Pella Chronicle

Community News Network

January 17, 2013

NWS adds photo link for storm images

OTTUMWA — For a profession that relies on technology, Jeff Johnson admits forecasters haven't quite kept pace with changes.

It used to take hours or days for word to spread of weather events. Accurate descriptions of events were comparatively rare. Getting a photo of a tornado or flash flood depended on professional storm chasers being in the right place or pure luck if someone happened to have a camera.

Now, virtually everyone has a camera capable of getting pictures and video clips on their cell phones. The amount of information available has increased exponentially. And the National Weather Service is moving to take advantage.

Johnson, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said storm spotters trained last year were encouraged to submit photos or reports using text messages and Twitter.

"We weren't really sure how it would be received," Johnson said.

The response was stronger than anyone expected. The next step seemed obvious: Put a link so people can submit storm photos directly to the Des Moines office through its website.

The National Weather Service still depends on storm spotters. A good spotter can give detailed, accurate information quickly. But there's no substitute for a meteorologist being able to see the scene for himself.

Photos allow that to happen and, if they're sent from a smartphone, can be in almost real time. And it allows the meteorologist to examine small details, things that may be missed in the adrenaline of a chase.

"It adds confidence from what we receive from the spotter," said Johnson. And the metadata, details like where and when a photo is taken by a digital camera, can be just as valuable. "Basically, with storms, as long as a photo has a location and time, a picture can be worth a thousand words."

Digital uploads as part of the response to emerging severe weather is still, as Johnson says, "in its infancy." But the initial results are encouraging. And benefits go beyond the immediate need for weather warnings, since the photos and video clips can be used in training sessions to show new spotters what to look for in the field.

While most people are more concerned with snow right now, the National Weather Service is starting to gear up for severe weather season. Last year was an abnormally quiet season, but that means little for 2013. Training for storm spotters begins next month.

And this year they'll have a new tool for keeping forecasters informed.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 14, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 14, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

Features
Facebook
AP Video
Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs Sex Offenders Charged in Serial Killings Police: Woman Stored Dead Babies in Garage OC Serial Murder Suspects May Have More Victims Family: 2 Shot in Head at Kan. Jewish Center Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions ND Oil Boom Attracting Drug Traffickers
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Obituaries