2012 Fermilab/WGN-TV Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar

Chicago WeatherTropical WeatherTornadoes and Wind StormsJoplin Tornado (2011)Human InterestNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationScience

The 2012 Fermilab/WGN-TV Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar takes place Saturday, April 14, at noon and repeats in its entirety at 6 p.m.

Here are the list of speakers:

Building on the Ongoing Revolution in Weather Forecasting: Taking Prediction of Extreme Events "to the Next Level"
Dr. Louis Uccellini, President of the American Meteorological Society and Director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, joins us again this year.

Here's an outline of Dr. Uccellini's talk:
-- Extreme Events over the last year (14 one billion dollar events)
-- Prediction capabilities
-- "Wild and Weird weather linked to climate patterns? Is La Nina the driving force?
-- "Taking predictions to the next level"; Are today's outcomes good enough?
-- Future Opportunities

Never before in its history has this country had to deal with $14 billion weather and climate disasters in a single year. These events swept the country in 2011 and included a series of devastating and deadly tornado outbreaks to record flooding and our own crippling Chicago area snowstorm early in the year. Accurate advance forecasts of each alerted the public of the impending threats and saved lives.

Nearly four months into 2012, the country's weather continues its abnormal ways, having delivered a winter of unprecedented warmth and, in many areas, limited snowfall which has, in turn, included and been followed by a series of early season severe weather outbreaks of stunning ferocity. There is concern about what lies ahead.

The array of historic weather events over the past months and a historic move, years in the planning, of the key climate and meteorological analysis and forecast operations into a new 268,762 square foot NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on the University of Maryland campus outside Washington, D.C. in coming months make Dr. Louis Uccellini's visit especially timely.

Dr. Uccellini is President of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and is Director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), a position in which he has served since 1999. He joined NOAA in 1989 after serving as Section Head for the Mesoscale Analysis and Modeling Section in NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center's Laboratory for Atmospheric Science.

As NCEP Director, Louis oversees operations of the National Hurricane Center, the Storm Prediction Center, the Environmental Modeling Center and the Climate and Ocean Forecast Centers as well as the Space Weather Forecast Center. These national centers provide weather forecasters in this country with the data and numerical model forecasts which make possible the work, in and out of the media, conducted by each of them across the United States. NCEP is, as Dr. Uccellini says, "Where America's Climate and Weather Services Begin".

Louis has played a seminal role in directing the ground-breaking advances in forecast operations within the National Weather Service which have made possible critical and life-saving advance warning of the historic severe weather outbreaks of recent years.

A look at revolutionary advances which make possible more accurate forecasts of impending severe weather as the Chicago area marks the 45th anniversary of its most devastating tornado outbreak -- the Oak Lawn/Belvidere twisters of April 21, 1967
Tom Skilling, Chief Meteorologist
WGN-Chicago and the Chicago Tribune

The savage severe thunderstorm outbreaks, which spawn tornadoes, life-threatening lightning and damaging winds, are now predicted days and--and even, at times, as much as a week in advance---with an accuracy that could only have been imagined decades ago. How is this possible? An examination of the revolutionary advances which have made improved forecasts possible--yet the serious concerns of area forecasts as the Chicago area marks the 45th anniversary of its worst tornado outbreak ever--the infamous Oak Lawn/Belvidere storms of April 21, 1967.

Tornadoes and Severe Thunderstorms, from an eventful Chicago area childhood through a historic 2011 tornado season
Dr. Russell Schneider
Director, NOAA-NWS Storm Prediction Center

Russ will revisit the historic Chicago tornado events, several of which spurred his childhood interest in weather, describe national severe weather forecast efforts at the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, and recap the historic 2011 United States tornado season.

Enhancing the Weather Warning Process to Facilitate Improved Public Response
Edward Fenelon
Meteorologist in Charge, Chicago-National Weather Service Office

2011 was a tragic year in terms of tornado fatalities in the U.S. Despite advanced warnings, 550 people lost their lives due to twisters, 158 of those were in the Joplin, MO tornado. Assessment findings following the Joplin tornado indicated most people sought confirmation from additional sources before seeking shelter, and credible, extraordinary risk signals prompt people to take proactive actions. To address these findings, the NWS is conducting an "impacts-based" warning demonstration project in 2012 designed to provide more information to the media and emergency managers and to facilitate improved public response and decision making. We'll take a look at what this project it all about, and how it will improve communication of risk and more clearly identify potential impacts.

Are You Safe?- Safety in Public Buildings
Brian E. Smith
Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service Omaha/Valley, NE

After last year's Joplin storm, there were many examples of common buildings (Walmart, Home Depot, Walgreens, schools, and a hospital) that were struck by that massive storm. I will be looking at safety in the city area and what people can do to protect themselves. I will touch on the 1967 outbreak, as will Russ Schneider, and what happened in the Fox Valley area.

Are you Ready? Situational Awareness for a Changing Climate
Jim Reed, award-winning extreme weather photographer
Jim Reed Photography, Wichita, Kan.

Award-winning extreme weather photographer Jim Reed will share life-saving tips he has experienced firsthand during his 20 years of storm chasing. Jim will show videos and photos taken during dozens of record-setting storms, including Hurricane Katrina and the recent tornado outbreaks, and he'll offer tactics and new technology for receiving reliable forecasts and warnings that can keep you and your family safe.

Jim Reed is recognized as one of the world's most accomplished extreme weather photographers. 2012 marks his 21st consecutive year of shooting America's changing climate, including tornadoes. He has documented 18 hurricanes, including Katrina and 2011's Hurricane Irene.

Severe Weather Preparedness for Large Outdoor Events
Jim Allsopp
Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Chicago

Last year 7 people died and 43 were injured when a severe thunderstorm wind gust took down a large concert stage at the Indiana State Fair. Every summer thousands of people are exposed to the elements at concerts, sporting events, fairs and festivals. How can large event organizers, emergency managers, and meteorologists work together to keep people safer at large outdoor events?

Where and when do Illinois tornadoes strike: An updated look at the history of Illinois tornado
Dr. Jim Angel
State Climatologist, Illinois State Water Survey | Prairie Research Institute
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Despite the early stage of the new 2012 tornado season, Illinois has already experienced its worst tornado disaster since 2004 in Utica. Seven perished in the most recent storm during the pre-dawn hours of February 29 in downstate Harrisburg, Il as a deadly EF-4 twister (bearing winds of 166 to 200 mph) leveled a huge swath of that community before the sun rose. Yet another twister turned deadly Friday resulting in another death near Opdyke, IL -- also in downstate Illinois. Most experts fear we've not seen the last tornado this season---more are likely to follow.

While most common during spring and summer in Illinois, tornadoes DO sometimes occur in February, says Illinois State Climatologist Dr. Jim Angel. Of 2,320 tornadoes reported in Illinois between 1950 and 2011, 39 of them have occurred in February. What else does history tell us of the tornado threat in Illinois. When and where are these sometimes all too often lethal storms the greatest threat? Jim shares new research which lays out the areas which have borne the brunt of these horrific storms in this presentation and may in the future.

For more information visit www.chicagoweathercenter.com/about/fermilab

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