16B.2 Message from Irma: The Public’s Need to Understand the Words and Images Used in Hurricane Watches, Warnings, and Other Hurricane-Related Products

Friday, 20 April 2018: 12:00 AM
Masters ABCD (Sawgrass Marriott)
H. Michael Mogil, How The Weatherworks, Naples, FL

During Hurricane Irma, I had an opportunity to provide more than two weeks of live, morning “drive time,” weather support for a local Naples area radio station (WGUF-FM). During this time, in preparing for my radio segments and in answering questions that arose, several things became evident. First, the public does not understand storm surge forecasts and cannot interpret the “height above ground level” information, especially as it relates to their location. Second, the public does not appreciate the vagaries that affect subtle changes in hurricane forecasts and the probabilities associated with such forecasts. And, third, the public is lost when it comes to the myriad of hurricane related products they see online. Some of these would each take 10-15 minutes to read (and due to issuance time variations and other factors may not always be consistent).
Even with TV meteorologists serving as science experts, and with a plethora of solid science available on the Internet, people still don’t get it.
Based on many post-Irma discussions, I have some ideas for ensuring clearer messaging and improving public understanding, many within a Weather Ready Nation framework. For the latter, I’m proposing that Florida, a state with a myriad of weather, geologic, hydrologic, and oceanographic impacts, become the lead state in developing a twelve grade, culminating, earth science course to be taught alongside a similarly structured environmental science offering. This course could be designed to help young adults better understand and cope with earth science related hazards, problems, and applications. Having meteorologists, meteorological and educational organizations, and other involved in the earth/space sciences supporting its creation will be important.
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