During a 5-yr period of study from 2000 to 2004, slightly more than 10% of all National Weather Service (NWS) tornado warnings were issued either simultaneously as the tornado formed (i.e., with zero lead time) or minutes after initial tornado formation but prior to tornado dissipation (i.e., with ''negative'' lead time). This study examines why these tornadoes were not warned in advance, and what climate, storm morphology, and sociological factors may have played a role in delaying the issuance of the warning. This dataset of zero and negative lead time warnings are sorted by their F-scale ratings, geographically by region and weather forecast office (WFO), hour of the day, month of the year, tornado-to-radar distance, county population density, and number of tornadoes by day, hour, and order of occurrence. Two key results from this study are (i) providing advance warning on the first tornado of the day remains a difficult challenge and (ii) the more isolated the tornado event, the less likelihood that an advance warning is provided. WFOs that experience many large-scale outbreaks have a lower proportion of warnings with negative lead time than WFOs that experience many more isolated, one-tornado or two-tornado warning days. Monthly and geographic trends in lead time are directly impacted by the number of multiple tornado events. Except for a few isolated cases, the impacts of tornado-to-radar distance, county population density, and storm morphology did not have a significant impact on negative lead-time warnings.
During a 5-yr period of study from 2000 to 2004, slightly more than 26% of all reported tornadoes across the United States occurred without an NWS warning being issued. This study examines some of the reasons behind why no warnings were issued with these tornadoes, and what climatological, storm classification, and sociological factors may have played a role in the lack of warnings. This dataset of tornado records was sorted by F scale, geographically by region and weather forecast office (WFO), hour of the day, month of the year, tornado pathlength, tornado-to-radar distance, county population density, and number of tornadoes by day and order of occurrence.Results show that the tornadoes most likely to strike when the public is least likely to be aware were also those tornadoes with the greatest chance of not being warned. Singular tornado events (one tornado report per day within a WFO county warning area) and the first tornado report of the day were the most difficult scenarios on which to warn, with over half of all solitary tornado events not warned. Geographic areas that experienced a significant proportion of weak, solitary, and/or nocturnal tornadoes had a much higher ratio of missed warnings. In general, the stronger the tornado, as estimated from its F-scale rating and/or track length, the greater chance it was warned. However, the tornado distance from radar had a significant impact on tornado warning statistics. In addition, many weak tornadoes were not warned, and the overall ratio of missed tornado warnings to reported tornadoes actually increased over more densely populated regions, likely due to more complete postevent verification.
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