12A.4 Communicating Probabilistic Hazard Information: Broadcast Meteorologists in the 2018–19 Hazardous Weather Testbed

Thursday, 16 January 2020: 11:15 AM
152 (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Holly Obermeier, CIRES/Univ. of Colorado and NOAA/Global Systems Division, Boulder, CO; and K. Berry, K. E. Klockow-McClain, T. C. Meyer, P. A. Campbell, A. E. Gerard, J. E. Trujillo-Falcón, and C. Carithers

Broadcast meteorologists serve a critical and complex role in the communication of weather warnings. Surveys conducted after tornadic events indicate that approximately 85% of respondents receive severe weather warnings from local broadcast meteorologists (Hammer and Schmidlin 2002; Sherman-Morris 2005; Schmidlin 2008). Viewers cite trust of broadcaster advice as a main influence in deciding to seek shelter (Hammer and Schmidlin 2002; Sherman-Morris 2005). Even as cell phones have become an increasingly popular way for the public receive warnings, surveys continue to indicate that television is the primary source of tornado warnings nationwide (Silva et al. 2017, 2018). Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats (FACETs) is a next-generation approach to National Weather Service (NWS) watches/warnings that will deliver user-specific, probabilistic hazard information (PHI) for improved decision making. As research with severe convective PHI matures and approaches operational use, an outstanding question exists about how PHI should relate to the current warning paradigm. Due to their role as intermediaries between NWS forecasters and the publics, two broadcast meteorologists, working in a team environment, were included in each week of the 2018 Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) Probabilistic Hazard Information (PHI) and the 2019 HWT PHI-Hazard Services (HS-PHI) projects. Research protocols were developed and used to systematically study how broadcast meteorologists interpret, use, and communicate probabilistic information. Broadcast participants performed typical job functions under a simulated television studio environment with chroma key (developed within the Oklahoma Weather Lab). The broadcasters received experimental warnings and PHI (tornado, wind/hail and lightning) for displaced realtime events. Broadcasters used both on-air and social media outlets to communicate PHI to their audiences. Researchers concentrated on communication challenges and investigated the interplay between the PHI plume and the traditional warning polygon, and whether they should be intrinsically connected. Decision points of interest included when to run crawls, post to social media, interrupt commercials, and interrupt programming. Other challenges included the visual display of PHI, including color gradients and layering with other data. Results supported the continued need for a warning threshold or trigger, however, participants strongly desired the inclusion of probabilistic information in tandem with the warning polygon. Additional results will be presented concerning how participants chose to communicate multiple layers of information and the challenges created by the inclusion of continuously-updating PHI in a television studio setting.
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