J6.5 The AMS Board of Best Practices: Communicating Winter Weather Forecast Uncertainty

Monday, 8 January 2018: 11:15 AM
Ballroom B (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
George Frederick Jr., Univ. of the Incarnate Word, Georgetown, TX; and G. J. Mulvey

In 2015 the AMS Council established the Board of Best Practices under the Professional Affairs Commission. It held its first meeting at the annual meeting in Phoenix that year. The role of this new Board is to develop Best Practices. An AMS Best Practice differs from an AMS Statement in that its purpose is to alert the AMS membership, governmental and private sector organizations, and in some cases, the general public to AMS endorsed best practices across sectors of the weather, water, and climate enterprise, and to promote statements of scientifically-based standards and practices from third parties deemed worthy of the credibility and reputation of the society. Among early tasks approved for Best Practices were (1) Publicly Sharing Weather Information via Social Media, (2) Communicating winter weather forecast uncertainty, and (3) a joint effort with the ASCE on estimating tornado wind speeds.

Bob Ryan has been at the forefront of advancing the way we communicate weather and climate information to the public. So, this presentation will highlight the task of developing a best practice for communicating winter weather forecast uncertainty. The weather and climate enterprise community has been urged to find ways to more effectively estimate and communicate uncertainty in weather and climate forecasts. This opportunity was highlighted in a recommendation of the 2003 NRC report Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Forecasts. Subsequently, a follow-on study by the NRC published in 2006 entitled Completing the Forecast: Characterizing and Communicating Uncertainty for Better Decisions Using Weather and Climate Forecasts laid out detailed recommendations on all aspects of the topic and urged an enterprise-wide response. A recent Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society entitled Weather Analysis and Forecasting, adopted on 25 March 2015, noted that “…Beyond improving the forecast itself, improvement in the communication and best use of forecast information is also needed…” The Statement goes on to say that “…Collaborative research with social scientists will also enable forecasters to codify best practices in forecasting philosophy, communication, and training amidst rapid technological change…” Events such as the January 2015 winter storm that threatened New York City and the Northeast US with “record snowfall of historic proportions” and a March 2013 forecast snow event in the Washington DC area, termed by some as “snowquester”, have raised the specter that winter storm forecasting is in need of both improvement and better dialog on the uncertainties that are attendant in the forecasts. In both of these cases, major transportation hubs were shut down, residents were warned to stay in their homes and entire industries were shuttered. The resulting winter storms were not nearly as severe as forecast for certain cities nor were the expectations of the decisionmakers in those cities met. There are also many documented cases where winter storm conditions were “under forecast” and citizens, industry and government agencies were caught unawares with significant economic and safety impact. The impact of these perceived busted forecasts in areas of high population density and strong government involvement is felt across the entire weather and climate enterprise community. While we all know there is uncertainty in most weather and climate predictions, this information is often not properly conveyed to decisionmakers and the public at large.

The Board of Best Practices has undertaken the challenge of addressing this topic. A Drafting Committee of this Board is finalizing its proposed “Best Practice” which is being vetted with the community and will be published at some point in the near future. This presentation will describe progress to date and solicit input from the weather and climate community.

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