Science Cafe: Predicting the Unpredictable
Do Tornado Warnings Work?
What’s the first thing people do when they get a tornado warning? It may surprise you, but taking immediate shelter isn’t it! More than 300 killer tornadoes have struck the United States since 1999. While our understanding of tornadoes — and our ability to forecast them — improves, our understanding of how people react to tornado warnings has not advanced at the same rate. Meteorologists and damage surveyors go out after nearly every tornado and tornado warning to study what the storm did, but we are rarely able to talk to the people affected to understand what made the difference between taking shelter and taking risk. In this Café, we will review recent research to understand peoples’ reactions to warnings and discuss how we can make warnings more effective in the future.
About our Speaker
Nate Johnson is a Meteorologist and Executive Producer at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, where he is responsible for coordinating weather coverage and content across TV, radio, online and mobile platforms, as well as a Lecturer with the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at NC State University, where he teaches an advanced-level course in Broadcast Meteorology with an emphasis on societal impacts of weather. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in meteorology and computer science as well as a Master’s degree in communication from NC State. Prior to working at WRAL, Nate was a Data Services Meteorologist with Baron Services in Huntsville, Alabama, a leading provider of severe weather data and dual-polarization radar systems, and before that, the Chief Meteorologist at KTXS-TV in Abilene, TX.