Background information: When the storm event is occurring the broadcast meteorologist wants to give the public instant information on what type of damage a storm is producing and also storm measurements such as hail size, rainfall total, snowfall accumulation, etc. During the storm event the public will want to know what type of weather is occurring such as strong straight-line winds, a tornado, derecho, etc. The broadcast meteorologist must decided which reports to use on the air. The controversy arises from which storm reports to broadcast. A broadcaster should rely upon reports that are credible and from sources they trust. Here is a look at the risks and benefits of using official and unofficial storm reports.
Reasons to give unofficial storm reports:
1. Official reports can take too long since the report must be verified by a trained meteorologist. When the storm is occurring the information is needed immediately and unofficial storm reports can supply this information.
2. There are not enough official observers to cover a large forecast area. Reports from the general public and general weather observers are needed to fill in the gaps.
3. Public storm spotters like to see their reports on the air and this increases ratings. It is a way to get the general public interested in weather observing the precipitation measuring.
4. Gives indications to what type of severe weather a storm is currently producing.
Reasons to give only official storm reports:
1. Many unofficial storm reports come from untrained storm spotters. They may not know how to accurately measure snowfall, rainfall or differentiate between a tornado and other phenomena.
2. If the storm report is wrong and you broadcast it then you have provided misinformation to the public.
3. Information that is broadcast should only be official information.
4. Better relations with NWS and SPC since they provide the official reports.
5. Some weathercasters may not know which unofficial reports are unrealistic or wrong. Reports tend to be more sensationalized when they are unofficial.
Advice for using unofficial reports
1. Make sure it is from a source you trust such as a person you know has been through a storm spotting course or a person you know how operational meteorology knowledge.
2. Don't report it if it unrealistic or an anomaly to other observations nearby.