steer clear of a severe thunderstorm that produced damaging winds over a wide swath of the suburbs of MSP. It is not my intent to market our company’s SmartPhone app in this blog, but it is a good case study to show how iMapWeather Radio and the latest smartphone capabilities really are life savers.

Here is the scenario. We were driving in the NW MSP suburbs in light rain showers when both my iPhone and iPad beeped and talked to me and told me that my current location was in a severe thunderstorm warning. I opened the iMapWeather Radio app and listened to the alert, then looked at the interactive map to determine where I was in relation to the storm and the warning. This is all made possible by iPhone providing its GPS location to apps and WDT’s patent-pending iMap Weather Radio app that gets those GPS locations and compares them to all NWS weather watches and warnings. If your iPhone is within the polygon of a watch or warning, and you are registered within the app to receive those type of watches or warnings, then an alert is sent to your iPhone.

So what did I do? I chose to drive perpendicular to the storm and not stop for lunch like we had planned. We did get into the edge of the storm, but only were in heavy rain and maybe 30 mph winds for less than 5 minutes.

This scenario shows how communicating severe weather warnings to mobile devices is one key way to communicate to the public. If I had heard the warning on the radio, I would not know which county I was in or what the local town names were. I did not have access to any other communication media, thus, a mobile device was the only way I could have received this warning. Additionally, being able to view the warning and radar echoes on an interactive map gave me situational awareness that was key in making a decision on how to proceed to ensure that my family and I were safe.

Smartphones are great tools for many reasons, but when it comes to weather safety they are a key component in communicating warnings, especially to people that are not at home.

Categories: Alerting, Severe Weather | Leave a comment

Tropical Storm Don: Drought Buster?

Most of Texas and the western half of Oklahoma our under an “Exceptional Drought” as determined by NOAA. See (Pic 1). If normal rainfall occurred over the state of Texas for the next few years it will still not alleviate this drought. But what is needed is a large slow moving tropical system that dumps a lot of rain on the area.

Could Tropical Storm Don be the answer to their prayers in Texas? Check out the forecasted movement of TS Don in (Pic 2) and follow its movement and forecasts on

It is conceivable that up to 8-10 inches of rainfall could fall over a large area in West Texas as part of TS Don making landfall somewhere between Houston and Brownsville! This will not completely alleviate the drought, but will make a significant dent in it.

US Drought Monitor

(Pic 1) U.S. Drought Monitor

Tropical Storm Don in iMap on

(Pic 2) Tropical Storm Don in iMap on

Categories: Hurricane | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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