When it comes to weather in the Texas panhandle, we face a lot of extremes. From tornadoes, extreme heat, flash flooding, and winter weather, the weather here is always changing and quickly. As a former TV meteorologist myself, I know first hand how important it is to be able to predict and track our ever changing weather. In severe weather events, a couple seconds or minutes can mean a huge difference when it comes to safety.

Up until just recently, every local TV station in Amarillo had the same weather graphics computer systems. It is a system called MAX, and while each station can make some customization to the look on air, it is basically the same tools at each station. That is until the folks at ABC 7 KVII, stepped out and purchased a brand new, state of the art system, that has never been implemented in Amarillo.

Credit: Steve Kersh

With this change, not only will the information being presented on TV and online have a sharp look, but it will also equip ABC 7's weather team with new forecast models, new tools for predicting and tracking severe weather, and new ways to explain our weather here in the panhandle.

"For the longest time all three TV stations in Amarillo had the exact same weather graphics computer system. So when we showed a computer model, we were pretty much showing the same thing. What we decided to do here at ABC 7 is go to the Baron computer model system, the Baron Lynx system," says Chief Meteorologist Steve Kersh. "It's different, it's better in our opinion. We will be able to show the weather in a different way, we'll be able to show a lot more hyper local weather in folks' towns. Be able to use our sky cams in a different way. And the biggest difference people will see is going to be your radar information."

As a resident of the Texas panhandle, this new system is going to provide weather information that you may have never seen before on TV. The network of weather stations and camera ABC 7 already has in place will integrate into the new system and combine to provide even more real-time data. The Baron Forecast Model is something that will be exclusive to ABC 7 and combines traditional weather forecasting with new algorithms and metrics to deliver enhanced data. This includes the ability to forecast and spot hail within storms approaching the area. One of the biggest advantages this new system gives ABC 7, is the Baron Tornado Index (BTI). This exclusive tool to the Baron Lynx, allows meteorologists to predict the tornado threat for a certain area on a scale of 1-10. The ability to dive deep into a tornadic storm means the ability to give life saving information quicker to the Amarillo area.

Credit: Steve Kersh

"The graphics are going to look better, relating to the viewer as far as what type of weather they can expect is going to be better," said Kersh. "But the biggest thing is the Baron computer model. This is something that's going to be exclusive to our TV markets, Amarillo and Canyon, and the rest of the High Plains. We will even be able to show flow down off the cap rock and the Canadian River Valley in immense detail. That has been missing from our computer model in the past and from computer model data on the TV stations in Amarillo."

While a dollar amount was not disclosed for the new system, the amount of equipment, software, technology, and manpower to implement a change of this magnitude is not cheap. When TV stations make changes to system such as these, they are really investing in our community. Even the MAX systems mentioned above had high price tags at the time of their purchases.

Many thanks to Steve Kersh and Corbin Voges for providing information for this story. Disclosure: ABC 7 KVII is our news and content partner here at Townsquare Media radio and I am a storm chaser for ABC 7.