About Thunderstorm Tracker

Thunderstorm Tracker is an automated Bureau of Meteorology pilot product that shows the location of thunderstorms and their expected position 30 minutes into the future. It is not a warning.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does Thunderstorm Tracker work?

Thunderstorm Tracker is based on weather radar data. It looks for areas of intense rainfall in the last two to three radar scans, identifies areas of potential thunderstorm activity and represents the area of activity as ovals. The arrows show the direction that the thunderstorms are heading and the three curves ahead of each oval show its expected position in 10, 20 and 30 minutes.

How often is Thunderstorm Tracker updated?

Thunderstorm Tracker is updated every 6 minutes with new radar data.

Why has this area been chosen?

The area displayed in Thunderstorm Tracker represents the best radar coverage for South East Queensland.

Why do some thunderstorms look bigger than others?

Thunderstorms will appear larger than others. This may be because storms may be in different stages of development. It may also be due to a cluster of storms in the same area being represented by a single oval.

Why do the tracked thunderstorms seem to move in different directions?

Thunderstorms can move in different directions. Occasionally one image may contain thunderstorms with very different tracked directions if they are in different stages of development and their motion hasn't been well established.

What are the differences between Thunderstorm Tracker and the radar images?

The Thunderstorm Tracker is a representation of an area of thunderstorm activity, the radar images are displays of reflectivity of water droplets and ice crystals. Frequently a cluster of thunderstorms viewed on the radar images will be represented by one oval on the Thunderstorm Tracker.

 Sample of Radar Image

Sample of Thunderstorm Tracker image

What are the differences between Thunderstorm Tracker and the Severe Thunderstorm Warning?

THE THUNDERSTORM TRACKER IS NOT A WARNING: it is an indicator of potential thunderstorm activity and is an automated image. 
The Bureau of Meteorology's specialist severe weather meteorologists analyse radar data, computer model output and other data sources to determine the severity of thunderstorms. They manually produce the Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Metro or District - consisting of an image and text. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning contains a threat area as well as the location and forecast direction of the Severe Thunderstorm(s).

In contrast the Thunderstorm Tracker is an automated product that detects and predicts an area of potential thunderstorm activity based simply on radar data.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued if the storms are expected to produce any of the following:

  • Damaging wind gusts (90 km/h or more)
  • Large hail (2cm diameter or more)
  • Very heavy rainfall (conducive to dangerous flash flooding)
  • Tornadoes

An example of a manually generated Severe Thunderstorm Warning:

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Southeast Queensland issued on October 29, 2013

How accurate is Thunderstorm Tracker?

Ovals that appear on the tracker may in fact be heavy showers or thunderstorms in development that are not yet producing lightning. Usually the ovals will represent thunderstorm activity with lightning and thunder.

Why were these colours chosen?

The colour peach (rather than true orange) satisfies recommendations for colour accessibility, based on the Vision Australia website test.

Future Developments

After the completion of the Thunderstorm Tracker trial in southeast Queensland, it will be reviewed and implemented in the other capital cities.

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