Severe thunderstorm warning

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Severe thunderstorm with a clear slot near main updraft core. Typically a tornado, if present, will form in this area.

A severe thunderstorm warning (SAME code: SVR) is an alert issued by national weather forecasting agencies to warn the public that severe thunderstorms are imminent or occurring. The warning is issued when a trained storm spotters or Doppler weather radar indicate that a thunderstorm is producing or will soon produce dangerously large hail and high winds, capable of causing significant damage.[1] Flooding caused by a thunderstorm's extreme rainfall (a flood advisory or flash flood warning is issued in these cases).[1] A similar warning is issued by Environment Canada's Meteorological Service of Canada from their offices in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Dartmouth.[2] Skywarn issues the severe thunderstorm warnings for the United Kingdom.[3] In Australia, severe thunderstorm warnings are issued by the Bureau of Meteorology.[4]


In the United States, the National Weather Service (NWS) defines a severe thunderstorm as having large hail of 1 inch (2.5 cm) or larger, surface wind speeds of 58 miles per hour (93 km/h) or greater, and/or a tornado.[5][6] Prior to January 2010, the hail size for which a thunderstorm would be considered severe was 0.75 inches (1.9 cm); public complacency due to overly frequent issuances of severe thunderstorm warnings and recent studies stating hail didn't produce significant damage on the ground until it reached one inch in diameter caused the upgrade in hail criteria.[7]

In Canada, a severe thunderstorm is defined as having wind gusts of greater than 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph), hail with a diameter of greater than 20 millimetres (0.79 in), rainfall of greater than 50 millimetres (2.0 in) in an hour or greater than 75 millimetres (3.0 in) in three hours, or tornadoes.[2]

In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology issues severe thunderstorm warnings advising of damaging winds (>90km/h), heavy rainfall, large hail (2cm or larger), and flash flooding. Severe thunderstorm warnings are given as either a broad-based warning, covering expected impact in a weather reporting area, or as a detailed warning, when a thunderstorm is within weather-watch radar range and includes a map depicting any existing thunderstorms and the forecast direction of movement for up to 60 minutes.[4] Similar official warnings are also issued for tropical cyclones, severe weather including heatwaves, tsunamis, and bushfires.[8]

A severe thunderstorm warning indicates the warned area is in impending danger. Severe thunderstorms can and do produce tornadoes and a lot of lightning without warning.[9] While not all severe thunderstorms produce tornadoes, they can produce serious straight line wind damage as severe as a tornado, which can actually cover a much wider area than a tornado usually does.[10] If a tornado is detected on radar or is sighted visually, a tornado warning will be issued either in replacement of or concurrently to the existing severe thunderstorm warning.[11] Generally, but not always, a severe thunderstorm watch or tornado watch will precede a warning.

If a tornado warning is issued, based on Doppler weather radar, it means strong rotation has been detected within a thunderstorm. Usually, if a thunderstorm is producing only weak rotation, it will only yield hazardous weather warranting a severe thunderstorm warning. However, the public will usually be advised this type of rotation has been detected and that the storm in question should be watched closely in the near future for further intensification. In the United States, local NWS forecast offices, particularly those in the Great Plains or Southeastern U.S., sometimes include the wording "Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes with no advance warning..." or a similar reference in their severe thunderstorm warnings, usually when there is a tornado threat or especially when a tornado watch is in effect.

Some storms, especially in the Great Plains, may produce massive hailstones the size of baseballs (2.75 inches (7.0 cm)) or larger which may fall fast enough to potentially kill a person by repeated blunt trauma.

Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) of the National Weather Service outline warnings for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in polygonal shapes for their map-based weather hazard products, based on the projected path of a storm at the time of the warning's issuance as estimated by Doppler radar. Warnings were issued on a per-county basis before October 2007,[12] and they are now usually delineated on maps in polygon shapes and in text by a sections of counties, although entire counties are sometimes included, especially if the total area of the division is small. Storm Prediction Center and other NWS products, as well as severe weather alert displays used by some U.S. television stations, highlight severe thunderstorm warnings with a yellow or orange polygon or filled county/parish outlines. Depending on the severity of the storm, some NWS offices may also request activation of the Emergency Alert System at their discretion.

Criteria in various countries[edit]

Country Tornado Minimum hail size Minimum wind speed Minimum rainfall rate per hour Source
United States See Tornado Warning 1 inch (25 mm) 58 miles per hour (93 km/h) See Flash Flood Warning [6]
Canada See Tornado Warning 20 millimetres (0.79 in) 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph) 50 millimetres (2.0 in) [2]
Australia All 20 millimetres (0.79 in) 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph) "Conducive to flash flooding" [13]
New Zealand F1 or stronger 20 millimetres (0.79 in) 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph) 25 millimetres (0.98 in) [14]
Germany All 15 millimetres (0.59 in) 105 kilometres per hour (65 mph) 20 millimetres (0.79 in) [15]
Mexico All 5 millimetres (0.20 in) 89 kilometres per hour (55 mph) 20 millimetres (0.79 in) [16][17][18]
United Kingdom All 20 millimetres (0.79 in) 55 miles per hour (89 km/h) "Conducive to flash flooding" [3]

Examples of severe thunderstorm warnings[edit]

Here is an example of a Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued by the National Weather Service in Washington D.C.[19] The audio file to the right is for Minnesota.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

Severe Thunderstorm Warning
National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC
858 PM EDT Tue Aug 13 2019

The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has issued a

* Severe Thunderstorm Warning for...
  The City of Fairfax in northern Virginia...
  Central Fairfax County in northern Virginia...
  The City of Manassas Park in northern Virginia...
  Central Prince William County in northern Virginia...
  The City of Manassas in northern Virginia...

* Until 930 PM EDT.

* At 858 PM EDT, a severe thunderstorm was located near Bull Run, or
  near Centreville, moving east at 25 mph.

  HAZARD...60 mph wind gusts and quarter size hail.

  SOURCE...Radar indicated.

  IMPACT...Damaging winds will cause some trees and large branches
           to fall. This could injure those outdoors, as well as
           damage homes and vehicles. Roadways may become blocked by
           downed trees. Localized power outages are possible.
           Unsecured light objects may become projectiles.

* Locations impacted include...
  Centreville, Reston, Fairfax, Vienna, Mantua, Burke, Linton Hall,
  Oakton, Chantilly, Wolf Trap, Merrifield, Bull Run, Newington,
  Manassas, West Springfield, Sudley, Manassas Park, Fairfax Station,
  Ravensworth and Clifton.


For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a


LAT...LON 3871 7753 3881 7755 3895 7729 3875 7720
TIME...MOT...LOC 0058Z 250DEG 21KT 3879 7746




On August 19th, 2019 at 1:31 AM MDT, the National Weather Service in Cheyenne WY has incorporated the "emergency" wording to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. This is unofficial wording that is used when an extremely intense Severe Storm impacts a largely populated location. In this case, 3 inch diameter hail was imminent for areas around both Scotts Bluff, and Gering, Wyoming.[20]

WWUS55 KCYS 160731

Severe Weather Statement
National Weather Service Cheyenne WY
131 AM MDT Fri Aug 16 2019

Scotts Bluff NE-Banner NE-Sioux NE-
131 AM MDT Fri Aug 16 2019



At 129 AM MDT, a severe thunderstorm was located near Scotts Bluff 
National Monument, or near Scottsbluff, moving east at 40 mph. 3 

This is a very dangerous storm!

HAZARD...Three inch hail and 60 mph wind gusts.

SOURCE...Trained weather spotters.

IMPACT...People and animals outdoors will be severely injured. 
         Expect shattered windows, extensive damage to roofs, 
         siding, and vehicles.

Locations impacted include...
Scottsbluff, Gering, Mitchell, Terrytown, Minatare, Wildcat Hills
State Recreation Area, Lake Minatare Campground, Wildcat Hills
Campground, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Hubbard Hill, Scottsbluff
Airport, Lake Minatare, Lake Alice, Melbeta and McGrew.


For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a

This is a dangerous storm. Prepare immediately for large destructive
hail capable of producing significant damage. People outside should
move to a shelter, inside a strong building and away from windows.


LAT...LON 4185 10394 4233 10379 4230 10344 4209 10345
      4209 10340 4200 10340 4198 10336 4156 10337
      4170 10388
TIME...MOT...LOC 0729Z 288DEG 34KT 4189 10374 



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Severe Thunderstorm Warning". NOAA National Weather Service Glossary. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  2. ^ a b c Environment Canada. "Severe Thunderstorm Warning". Prairie and Northern Region Weather Watch and Weather Warning Criteria. Archived from the original on 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  3. ^ a b "SkyWarn UK Warning criteria". SkyWarn UK. Retrieved 21 December 2011.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Australian weather and warnings information". Archived from the original on 2017-01-07. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  5. ^ "Storm Prediction Center Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". Retrieved 2018-09-09.
  6. ^ a b "Severe Thunderstorm Definitions". National Weather Service. 17 August 2019.
  7. ^ McClure, Mike (2009-05-26). "New One Inch Hail Criteria for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings" (PDF). Weather Home Companion. National Weather Service Quad Cities, IA/IL. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-15.
  8. ^ "National Weather Services - Bureau of Meteorology". Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  9. ^ Howerton, Paul (2008-06-12). "Severe Thunderstorm Warning". Iowa Environmental Mesonet NWS Product Archive. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  10. ^ "Severe Thunderstorm". NOAA National Weather Service Glossary. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  11. ^ Howerton, Paul (2008-06-12). "Severe Thunderstorm Warning". Iowa Environmental Mesonet NWS Product Archive. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  12. ^ NOAA Warning Decision Training Branch (2008-02-26). "Why Storm-Based Warnings?". Storm-Based Warnings. Archived from the original on 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  13. ^ Bureau of Meteorology (October 2004). "Bureau of Meteorology: Severe Weather Warning Education". Severe Weather Warning Education. Archived from the original on 2012-11-27. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  14. ^ Meteorological Service of New Zealand Ltd. "Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and other NZ Weather Warnings from". Severe Thunderstorm Criteria. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  15. ^ Deutscher Wetterdienst. "Wetter und Klima - Deutscher Wetterdienst -- Warnungen". Unwetterkriterien (in German). Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  16. ^ Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (2010-01-30). "Granizo". Servicio Meteorologico Nacional - Mexico - Glosario G (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2010-12-13. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  17. ^ Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (2010-02-05). "Escalas empleadas" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  18. ^ Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (2010-02-05). "Aviso de Tormentas Intensas y Granizo" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  19. ^ "SVR Example". Iowa State NWS Text product archives. 13 August 2019.
  20. ^, daryl herzmann. "IEM :: SVS from NWS CYS". Retrieved 2019-08-26.

External links[edit]