Forecasting Severe Storms

Mechanisms of Forecasting

The National Severe Weather Laboratory is one of NOAA's internationally known research laboratories, leading the way in investigations of all aspects of severe weather. Headquartered in Norman OK, the people of the National Severe Storm Laboratory (NSSL), in partnership with the National Weather Service, are dedicated to improving severe weather warnings and forecasts in order to save lives and reduce property damage.

Severe weather research conducted at the NSSL has led to substantial improvements in severe and hazardous weather forecasting resulting in increased warning lead times to the public. NSSL scientists are exploring new ways to improve our understanding of the causes of severe weather and ways to use weather information to assist National Weather Service forecasters, as well as federal, university and private sector partners.

Rain Gauge - NOAA NWS Collection - 1899 Photograph by Sean Linehan

Tipping-bucket rain gauge. In: The Aims and Methods of Meteorological Work by Cleveland Abbe. In: Maryland Weather Service, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1899. Volume I. Page 314 Courtesy of NOAA

Storm Prediction

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is part of the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The mission of the SPC is to provide timely and accurate forecasts and watches for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over the contiguous United States. The SPC also monitors heavy rain, heavy snow, and fire weather events across the U.S. and issues specific products for those hazards.

Weather Forecast Offices of NOAA’s National Weather Service issue local Severe Thunderstorm, Tornado and Flash Flood warnings. Severe thunderstorm, tornado, and flash flood warnings are passed to local radio and television stations and are broadcast over local NOAA Weather Radio stations serving the warned areas. These warnings are also relayed to local emergency management and public safety officials who can activate local warning systems to alert communities.