About Graphical Severe Thunderstorm Warnings in the Northern Territory

The Bureau of Meteorology provides an enhanced severe thunderstorm warning service in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory and this is expected to be implemented in other states in the future. The aim is to help people more easily picture the areas under threat from dangerous thunderstorms. The product contains a graphic that will complement the Bureau's traditional text-based warnings for Darwin and the rural area.

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.

This definition does not include lightning. By definition, every thunderstorm has lightning associated with it and at present, no method exists for forecasting the severity or frequency of lightning strikes.

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

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. Occasionally, and most commonly across the Top End, larger-scale, longer-lived thunderstorms known as squall lines can develop - these squall lines can be 30 km or more in length and can live for many hours. At any one time there can be many thunderstorms affecting an area, only some of which may be severe.

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

Overview of the Severe Thunderstorm Warning Service in the NT

There are two types of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings provided by the Bureau of Meteorology for the NT. The first provides a detailed service for people living in Darwin City and Outer Darwin area and includes a graphic to accompany the warning to show in map format the location of severe thunderstorms and their forecast tracks. The second provides Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for the entire Northern Territory.

Each Severe Thunderstorm Warning describes 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 services.

Additionally, a Severe Weather Warning may be issued for areas under threat from severe weather. More information about Severe Weather Warnings can be found here.

Detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warnings - Darwin City and Outer Darwin

Basis of Warnings

The Darwin City and Outer Darwin Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued to the public, emergency services and other organisations when severe thunderstorms are within the warning area, or they are detected outside the warning area and forecast to move into the Darwin City and Outer Darwin, or there is high confidence that severe thunderstorms will develop within the warning area, during the next 60 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. Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are not usually provided for this type of 'pulse' severe thunderstorm in the Darwin City and Outer Darwin area.

Most Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for the Darwin City and Outer Darwin area will be for severe wind gusts associated with tropical squall lines and multi-cellular thunderstorm clusters.

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings describe the location and forecast movement of individual severe thunderstorms and therefore rely heavily on a detailed analysis of radar data. The Bureau's radar display systems can visualise 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 Darwin Airport, as well as computer-generated analysis or forecast charts.

Reports from registered Storm Spotters are also useful information to meteorologists. More information on becoming a Storm Spotter can be found here.

A sample warning is shown below.

EXAMPLE ONLY

IDD26100

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Northern Territory

TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING - DARWIN CITY and OUTER DARWIN
for DAMAGING WIND

For people in the
Palmerston and
Litchfield Shire areas.

Issued at 2:51 pm Tuesday, 14 September 2014.

The Bureau of Meteorology warns that, at 2:50 pm, potential severe thunderstorms were detected on weather radar near Corroboree Billabong and Annaburroo.

These thunderstorms are moving towards the northwest.

They are forecast to affect Acacia Hills, Middle Point and Lambells Lagoon by 3:20 pm and Palmerston, Humpty Doo and Berry Springs by 3:50 pm.

Damaging winds are likely.

The Northern Territory Emergency Service advises that people should:

  • secure loose outside objects;
  • avoid remaining in the open when storms threaten
  • pull over if it is raining heavily and you cannot see, park with your hazard lights on until the rain clears;
  • avoid driving into water of unknown depth and current

The next warning is due to be issued by 3:55 pm.

Warnings are also available through TV and Radio broadcasts, the Bureau's website at www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 214. The Bureau and Northern Territory Emergency Service would appreciate warnings being broadcast regularly.


Plan Image

Important things to note

Legend

Warning coverage 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 in the top right corner. 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 potentially severe thunderstorms are depicted.

The ellipses show the positions of the thunderstorms

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.

The orange cross-hatched "Immediate Threat" area shows the part of the Darwin city and Outer Darwinarea which is forecast to be at risk from severe thunderstorms within the next 60 minutes. This area 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

Issued at 12 september 2:51 pm CST valid at 14 September 2:50 pm CST

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.

Validity Period and Update Frequency

Darwin and rural area warnings are valid for 60 minutes. The warnings will be updated every 30 to 60 minutes, or as required, as a weather situation evolves. The next warning will be issued by the 'next warning' time given in the text.

A warning cancellation will be issued immediately after the severe thunderstorm threat has ceased.

Area covered

The warning area for Darwin city and Outer Darwin Severe Thunderstorm Warnings covers the Darwin, Palmerston and Litchfield Shires, as well as Cox Peninsula, Dundee Beach and the Bynoe Harbour area. The waters of Darwin and Bynoe Harbours are not explicitly included in Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, which are for land areas only. However, severe weather phenomena associated with thunderstorms may occur over the harbours and adjacent coastal waters when a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is current.

The grey "Outside Warning Area" represents the part of the NT for Detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are not provided. Severe thunderstorms occurring in these areas are warned for using the Regional Severe Thunderstorm Warning service (see below for details).  

Non-severe thunderstorms

Only thunderstorms that are identified as potentially severe are depicted and described in a Warning, within the limitations of the Darwin city and Outer Darwin Severe Thunderstorm Warning service as described above. Other thunderstorms occurring in the warning area and the surrounding region will not be indicated on the map.

Regional Severe Thunderstorm Warnings

Basis of Warnings

Text-based Regional Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are provided for all parts of the Northern Territory and are an alert to the public, emergency services and other organisations that severe thunderstorms are occurring or are likely to occur over the specified area during the next few hours.

A sample warning can be found below.

EXAMPLE ONLY

IDD20460

Severe Thunderstorm Warning
for damaging and locally destructive winds, large hail and heavy rainfall
for the Simpson and Lasseter forecast districts

Issued at 2:33 pm CST on Wednesday 15 October 2014.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS DEVELOPING NEAR ALICE SPRINGS.

Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce DESTRUCTIVE WINDS, LARGE HAILSTONES and HEAVY RAIN which may lead to FLASH FLOODING in parts of the Simpson and Lasseter forecast districts.

Locations that may be affected include Alice Springs, Jervois, Ross River, Hermannsburg and Papunya.

Golf ball sized hail was reported at Watarrka at 1:30pm.

The Northern Territory Emergency Service advises that people should:

  • Secure loose outside objects.
  • Ensure pets and animals are in a safe area.
  • Avoid remaining in the open when storms threaten.
  • Move cars under cover.
  • Slow down and turn your headlights on.
  • Pull over if it is raining heavily and you cannot see, park with your hazard lights on until the rain clears.
  • Avoid driving into water of unknown depth and current.
  • Create your own sandbags if there is flooding, by using pillow cases or shopping bags filled with sand and place them around doorways to protect your home.
  • For emergency help in floods, storms and cyclonescall 132 500.
  • Emergency information including the latest road conditions is available at www.securent.nt.gov.au.

The next warning will be issued by 5:45 pm CST Wednesday.

This warning is also available through TV and Radio broadcasts, the Bureau's website at www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 214.

Important things to note

Warning Area

The warning area will be described based in the Northern Territory public weather forecast districts. Locations within the warning area will also be listed. A list of locations that will be included within warnings can be found here.

Issue time

Issued at 2:33 pm.

The issue time is the local time (CST) at which the Bureau of Meteorology transmitted the Warning.

Update Frequency

Regional Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are valid for the next 3 hours, but can be updated earlier as the weather situation evolves. A warning cancellation will be issued immediately after the severe thunderstorm threat has ceased.