Weather 101's - Understanding Severe Outlooks

SPC Severe Weather Outlooks Explained
Posted at 3:45 PM, Jun 03, 2016

For nearly 35 years, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has used the same color scale for severe weather outlooks. The standard colors for outlook risks were; Yellow for Slight, Red for Moderate & Magenta/Pink for High. These colors and their meanings won't change, but two additional outlook colors have been added. As of October 22nd, 2014, a Marginal and Enhanced Risk was added to SPC's outlook forecasts. This article will explain these outlooks along with the meaning of each risk. "So if your community ever falls under one, you'll know what to do and what to expect."



Level 1 Marginal Risk: A Small Chance of Isolated Severe Storms

-Conditions are favorable for storms, and a few of them could become severe.

-Represented by a green color.

-The most common type of severe weather outlook.


Level 2 Slight Risk: Chance of Isolated Severe Storms

-Conditions are favorable for "some" storms to become severe.

-Represented by a yellow color.

-Although not as common as Marginal, this outlook is fairly common as well.


Level 3 Enhanced Risk: Chance of Scattered Severe Storms

-Conditions are favorable for severe weather.

-Represented by a tan/brown color.

-Usually issued within a slight risk if a certain area has an "enhanced" or increased chance of seeing severe storms.

-This is an uncommon severe weather outlook. 

**The last time an Enhanced Risk of severe weather occurred in Maryland - there were reports of grapefruit sized hail in the areas of Cockeysville, MD** Click here for the report


Level 4 Moderate Risk: Severe Weather is Likely

-Conditions will be ideal for widespread severe weather.

-Represented by a red color.

-This is a fairly uncommon severe weather outlook. 

-These are usually issued when severe weather is expected to occur at a widespread/dangerous level.

-Long track tornadoes are possible within Moderate Risk areas.

-These outlooks are only issued if forecast confidence is very high for severe storms.

-The public should always prepare for severe weather, but especially if a moderate or high risk is issued.


Level 5 High Risk: Severe Weather is Anticipated

**Maryland has never been under a high risk of severe weather**

-Conditions are ideal for a severe weather outbreak.

-This outlook is represented by a pink or magenta color.

-These outlooks are rarely issued - maybe 1 to 3 times a year.

-Forecast confidence is very high for a severe weather event within the high risk.

-Several long track tornadoes are common with High Risk outlooks.

-The public should prepare for a severe weather outbreak or prepare to help with damage relief efforts.