The National Weather Service learned from the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin five years ago, Sunday, and what it learned could be saving lives in storms that have happened since.

Photo from Twitpic, see more on the Missourinet's Facebook page.

A photo of the May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado from Twitpic.

The Weather Service works with social scientists to study things like how the public responds to the watches and warnings the Service issues. Meteorologist Andy Boxell says after Joplin and a tornado outbreak across the southern U.S. that preceded it, the Service learned it needed to clarify its messaging.

“To make sure that we were very, very clear about the information that we had in terms of reports that we had already received as well as the impacts that we expect from a given tornado,” said Boxell.

“We know from the social science community that human beings go through a natural response cycle when faced with having to make a decision as to whether to do something like take cover from a severe weather event,” said Boxell. “The National Weather Service revamped some of its warning products – tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings – changed some of that formatting to that we can be a little bit more clear about the impacts that we expected.”

Events Sunday will mark the 5-year anniversary of that tornado, that killed 161 people and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses in and near Joplin.