Introduction to the First Edition
This glossary contains weather-related terms that may be either heard or used by severe local storm spotters or spotter groups. Its purposes are 1) to achieve some level of standardization in the definitions of the terms that are used, and 2) provide a reference from which the meanings of any terms, especially the lesser-used ones, can be found. The idea is to allow smooth and effective communication between storm spotters and forecasters, and vice versa. This is an important necessity within the severe weather warning program. Despite advances in warning and forecasting techniques (e.g., Doppler radar), the human eye will always be a vital part of any effective warning system. Storm spotters are, and always will be, an indispensable part of the severe local storm warning program.
A complete list of terms probably is impossible to arrive at, but this list is as comprehensive as possible. Certainly it is not necessary for every spotter to know the meaning of every term contained herein. In this sense, the glossary serves as a reference. In fact, many of the terms may never be heard at all; they are included here just in case, someday, they are. (By the way, inclusion of a term in this glossary does not give license to use it freely in radio or phone communication. Use of technical terms should be kept to a minimum.) But there are some terms for which the meanings are both important and specific. The important ones are preceded by asterisks; all spotters should be familiar with the definitions of these terms before taking an active role in any spotter group.
I have written the definitions in what hopefully passes as "layman's terms." They are written to be easily understood by the storm spotter, regardless of his or her meteorological background. At times I have sacrificed technical purity for simplicity, and the result may prompt a few moans from the technical purists. So be it; this glossary wasn't written for them. Many of the terms are so closely interrelated, though, that it becomes necessary to "cross-reference;" that is, to use one or more terms in the definition of another. In this glossary, all terms that are hyperlinked within a definition are terms that are defined themselves elsewhere.
The glossary is a culmination of an effort which began in the spring of 1991. Many individuals with considerable experience in severe storm research and storm spotting (or chasing) contributed to the glossary. Because of the many comments offered by these individuals, there was disagreement on the descriptions of some terms. Those terms that were identified as such as being somewhat more controversial are handled in the text by inclusion of a second paragraph in the description, which discusses any cautions or controversy regarding the use of the term.
One last word: Storm spotting is vital, but also can be very dangerous. No one should attempt storm spotting without first obtaining the proper training! This glossary in itself is not to be considered sufficient training material to qualify oneself as a spotter. Further training, usually provided by the National Weather Service, must be obtained through local agencies (usually Emergency Management) before one can be certified as a storm spotter. There is also something to be said for the so-called storm chasers, who chase storms mainly for the thrill of it (and as such are not spotters). Chasers of all levels of background and experience will no doubt find this glossary useful or at least interesting. But while I commend their enthusiasm, I must emphasize that the glossary does not condone storm chasing as a leisure activity - especially for the unprepared. Proper training and foreknowledge of the dangers are required of everyone who meets face to face with severe thunderstorms - regardless of the reason for the encounter.
Collection(s) and Series: NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS SR- No. 145
Format: Digital (Free)