Approaches in Communicating Hazardous Weather Risk and Uncertainty

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 4:45 PM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
John T. Ferree, NOAA/NWS, Norman, OK; and J. Correia Jr.

Providers of hazardous weather information are developing new methodologies to define uncertainty in their forecasts and warnings. This motivates increased attention on the question of how to communicate this uncertainty to the general public in ways that enhance appropriate response. Recent studies (Hoekstra et al. 2011) indicate a lack of public understanding of the proper interpretation of weather watches and warnings, and of the words used to describe the expected severity and potential impacts of extreme events (Silva et al. 2013). The addition of uncertainty into these forecasts and warnings could compound this confusion if not well-informed by social and behavioral science.

Communication of risk and uncertainty has also arisen as a key topic of several recent multi-disciplinary conferences and symposia. The first “Weather Ready Nation” conversation in Norman, Oklahoma (2011), and the follow-on meeting held in Birmingham, Alabama (2012), specifically identified warning message content and warning context with respect to improved response as a research imperative. Two American Meteorological Society (AMS) Warning and Communications Workshops (2011 and 2013) focused on this topic. A formal Town Hall Meeting at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the AMS was held to discuss a new paradigm for the existing National Weather Service (NWS) weather forecast and warning system: Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats (FACETs). Finally, planned for November 2014 is a multi-disciplinary workshop with a goal to chart an innovative course for reducing mortality associated with extreme weather.

This presentation will review ongoing and proposed social science research on communicating hazardous weather risk and uncertainty stemming from these meetings and workshops. In some areas, new research needs have been identified, but research proposals have not yet been identified.