J6.2 POP Problem: Understanding Public Perception and Confusion

Tuesday, 8 January 2019: 10:45 AM
North 231AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Jacob Ryan Reed, Univ. of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL; and J. C. Senkbeil

The National Weather Service began including PoPs in their forecasts in 1965. PoPs are now pervasive across the weather enterprise. Despite the familiarity of PoPs in weather forecasts, this product continues to be the culprit of confusion, disagreement, and frustration among the public as well as meteorologists. This turmoil is well demonstrated in the Southeast U.S. during the summer months when airmass convection frequently dots the landscape. Confusion and frustration surrounding PoP forecasts can be avoided by addressing current shortcomings in how this product is visually and verbally communicated.

A total of 167 people in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee were surveyed about their experience with PoP forecasts. Participants were asked to rank the order of importance of components of precipitation forecasts such as timing, accumulation, intensity, duration, and the percentage chance. Additionally, respondents were asked to evaluate current television forecast graphics to identify shortcomings. Results show that people prioritize timing and intensity as the most important components of precipitation forecasts. This information is not currently available in graphics like the 7-day forecast. Approximately 80 percent of participants were not able to identify how much precipitation was going to fall, how long it would last, when it would happen, or how intense it would be after looking at 7-day forecast graphics. This study illustrates some of the disconnects between what the public wants in their precipitation forecasts and what the meteorological community is currently providing them.

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