About Graphical Severe Thunderstorm Warnings in New South Wales


The Bureau of Meteorology provides enhanced, graphical, severe thunderstorm warning products for NSW and the ACT. The products aim to clearly define the regions under threat - as well as the nature of the threat - when dangerous thunderstorms are occurring. The products contain graphics that complement the traditional text-based warning.

Severe Thunderstorms

A severe thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that produces one or more of the following:
  • A tornado
  • Hail of diameter 2cm or greater
  • Wind gusts of 90 km/h or greater
  • Very heavy rain leading to flash flooding.

For more information about Severe Thunderstorms refer to the Severe Thunderstorms Brochure

Only about 10 percent of thunderstorms are severe, but these account for approximately 90 percent of the damage produced by all thunderstorms.

Overview of the Severe Thunderstorm Warning Service in NSW and the ACT

The Bureau of Meteorology issues Severe Thunderstorm Warnings whenever severe thunderstorms are occurring in an area or are expected to develop or move into the area during the ensuing few hours. The warnings describe the area under threat and the particular hazards likely to be associated with the thunderstorms. These warnings are distributed widely to the media and emergency services, and are available to the public via the Web and various telephone and fax-based services. An image is available with the warning on the Web to show, in map format, the area at risk. This service is provided for all parts of NSW and the ACT.

When severe thunderstorms are actually occurring, or are about to move into, the heavily populated region around Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, or are affecting or about to affect Canberra or Queanbeyan, the Bureau of Meteorology may issue a more detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warning for people in the affected region. High quality, full-time weather radar coverage in these areas allows the warnings to describe the current location of individual thunderstorms, and the places likely to be affected within the next 30 to 60 minutes. Again, an image is available with the warning, in this case showing in map format the location of the severe thunderstorms and their forecast tracks.

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for NSW and the ACT

Basis of Warnings

These warnings are issued as an alert to the public, emergency services and other organisations when severe thunderstorms are likely to develop, or extend into, a specified area over the next few hours. They warnings are issued, as necessary, for all parts of NSW and the ACT. A sample warning can be found below.

EXAMPLE ONLY

IDN65156

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
New South Wales

TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST


NSW/ACT SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING

for LARGE HAILSTONES and DAMAGING WIND

For people in the METROPOLITAN, ILLAWARRA, CENTRAL TABLELANDS and parts of the SOUTH COAST, SOUTHERN TABLELANDS and ACT Forecast Districts.

Issued at 11:37 AM Tuesday, 30 October 2007.

Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce large hailstones and damaging winds in the warning area over the next several hours. Locations which may be affected include Sydney, Wollongong, Nowra, Batemans Bay, Orange, Canberra and Goulburn.

The State Emergency Service advises that people should:
* Move your car under cover or away from trees.
* Secure or put away loose items around your house, yard and balcony.
* Keep clear of fallen power lines.
* Unplug computers and appliances.
* Avoid using the phone during the storm.
* Stay indoors away from windows, and keep children and pets indoors as well.
* For emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES (NSW and ACT) on 132 500.

The next warning is due to be issued by 2:40 PM.

If severe thunderstorms develop in the Sydney/Newcastle/Wollongong region or Canberra and Queanbeyan, a more detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warning will be issued to people in these areas.

Warnings are also available through TV and Radio broadcasts, the Bureau's website at www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 218. The Bureau and State Emergency Service would appreciate warnings being broadcast regularly.

warning map

Important things to note

Legend

legend

The area covered by the Warning and under threat from severe thunderstorms is indicated by yellow shading. The area may consist of all or part of one or several weather forecast districts.

Issue time

issued label

The issue time is the local time at which the Bureau transmitted the Warning.

Update Frequency

Warnings for NSW and the ACT are valid for up to 6 hours but are updated as a weather situation evolves, usually every 3 hours, but more frequently if the situation warrants. The expected issue time of the next Warning is given in the text.

Districts shown on map

The divisions on the chart indicate the boundaries of the Bureau’s weather forecast districts. Each district is labelled with an abbreviation, as follows:

  • ACT – Australian Capital Territory
  • CT – Central Tablelands
  • CWP – Central West Plains
  • CWS – Central West Slopes
  • HUN – Hunter
  • ILL – Illawarra
  • LW – Lower Western
  • MET – Metropolitan
  • MNC – Mid-North Coast
  • NR – Northern Rivers
  • NT – Northern Tablelands
  • NWP – North West Plains
  • NWS – North West Slopes
  • RIV – Riverina
  • SC – South Coast
  • ST – Southern Tablelands
  • SWS – South West Slopes
  • UW – Upper Western

Note

Individual thunderstorms are small-scale and short-lived phenomena - a thunderstorm is typically only about 10 km across and lives for only 30 minutes or so. At any one time there can be many thunderstorms affecting a district, only some of which may be severe. It is important to realise that not all locations highlighted in a Warning will experience severe thunderstorms. The Warning only indicates that some of the thunderstorms in the area are expected to be severe.


Detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warnings

for the Sydney/Newcastle/Wollongong region

Basis of Warnings

The Detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warning is a more detailed alert issued to the public, emergency services and other organisations when severe thunderstorms are actually detected in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong or nearby areas.

These Warnings depict and describe individual severe thunderstorms and therefore rely heavily on a detailed analysis of radar data. The Bureau’s radar display systems can visualize thunderstorms in 3-dimensions (as opposed to the 2-dimensional display available on the internet), allowing meteorologists to search for and identify severe features that are not apparent at ground level.

Meteorologists also rely on frequently updated data from automatic weather stations, measurements of upper air conditions from weather balloons, atmospheric profilers and specially instrumented aircraft using Sydney Airport, as well as computer-generated analysis or forecast charts.

A sample warning is shown below.

EXAMPLE ONLY

IDN65152

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
New South Wales


TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST


DETAILED SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING

for LARGE HAILSTONES and DAMAGING WIND

For people in the
Greater Wollongong,
Wollondilly/Wingecarribee and parts of the
Blue Mountains/Hawkesbury areas.

Issued at 12:29 PM Tuesday, 30 October 2007.

The Bureau of Meteorology warns that, at 12:30 PM, severe thunderstorms were detected on weather radar near Bowral, Moss Vale and the Lithgow district. These thunderstorms are moving towards the southeast. They are forecast to affect Blackheath, Dapto and Robertson by 1:00 PM and Katoomba, Kiama and Pt Kembla by 1:30 PM.

Large hailstones and damaging winds are likely.

The State Emergency Service advises that people should:
* Move your car under cover or away from trees.
* Secure or put away loose items around your house, yard and balcony.
* Keep clear of fallen power lines.
* Unplug computers and appliances.
* Avoid using the phone during the storm.
* Stay indoors away from windows, and keep children and pets indoors as well.
* For emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES (NSW and ACT) on 132 500.

The next warning is due to be issued by 1:30 PM.

A more general severe thunderstorm warning is also current for the METROPOLITAN, ILLAWARRA, CENTRAL TABLELANDS and parts of the SOUTH COAST, SOUTHERN TABLELANDS and ACT districts.

Warnings are also available through TV and Radio broadcasts, the Bureau's website at www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 218. The Bureau and State Emergency Service would appreciate warnings being broadcast regularly.

warning map

Important things to note

Legend

legend

The location of each severe thunderstorm is indicated by a red ellipse. The ellipses show the positions of the thunderstorms at the "valid time" stamped on the image. This will generally be a few minutes before the Warning was issued. The thunderstorm positions shown are derived from radar data. The graphic shows a simplified representation of the situation, which may be very complex. In particular, only severe thunderstorms (or thunderstorms imminently expected to become severe) are depicted.

cell track

An arrow indicates the forecast direction of movement of each thunderstorm. This is the direction towards which the thunderstorm is moving. Arcs are used to show the forecast positions of the front edge of the thunderstorm at 10 minute intervals.

The number of ten-minute forecast positions shown will depend on the current behaviour of the thunderstorms. Usually six arcs will be shown, giving forecast positions for the front edge of the thunderstorm out to 60 minutes from the valid time. Sometimes, for longer-lived thunderstorms, it may be possible to extended forecast positions out to 90 minutes. On other occasions, individual severe thunderstorms may be expected to last only for a short period and tracks will be shown only for the next 30 minutes.

Occasionally, severe thunderstorms and their associated severe weather can be especially short-lived. Individual thunderstorm locations and forecast tracks would then be of little use because the thunderstorms would likely dissipate before the Warning reached the public. In these situations, the area under threat from severe thunderstorms will be shown but individual cells will not be depicted.

The yellow “Warning Area” shown on the map indicates the general area considered under threat from severe thunderstorm activity over the next several hours. Because of this longer time-frame, it will usually depict a more extensive area than that currently affected by severe thunderstorms. This yellow "Warning Area" is derived from the broad-scale NSW/ACT Severe Thunderstorm Warning that will normally be in effect to describe the severe thunderstorm threat over the entire NSW/ACT region.

The orange cross-hatched "Immediate Threat Area" shows the part of the Sydney/Newcastle/Wollongong region forecast to be at risk from severe thunderstorms during the validity of the present Detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warning - usually the next 60 minutes. It too will often be larger than the area under the forecast tracks of the severe thunderstorms shown on the graphic. This is because forecasters need to consider the possibility that thunderstorms might deviate from the forecast tracks, and must allow for the development of new severe thunderstorms or the intensification of thunderstorms not yet meeting severe thunderstorm criteria.

Issue time and Valid time

valid image

The issue time is the local time at which the Warning was transmitted by the Bureau of Meteorology. The valid time is the time of validity of the initial severe thunderstorm locations shown by red ellipses on the chart.

Update Frequency

Warnings are generally valid for 60 minutes (rarely, up to 90 minutes) and will be updated every 30 to 60 minutes, or as required, as a weather situation evolves.

Area covered
These more detailed warnings are available for Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and surrounds. Specifically, the area covered is
  • the Sydney metropolitan area
and the following local government areas (LGAs):
  • Newcastle
  • Port Stephens
  • Lake Macquarie
  • Maitland
  • Cessnock
  • Wyong
  • Gosford
  • Hawkesbury
  • Blue Mountains
  • Wollongong
  • Shellharbour
  • Kiama
  • Wollondilly
  • Wingecarribee

Major localities in the area include

  • Sydney and suburbs (stretching north to Palm Beach and Berowra, west through Penrith and Emu Plains, southwest to Campbelltown and Camden and south to Heathcote)
  • Newcastle and suburbs
  • Wollongong and suburbs
  • Central Coast
The following urban centers and localities (as defined by the Bureau of Statistics) are also covered
  • Port Stephens LGA: Fingal Bay, Nelson Bay, Corlette, Salamanda Bay-Soldiers Point, Lemon Tree Passage, Karuah, Medowie, Raymond Terrace, Seaham, Brandy Hill, Hinton, Wallalong
  • Lake Macquarie LGA: Wangi-Rathmines, Awaba, Avondale, Cooranbong, Dora Creek, Morisset, Bonnels Bay, Brightwaters, Windemere Park, Yarrawonga Park, Silverwater, Mirrabooka, Wyee Point, Mannering Park, Wyee, Nords Wharf
  • Maitland LGA: Maitland, Greta East, Windella Downs, Lochinvar
  • Cessnock LGA: Branxton-Greta, Rothbury North, Heddon Greta, Kurri Kurri-Weston, Cessnock-Bellbird, Millfield, Paxton, Kitchener, Mulbring
  • Wyong LGA: Gwandalan, Chain Valley Bay, Lake Munmorah
  • Gosford LGA: Macmasters Beach, Patonga, Moonie Moonie
  • Sydney LGAs: Dangar Island, Brooklyn, Cowan, Galston, Glenorie, Kenthurst, Vineyard, Marsden Park, Londonderry, Orchard Hills, Mulgoa, Wallacia, Luddenham, Cobbitty, Camden West, Grasmere, Menangle Park, Waterfall, Bundeena
  • Hawkesbury LGA: Wilberforce, Pitt Town, Glossodia, Freemans Reach, Richmond-Windsor, Wilberforce, Richmond North, Agnes Banks, Kurragong, Bowen Mountain, Kurmond, Kurragong Heights
  • Blue Mountains LGA: Glenbrook, Blaxland, Warrimoo, Winmalee, Springwood, Faulconbridge (these lower Blue Mountains towns are part of the Sydney urban area as defined by the Bureau of Statistics), Hawkesbury Heights, Yellow Rock, Lawson-Hazelbrook, Katoomba-Wentworth Falls, Medlow Bath, Blackheath, Mt Victoria
  • Wollongong LGA: Helensburgh, Otford, Stanwell Park, Stanwell Tops
  • Kiama LGA: Kiama, Gerringong, Jamberoo, Gerroa
  • Wollondilly LGA: Warragamba-Silverdale, Oakdale, The Oaks, Menangle, Douglas Park, Appin, Wilton, Picton, Tahmoor, Thirlemere, Couridjah, Buxton, Bargo, Yanderra
  • Wingecarribee LGA: Yerrinbool, Hill Top, Colo Vale, Willow Vale, Mittagong, Bowral, Moss Vale, Berrima, Exeter, Bundanoon, Wingello, Robertson
Regions shown on map
The regions shown on the map are groupings of local government (council) areas:
  • Sydney contains all local government areas in the Sydney metropolitan area.
  • Greater Newcastle consists of Newcastle, Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie
  • Greater Wollongong is Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama
  • Central Coast is Gosford and Wyong
  • Maitland/Cessnock is Maitland and Cessnock
  • Blue Mountains/Hawkesbury consists of Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury
  • Wollondilly/Wingecarribee is Wollondilly and Wingecarribee
Non-severe thunderstorms
Only thunderstorms that are identified as severe, or expected to become severe (according to the definition above), are depicted and described in a Warning. Other thunderstorms may be occuring in the region but these will not be indicated on the map. If there are other thunderstorms in the region, then they are not currently showing the radar characteristics usually associated with severe thunderstorms.