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.

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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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Making Tornadoes Less Deadly…

There has been a lot of discussion in the Norman Meteorological Community in the past few weeks over the number of deaths in the devastating tornado season we have had so far this year.  With over 550 lives lost and scores more injured it is sometimes hard to understand how these many lives are lost and people affected when we have greatly increased the capability to warn people in advance of these tragic tornadic events.

If you examine the three biggest outbreaks of the year (Alabama, Joplin, and Oklahoma) you quickly see that the National Weather Service did an amazing job of forecasting, and providing watches and warnings for these events.  Days in advance of these events, the Storm Prediction Center had strongly worded convective outlooks, that in all three cases, provided excellent heads-up to the public.  On the day of these events, strongly worded tornado watches were issued hours in advance, and tornado warnings had average lead times greater than 20 minutes for most of the tornadoes during these three events.

Today, there are many more ways that people can receive weather information then say even a decade ago with the ubiquity of Smartphones and the quality of graphics presentations by television meteorologists.  So why did so many people die?

I believe that there are many reasons for the large number of deaths this year, the first is that there were a number of large violent tornadoes that happened to hit densely populated areas.  These EF-5 and EF-4 tornadoes killed some people that did all the right things.  Some killed had received the warning, gone to a safe place in their home and yet the tornado was so strong that it did not matter; they would have needed to be underground or in a safe room to have survived.  There are others that received the warning and chose not to take any action until it was too late.  And of course there were others that believed that “I have never been hit by a tornado before when there was a tornado warning, so why would it happen to me now?” The cried wolf syndrome is a big factor.

The reality is that the science of meteorology and the tools at the disposal of meteorologists (especially Doppler weather radars) have greatly increased the capability to warn the public.  In fact, the average lead-time of tornado warnings used to be zero minutes before the NEXRAD program was implemented in the early 1990s, placing 144 Doppler radars around the United States.  Today the average lead-time to tornadoes is 14 minutes, a great leap forward in 20 years.

U.S. Tornado Count - From 2000

But the percentage of tornado warnings that are false alarms has stubbornly stayed about 75%, meaning that 3 out of 4 tornado warnings do not have a tornado reported.   The NWS continues to push the science envelope (in a positive manner) to gain more lead times for tornado warnings.  Often tornado warnings are for a period of 45 minutes and cover a fairly large area.  One thing that exacerbates the perceived false alarms is that many media outlets, smartphone apps, tornado warning sirens and other communications to the public warn for whole counties rather than the portion of the county that is actually warned for.

In my opinion, a big push needs to be made to only provide warnings for the area that is actually warned for by the NWS meteorologist, which is described by a polygon.  And I also believe that we need to somehow provide more information on the timing of the event at each location.  If what the public perceives when they receive a tornado warning, is that a tornado will occur only a small percentage of  time somewhere in my county and sometime in the next 45 minutes, it does not provide the type of information they need to narrow the warning to determine if it is an actual risk to them and when.   Thus, the natural tendency for humans is to not react at all, or to look at the skies watching to see if the warning is a real, but not reacting or moving to safety until actual observation of the tornado has occurred.

In my next blog, I will discuss how the smartphone revolution along with LBS can make a big difference in communicating warnings to the public.

Categories: Tornado, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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