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NOAA Issues Severe Weather Outlook Three Days Ahead of Tragic Tornado Outbreak

NOAA Infographic of Severe Storm and Tornado Watches and Warnings, March 2, 2012

Each year, the United States experiences approximately 1,300 tornadoes. No state is invulnerable to the twisting, destructive winds that emanate from dark thunderstorms–and last week, Nature’s fury was focused on the central and southern states. 

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has in place a multifaceted tornado early warning system that includes general area outlooks days in advance and that gives individual cities and towns an average of 14 minutes warning before the potentially deadly tornadoes strike. Through a tremendous investment in research, observing systems and forecasting technology, NOAA’s National Weather Service issues more than 1,000 watches and nearly 30,000 warnings for severe storms and tornadoes each year. 

On February 29, 2012 that investment resulted in an outlook issued by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center a full three days ahead of the deadly outbreak. This outlook advised forecasters and the emergency management community that conditions would become favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. 

Advances in research and technology have increased the average warning lead time from only five minutes in the early 1990s to 14 minutes in 2010, thereby giving people and communities more time to seek shelter and reducing loss of life. But technology can only do so much; individuals also need to be prepared for disaster. Visit to learn more. NOAA Weather Radio webpage  The Weather Channel, "Tornado Outbreak: As It Happened"

NOAA severe weather probability outlook maps NOAA severe weather probability outlook maps NOAA severe weather probability outlook maps

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It's amazing that readers get

It's amazing that readers get almost halfway through the article before you acknowledge that it's the National Weather Service, and not NOAA, issuing the watches. Pretty disturbing that this is a common theme between Commerce and NOAA.


I'm sure having the NOAA Gulfstream IV (G-IV) out in the Pacific flying NOAA/NCEP's "Winter Storms" project helped with the advanced notice!


I'm curious what sort of resources NOAA is applying to the watch/warning process that are not part of the National Weather Service? Why not include them all under NWS - seems like a waste of resources to spread applications through multiple agencies.

NOAA Issues Severe Weather Outlook Three Days Ahead of Tragic To

I really take offense to the article stating NOAA issued a severe weather outlook. The National Weather Service issued that outlook and it is not NOAA's National Weather Service. The National Weather Service does not belong to NOAA it belongs to the American People.

NOAA does not issue tornado warnings.

NOAA does not issue weather warnings of any kind. The National Weather Service does. Congress' mandate is that the NWS be the only entity that do so. To say that NOAA issued anything is false. It is either intentionally so, or the reporter did not do any homework and knows nothing about how weather warnings work. NOAA itself knows this.

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service (NWS) is the largest agency within NOAA, but NOAA does not issue weather warnings, outlooks, etc. NOAA is the parent agency for the NWS. Using NOAA in the title of this article, "NOAA issues Severe Weather Outlook..." is misleading. That is like Albert Einstein's father accepting the Nobel Prize for Physics and taking the credit.

Tornado Warnings

I thought the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings? Has this changed and if so, why?