3B.4 Communicating National Hurricane Center Forecasts of Storm Surge Hazards

Monday, 7 January 2013: 4:45 PM
Room 18D (Austin Convention Center)
Jamie Rhome, NOAA/NCEP/NHC, Miami, FL; and R. Berg, M. Lowry, W. Booth, E. Gibney, and B. H. Morrow

A 2006 report by the National Research Council of the National Academies, Completing the Forecast, provided several major recommendations to the weather and climate community outlining how to better characterize and communicate uncertainty information in forecasts. One of the recommendations specifically stated that “NOAA should improve its product development process by collaborating with users and partners in the Enterprise from the outset and engaging and using social and behavioral science expertise.” The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is heavily engaged in a research-to-operations initiative called the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program (HFIP) to produce hurricane forecasts of higher accuracy and greater reliability. While most of the teams in HFIP focus on the physical aspects of hurricane observation and modeling, a Socio-economic Team comprising NHC scientists, other National Weather Service forecasters, and representatives from the emergency management, media, private sector, and social science communities are working to identify current and new hurricane products and graphical techniques that will increase public understanding of hurricane forecast information and enhance reliability on NWS forecasts. Each member of the team brings a unique and diverse perspective on user requirements, especially since some are users of forecast information themselves. Comprehensive social science surveys and research are being conducted to test graphical prototypes with emergency managers, broadcast meteorologists, the public, and NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologists.

There is increasing evidence that the public continues to under-recognize the dangers of storm surge. The most recent example is that 15,000 people did not evacuate from Galveston Island for Hurricane Ike despite a forecast of up to 20 feet of storm surge. Accordingly, major initiatives are underway at the National Hurricane Center to find better ways to communicate the risk to vulnerable coastal residents. At the heart of evaluating ways to improve storm surge communication is the addition of social science elements within the traditional prototyping and decision making process. Considerable research within the social sciences has contributed to a better understanding of how people perceive and react to risk. Moreover, social science is now providing targeted inputs on how to better design operational products and graphics. This paper provides an overview of a new process in place at the National Hurricane Center to incorporate social science inputs for improving public understanding of storm surge and the associated threat during landfalling storms.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner