Is it really a tornado? Here's how we decide
Thursday, August 8, 2013, 3:36 PM -
We like to leave it up to the experts at Environment Canada to deem whether an ominous-looking cloud is a funnel, or a full-fledged tornado.
In the past, meteorologists and weather broadcasters have been cautious when it comes to classifying something in a video or picture as a "tornado". Here at The Weather Network, we made it a policy to refrain from broadcasting messages that a tornado had been confirmed until we received official communication from Environment Canada, and for a long time, this was the correct course of action.
That being said, an increase in pictures and videos of severe weather due to the growth in social media is making it easier to determine whether or not a tornado occurred before receiving word from Environment Canada.
One example is the tornado that occurred on Wednesday near Arthur, Ontario. We received dozens of images and video and without a doubt, a tornado did touch down. In a case like Wednesday, where we have visual confirmation of a tornado as well as video, we feel it is safe to make that communication to the public.
Twitter and Facebook play a huge role in this. Instant reports from people living in tornado-warned areas give us a bigger picture of what's happening in a given community.
Sometimes, we'll receive a blurry picture, shaky video or tornado reports that aren't backed up with images or video. In those cases we err on the side of caution and communicate that a “possible tornado” has taken place, until we hear from Environment Canada.
When severe weather hits, word spreads quickly on social media, but be on the lookout for fake reports and images.
During Hurricane Sandy, multiple doctored images were circulated on Twitter and Facebook and passed off as authentic.
If you see a storm image that looks too good to be true, put on your reporter's hat and verify it by doing a Google image search. Clicking on the camera icon in the search bar allows you to upload an image to the web. Google will then locate other images like it and tell you when they were originally uploaded.
Even when we're 100% confident that a tornado has touched down, Environment Canada plays an important role in identifying the severity of a storm.
We cannot communicate the intensity of the tornado, even with video evidence.
Am EC survey team is the only authority that can do that, and that's only after they've assessed the damage.
With files from Dayna Vettese, meteorologist, The Weather Network