Who issues severe weather risk outlooks, watches and warnings?

Weather Education

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Before and during severe weather, we, meteorologists show a bunch of graphics such as severe weather risk outlooks, watches, and warnings. But where do these come from? Who issues each of them? 

Let’s start with the big picture and talk about the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). They are located in Norman, OK and forecast severe weather for the entire country and issue risk outlooks and watches nationally. Usually, they issue risk outlooks starting 3-5 days out, but sometimes they issue an outlook more than 5 days out if enough models agree on a severe risk. Sometimes they look different when we show then on tv than if you see it on the storm prediction centers website. Both show the same information. 

The SPC issues outlooks closer to the time as well. We show them on tv but they look a little different on the SPC website. Again, same info. The risk scale that we talk about was created by the SPC since they issue risks. 

In addition to risk outlooks, SPC also issues watches for the country. So when you see a tornado watch on tv or online, it’s from them. Lastly, SPC puts out storm reports after the system passed. 

Moving to the local scale, the National Weather Service office in Mobile issues all warnings and advisories. This includes but isn’t limited to tornado warnings, severe thunderstorm warnings, flash flood warnings, frost advisories, freeze warnings, dense fog advisories, wind advisories, and coastal flood advisories. Also, while SPC issues watches, local NWS offices are responsible for trimming them once the threat passes. 

So all in all, the SPC issues severe weather outlooks and watches while the local NWS offices issues warnings and advisories. Broadcast meteorologists are responsible for communicating all of this, but do not issue them. 

Check out the video to see what these look like on TV and online.


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