Those Storm Track Arrows: What Do They Mean? Print
April 29, 2011

If there’s a thunderstorm nearby, chances are you’ve seen them with your WxWorx software. You know them. Those mysterious orange and pink arrows. What are they telling you?

As you probably know, those arrows indicate severe weather conditions. And if you click on them, you can get some interesting details on what’s going on inside those storms.

But there’s a lot more going on with those arrows than their simple appearance would suggest.

First: yes, simple. When developing the WxWorx software for aviation, marine and ground industries, we kept in mind that a lot of you simply don’t have the time or training for complex weather analysis. You want to know where the bad stuff is. You want to know where it’s headed.

That’s what those little arrows are designed to do. But let’s get formal; In the XM Weather data stream, those colored markers are actually called Severe Weather Storm Tracks, and they’re the result of a unique and patented process developed by WxWorx’ parent company, Baron Services. Here’s the breakdown on what they mean.

Obviously, the direction each storm track is pointing shows you in which direction the storm is estimated to be moving. Direction is ascertained through a process that accurately projects a storm’s direction, size and speed. But the arrow’s color is important, too.

If the storm track is pink, that indicates severe weather activity has been detected with radar. Generally speaking, we designed the storm tracks to identify and pinpoint convective storm activity; that is, storms caused by instability in the atmosphere as the result of heat. If a storm is convective, then you can expect the potential for hail, heavy rain and strong winds.

Orange storm tracks, on the other hand, show you tornadic storm cells. These are generated from radar, as well, but from a different mode, where the radar is scanning for wind speed and direction. If you see an orange storm track, that’s telling you that the Baron algorithms have detected rotating winds, called wind shear, in the radar data.

Remember, you can also click the box at the base of each of these storm tracks for more information. Severe storm tracks will give you a range of parameters, including winds and hail content. Storm tracks activated by rotating winds will highlight the speed of the wind shear.

A few more notes:

  • Storm tracks will update in your WxWorx software every 1.25 minutes. This is faster than the NEXRAD radar update cycle, so storm tracks may shift before the latest radar scan comes in. Keep in mind that the storm is always moving between each radar update.
  • These storm tracks are unique, because they focus on the most intense areas of a storm. We’ve performed extensive testing on the storm tracking algorithms, and the tracks result in extremely accurate identification of hail cores, flooding and areas with damaging straightline winds or tornadoes.

So sure, they may look simple, but don’t underestimate those little storm tracks. They can be a great guide for where the strongest weather is located. If you have any questions about Severe Weather Storm Tracks, visit our Facebook or Twitter pages, and tell us what you’d like to know. There’s also some additional information on storm tracks in the data section of the WxWorx website.