Posted by: pyeager | March 4, 2010

Call It Tornado Season, Not Severe Weather Season

by Paul Yeager, author of Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

If there’s one way to communicate poorly, it’s to not look at a topic through the eyes of the audience. That’s what meteorologists do every time they talk about “severe weather season” instead of something that would be better understood by the public, such as “tornado season.”

A meteorologist defines severe weather as the damage caused by thunderstorms, such as hail, wind damage, and tornadoes; however, the average person defines severe weather as any weather that is, well, severe. This would include blizzards, floods, record-breaking cold, and thunderstorm-related damage.

Being one, I know how the mind of the meteorologist works; they’re concerned that tornado season wouldn’t adequately cover the range of potential damage that the current definition of severe weather does since it wouldn’t include hail or wind damage.

That’s a reasonable point, but calling it tornado season would better represent the types of weather intended to be referenced than a generic term such as severe weather.

Remember, communication is about the audience, not the speaker.


  1. Only thing wrong with that reasoning, other parts of the nation get severe weather, but few tornadoes. Calling it tornado season is inaccurate in I dare say, MOST of the country. Now, Tornado season will work just fine in the Midwest. But the East Coast, and the West, not so much.
    As you mentioned, Severe weather cover pretty much everything.
    I see you don’t like that broad of a label, but, it seems to work better.

  2. […] Read this article: Call It Tornado Season, Not Severe Weather Season « Cloudy and Cool […]

  3. “Remember, communication is about the audience, not the speaker.” Boy is that ever true in so many situations. On NOAA Weather Radio, the voice often says for further information to consult the “watch product.” What the heck is that? Talk like your audience so they will understand.

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