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Thread: End of an institution? The (in)significance of chaser reports

  1. #21
    Member Dan Robinson's Avatar
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    I think it might be possible to quantify by segmenting the data by region. For example, the South and Midwest has been largely "unchased" until about 5 to 10 years ago, maybe even more recently. Those regions have comparable tornado numbers and casualties (the South in particular) during events that few, if any, chasers were on.

    And by the way, this is by no means a slam on anyone suggesting a diminished value of chaser contributions, just a search for truth that will influence my priorities during my own chases in the future.

  2. #22
    Administrator Team Jesse Risley's Avatar
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    I don't know that any hard, qualitative data will exist to answer these questions using any sort of longitudinal data mining; however, I'm not sure that we need to be overly concerned about that. The aforementioned articles (cf. Doswell and Marsh) explored two mutually exclusive attributes of this argument, though two coterminous points remain clear: storm chasers aren't directly saving lives in pursuing their own self-interest vis-a-vis storm chasing, viz., chasers who bloviate about being out in the field just to save lives could, in almost all cases, stand to be more forthright about their innate drive to chase storms. Granted, there may be a few chasers who find it their civic duty to primarily go out and save lives, but those two articles, particularly Doswell's essay, argue that this is completely a fallacy for most making such claims.

    However, there seems to be enough anecdotal evidence that chasers, by submitting quality reports in a timely manner, certainly can play a very important role in helping the NWS to save lives by providing ground truth to ongoing hazardous or otherwise severe weather events. While there may be other factors at play, quality reports can sometimes help facilitate the issuance of a warning (e.g., a SVR warning is upgraded to a TOR warning after several chaser reports of a TOR on the ground correlate with stronger rotation that was evident on radar), and they can lend a bit of credence to warnings that were just based previously on Doppler indicated convective trends. Hence, I wouldn't personally sell the role of chasers in the warning process too short.
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  3. #23
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    What I take from Patrick's talk is we o reached reporting saturation a long time ago. i.e. once you have X people out there, the probability of a tornado going unreported diminishes rapidly. Now consider the setups in the southern plains with bazillions of chasers... all reporting the same tornado... before you call in, the odds are the tornado was already reported by somebody.
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  4. #24
    Member jaredleighton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Rose View Post
    * the following reflects my own opinion and not necessarily that of my employer (NOAA/NWS)*
    1. ^^^^^^^^^^^What he said ^^^^^^^^^^^

    2. While I'll start off by saying the warning process can and will go on without chaser/spotter reports (which is what I think Dr. Doswell is hinting at), I'll finish by saying that chaser reports accomplish a multitude of things with respect to the warning process. Unfortunately, people take warnings more seriously when they have some kind of confirmation that the phenomenon the warning is covering is actually occurring (i.e. reported tornado vs doppler radar indicated). This notion is even more pronounced with the tornado tags associated with the IBW testbed. Ideally this shouldn't be the case, but in reality TORNADO.......OBSERVED carries heavier meaning than TORNADO.....RADAR INDICATED. So for that fact alone, spotter reports are important to convey higher urgency and gives the warning forecaster a higher confidence in the warnings themselves.

    3. I have yet to meet an operational meteorologist who doesn't like spotter/chaser reports of any kind. The more information that a radar operator can obtain regarding a particular storm, whether it's hail, wind, or even tornado the better, so long as it's correct and accurate. Obviously the information that comes in from the field isn't always 100% accurate, but that's a challenge that I think most forecasters are willing to take on if it means good information also makes it into the office.

    Again, the warning process can and will survive without reports, but that does not mean that reports do not improve the warning process. I don't believe either Patrick or Dr. Doswell meant to imply that reports are worthless, and any inference by a chaser or spotter that NWS offices do not want or need reports is ludicrous.
    Last edited by jaredleighton; 04-26-2012 at 01:55 AM.
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  5. #25
    Stormtrack supporter Wes Carter's Avatar
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    Chasers making reports and potentially saving lives are akin to grain elevators saving lives. The grain elevators were not built for mobile phone/broadband antennas to provide level 3 data to chasers, but they can and do provide that secondary function in some cases.

    I think we get caught up in thinking this is a black and white issue but we are really dealing with many shades of gray. I chase for more than one or even two reasons, all of them pretty selfish to be honest. But I could never live with myself if I didn't make a report if a tornado I saw killed people. It's no different than driving down the road to get a six pack of beer and being the first one on the scene of an accident. I'd stop and help in any way I could, but I don't drink beer to save lives.

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  6. #26
    Administrator Team Jesse Risley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wes Carter View Post
    But I could never live with myself if I didn't make a report if a tornado I saw killed people. It's no different than driving down the road to get a six pack of beer and being the first one on the scene of an accident. I'd stop and help in any way I could, but I don't drink beer to save lives.
    Not to detract too much from the original arguments here, but even though it may be next to impossible to win a successful tort against a chaser (ethical and moral issues notwithstanding), the way common civil law works in some states, you could theoretically be held accountable for legal liability due to failure to act (negligence) if you simply refused to report a tornado that otherwise went unreported, people were killed, and you had all of the means of doing so (reporting) at your disposal.
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  7. #27
    Administrator Team Patrick Marsh's Avatar
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    I figured that since I poured gasoline on this topic elsewhere, and it was referenced in this thread, I might as well offer some comments on my views.

    First, a response to my original thread can be found here: http://www.patricktmarsh.com/2012/04...rning-process/

    Second, be careful reading too much into my original post and the graphics there. As at least one commenter pointed out, I was guilty of confirmation bias. I saw what I wanted to see in irrelevant or inconclusive data. Truth said, from the data I showed, at best you can draw the conclusions Aaron Kennedy stated previously in this thread. It s a complicated problem that deserves a detailed analysis. The problem is that the detailed analysis is going to be very hard to do.

    The warning process is not static. It's constantly being changed as new technologies come online and old technologies die off. Who would have envisioned streaming video from chasers 10 years ago? Who would have imagined NWS chat? Twitter? Facebook? Super-resolution data? All of these have an impact on the warning process. To put this in a mathematical/physics reference frame, what we end up with is a superposition of factors. Trying to tease out any single signal from the signal of the whole is a non-trivial process. It is my opinion that you cannot definitively see a signal from chaser contributions in the data in my original post. That doesn't mean it isn't there...nor does it mean that the contribution is not increasing. It just means that it cannot be discerned from every other signal -- at least with only the data I presented.

    Do I think we need to objectively assess the impact of chasers? Probably not. Do I think it would be interesting? You bet. Anecdotes are offered up from all sides of these issues. Some talk about how a chaser improve the quality of a warning; some even got a warning issued that previously was not. Others can offer stories where chaser reports were erroneous and negatively impacted the quality of the warnings. (At least one tornado emergency was the result of erroneous spotter/chaser information.) But yet after every major event I hear chasers tout how valuable they are and public officials tout how much problems chasers caused. Truth is, we have no idea who is right and who is wrong. It's even possible that both sides are right.

    What I really wanted to convey in my original post, but miserably failed to do, is the following:

    Be honest with yourself and with others about your intentions for chasing. Don't feel the need to justify your actions under the banner of "public service". If you see something, report it in a timely manner. If you see someone in need, remember that humans can't be replaced and tornadoes will always exist. And, most importantly, just shut up and chase. Ultimately, it is about you and Mother Nature.

    I need to take those last two points to heart...

  8. #28
    Stormtrack supporter Greg Higgins's Avatar
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    Tim,
    I don't know which NWSO you are associated with but I would hazard a guess to say that they took an extreme approach to the budget cuts which is NOT reflected by NOAA / NWS. As for refering reports to 911, that is an absolutly asinine response as now you have just swamped and overloaded the primary call center for responders!! Our NWSO (FWD) has adamatly preached at Skywarn classes and other presentations, DO NOT call 911! And please remember that you are speaking of only 1 NWSO that seems to have taken a skewed approach, not the majority of the field offices.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Shriver View Post
    Over all I think the NWS does need good spotters and chasers to send in reports.
    BUT, I have noticed over the years that these reports are not as important to them, or some WFO's.

    During the recent almost "Federal Gov. Shutdowns" last year we found just how important our reports
    are.
    The media could still call in reports to the local WFO, but spotter/chase groups were told to call 911.
    We suggested that we could limit the calls from our group by only allowing certified relay people to do it, but the
    answer was still no.
    How about radioing them into a net control and that net control would phone them in. Still no.

    They also would not allow reports to be submitted via NWSChat. Then or now.

    During this years budget cuts the spotter classes in many places were cut or they had other
    folks hold them for the NWS.

    When it comes down to brass tacks, the NWS says we are important but do not reflect this in their actions many times.

    I am not saying this is something the NWS as a whole seems to reflect, but it does seem to be more prevalent.

    Tim
    Greg Higgins

  9. #29
    Stormtrack supporter Greg Higgins's Avatar
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    I will take exception to this statement regarding "saturation". While this may be true at a few of the NWS offices, it defintly does not hold true for the office I volunteer (FWD)! Example: several months ago and even on April 3, there were numerous storms with radar indications of rotation, etc. but we were not receiving any ground truth reports. We brought up the chaser streaming websites and SN and were amazed to discover that there were 10-20 chasers on the storms BUT NO ONE CALLED IN! We used the streaming video (THANKS for providing the streaming video!) and even called several of the better known chasers (numbers obtained through SN) so at least we were able to obtain some information. But, the main point is, depending on the location, chasers DO NOT call in reports.


    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron Kennedy View Post
    What I take from Patrick's talk is we o reached reporting saturation a long time ago. i.e. once you have X people out there, the probability of a tornado going unreported diminishes rapidly. Now consider the setups in the southern plains with bazillions of chasers... all reporting the same tornado... before you call in, the odds are the tornado was already reported by somebody.
    Greg Higgins

  10. #30
    Member Matt Hunt's Avatar
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    I think I've submitted a total of 2 reports in my relatively short amount of time chasing. Neither of them would have been able to save lives, whether it was indirectly or not. My decision on whether to make a report or not is based on the situation. April 14 in Kansas, I saw no need to report the wedge tornado that 50 other chasers were on, and other reports were already submitted. However, if I were chasing here in Indiana, I know I might be the only one on the storm, or at least one of very few. In that case, I will certainly report a rotating wall cloud (IMO the most critical report as it almost says "tornado imminent"), and then again if it actually touches down. I would be even more compelled to report it if it were on a path toward a town, or already in a town.

    But... in all honesty the reason I started chasing is because for years I had wanted to see a tornado in person. I just plain love storms, and love experiencing and witnessing severe weather. That is the sole reason why I chase.

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