Forecast Format

Your forecast needs to include at least these 3 basic elements:

Discussion, synopsis, and current weather discussion
Forecast Periods
Extended Discussion


The average student does not write outstanding forecast discussions on their first forecast. We do not expect the same quality from an ES 1116 student as we do from a 2117 student, especially from a non-meteorology major. It takes a lot of practice and experience before you start writing NWS caliber discussions. This is the part of your forecast where you get to show what you know. Most often this will be the portion people will look at and judge you as a forecaster and understanding of the general weather situation. Remember to include all necessary information concerning synoptic features such and surface fronts and cyclones, upper level features like rex block and long wave patterns, and various mesoscale features like drylines and outflow boundries. It is also very important to have cohesion and logical flow in a forecast discussion. It is very discourteous to submit a discussion that is a random jumble of thoughts and statements that has no temporal continuity. If you need examples of good forecast discussion I encourage you to read the AFD's from, LOT (Chicago), DVN (Davenport/Quad Cities), ILX (Lincoln) as well as other offices across the country, which can be found in our text pages in the state weather pages.

The discussion pertaining to critical and severe weather is most often the part of students' forecast that could use the most improvement. The purpose for this section is to alert the readers (our readers include everyone from meteorologists, to safety personnel here at the college, to your average joe/jane) to the potential hazards within the next 48 hours. These include but are not limited to heavy snow, any accumulations of sleet, any accumulations of freezing rain, flooding, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, high winds, and dense fog. Also, you should reference (cite) and link any current watch/warning/advisory or SPC slight risk or higher.

This discussion is designed to brief the faculty, staff, and public safety officers at the college, local spotters and the general public on the potential weather hazards as well as the general weather setup. It should summarize the severity of the weather expected and what type of risks it poses to the public. For example, we might be expecting severe thunderstorms with damaging winds being a primary threat. After the "headlines" there should be a short meteorological discussion concerning the hazardous weather. Lastly, cite any current watches/warnings etc. in effect.

Below is part of an old critical weather outlook that Eric Nelson (our data "czar" here at NEXLAB) wrote...

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR NORTHWESTERN AND WESTERN SECTIONS OF THE MULTI COUNTY AREA.

SNOW AND SLEET ACCUMLATIONS OF 1-2 INCHES CAN BE EXPECTED BEFORE PRECIP SWITCHES OVER TO FREEZING RAIN AND RAIN EARLY TOMORROW MORNING.

COUNTIES INCLUDED: WINNEBAGO-BOONE-OGLE-LEE-DEKALB-LA SALLE

REF....WWUS43 KLOT

LARGE WINTER STORM TO AFFECT THE AREA OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS WITH LOTS OF HAZARDOUS WEATHER TO MENTION. FOR TONIGHT INTO TOMORROW MORNING MAIN ISSUE WILL BE PRECIP TYPE. STRONG SFC LOW TO THE WEST AND STRONG LOW/MIDLEVEL JET ON THE EAST SIDE OF LOW WILL TRANSPORT WARM AIR AND MOISTURE NORTHWARD OVER NIGHT. THERMAL PROFILE AT THE ONSET OF PRECIP WILL SUPPORT A PERIOD OF SNOW WITH ONLY MINOR ACCUMULATIONS EXPECTED. AS MORE AND MORE WARM AIR IS ADVECTED NORTH THEMRAL PROFILE WILL HAVE AN STRENGTHENING INVERSION PRESENT. THIS WILL LEAD TO A CHANGE FROM SNOW TO SLEET OVERNIGHT, AND SLEET TO FREEZING RAIN TO RAIN TOMORROW MORNING AS TEMPS NEAR THE SFC WARM AND EVENTUALLY GO ABOVE FREEZING....



How did he know there was an advisory in effect? Well, one of the first things you need to do is check the Illinois Text Products page. Now we don't always carry all the statements so a good backup is the Watch/Warning Graphic from SPC. This ususally dispalys every type of advisory you can think of. In the case that you see we are under an advisory that we do not have a text product for on the IL text producst page, you can look here for a plain text version of whats in effect. (Note, Hydrological Warnings begin with an RW, other warnings will begin with W headers)

Other Useful links:

IWIN
COD's SPC Page
Storm Prediction Center


Period Forecast

Your Period Forecast, or day by day forecast, should be the easiest to format. Please use all capital letters for this section. Your forecast should go out 48 hours and split up into 12 hrs increments. Each period should contain the following elements:

  1. Conditions: Cloud Cover, Precipitation type, Fog, other important information
  2. Temps: High or Low depending on time frame.
  3. Winds*: Direction and speed in Miles per Hour
*Winds can be omitted after 36 hours if desired.

Example:

TONIGHT: TURNING CLOUDY AFTER MIDNIGHT, TEMPERATURES HOLDING STEADY NEAR 40. WINDS SOUTHEAST AT 10 MPH

TUESDAY: CLOUDY AND TURNING WARMER, HIGH NEAR 70. WINDS TURNING SOUTHWEST AND INCREASING TO 15-25 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 35 PH.

TUESDAY NIGHT: MOSTLY CLOUDY AND UNSEASONABLY WARM. LOW IN THE UPPER 50'S. GUSTY SOUTHWEST WINDS 15-25 MPH.

WEDNESDAY: CLOUDY WITH THUNDERSTORMS LIKELY IN THE AFTERNOON. SOME POSSIBLY SEVERE. HIGH NEAR 75. LOW IN THE UPPER 60'S. WINDS S-SW 10-20 MPH.

Or........

TODAY: MOSTLY SUNNY, WINDY, AND WARM. HIGH IN THE LOW TO MID 80'S. SOUTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH AND GUSTY

TONIGHT: INCREASING CLOUDS WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF A SHOWER. LOW IN THE UPPER 50'S. SOUTHWEST WINDS BECOMING WEST AROUND 10 TO 15 MPH.

TUESDAY: MOSTLY SUNNY AND NOT AS WARM. HIGH IN THE LOW 70'S. NORTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 20 MPH.

TUESDAY NIGHT: CLEAR AND COOL. LOW IN THE LOW 40'S. LIGHT NORTHWEST WINDS AROUND 5 MPH.


Extended Forecast Discussion

Much like the first section, a student should simply describe the general weather pattern and trends that will occur beyond the 48 hour period. No need to go into high detail but a general feeling of temperatures, precipitation trends, troughs, ridges, etc, that will occur/exist in this period. Consider this a discussion for the period of 3 to 5 days out.

An example of a good extended discussion was done by our student aide and WDCB forecaster, Evan Anderson:

Our weather becomes fairly quiet toward the weekend. Continued seasonal temperatures in the 60's for highs and the 40's for low will be our dominant weather. 500mb ridging should keep us under mostly sunny to partly cloudy skies with little to no chance for rain until Sunday as the next major wave is progged to make its way out of the southwest into the central plains and midwest. GFS hints at a weak wave rounding the top of ridge and moving across the srn great lakes region on friday. Not all models depict this feature, and even the GFS paints very little QPF. At most, would expect just and increase in cloud cover.

Finally -- Put your name on it!

Be sure to put your name on the forecast so Paul can monitor your forecasts to see how you are doing and so that everyone knows who prepared the forecast when he/she reads it. Plus, you worked hard -- so take the credit for doing your work!! You think this is hard stuff and are worried? Well now you know how every forecaster feels! Be patient with yourself as it takes time to be good at this. Do your best and have a little fun with it!


questions and concerns should be sent to WeatherLab Staff