The Development of a Next Generation Graphical Forecast at NWS Key West

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Monday, 3 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Christopher Rothwell, NOAA/NWS, Key West, FL; and W. A. Ulrich, A. Devanas, and F. Johnson

Handout (4.0 MB)

The NWS Key West Weather Forecast Office (WFO) reviewed the range of graphical forecast products (i.e., Graphicasts, Weather Stories, etc.) which are published on WFO Web sites across the country. Based on that review, a decision was made to apply professional design concepts to produce graphical forecasts. Effective graphics should follow several proven rules, including an appropriate signal-to-noise ratio, the proper use of empty space, aesthetic balance and, first and foremost, simplicity. The graphical forecasts developed at WFO Key West are similar to those used in large media markets, and they allow the audience to quickly absorb the information without confusion caused by superfluous meteorological jargon and symbols. A focus on impacts, rather than meteorological analysis, using consistent, legible fonts and clean eye-catching graphics, was used in product development. Multiple text boxes were avoided, as were ambiguous arrows and cryptic meteorological symbols, with the intent of producing a graphical forecast easily understood by a diverse audience. A targeted and simple message was provided, with minimal text or extraneous information. The images are automatically generated from existing text products, which ensures consistency across the suite of products issued by the WFO. The project included several open forum discussions with the WFO staff, to tap the creativity of the various members and to encourage acceptance by all. After several revisions, the project is now seeking input from core partners to refine the graphical forecasts into polished public products. Since the release of the graphical forecasts on the WFO Key West Web site, several WFOs have adopted similar formats, and others have inquired about the methodology used to produce the products.