While this mission remains foundational to the operation of NWS/NOAA, the shift in vision created a system-wide set of changes. The basis of the mission resides still in science but the vision has grown to include in equal measure social science. The foundational knowledge for enacting IDSS lies at the intersection of three knowledge/experience streams. First, the practical and everyday knowledge and experience of meteorological operations, including NWS Forecast offices and Centers as well as private sector expansion all point to a need to be responsive to social, economic, political, and technological changes. Second, the digital revolution and its democratization of mass communication and sophisticated messaging exerts pressure in the form of shifting expectation among various publics. And third, changes in computing and techniques of weather forecasting laid the groundwork for generating additional weather products but simultaneously created problems in how to present these products to non-meteorologically trained partners in the weather enterprise.
The result is what might be best understood as an “imperfect storm” that created or expanded cracks in a system (or really a subsystem) that, in words of a wise and wonderful poet, “let the light in”. This is not about showing up how this system or aspects of it were broken, but rather highlights one of the most wondrous and compelling features of open systems: equifinality. Seen in this way, IDSS is a remarkable adaptation of a system to changes both in its environment and its internal functioning.
Built on foundational knowledge arising from eighty years of issuing warnings and advisories, centuries of scientific inquiry and mathematical modeling, and the development of a weather enterprise, our current understanding of how the complex subsystems of forecasting, transportation, education, and social support systems interconnect enable our current capacity to provide crucial information that engages enterprise partner understanding to facilitate safer and wiser decision-making in the face of dangerous weather. The challenges of understanding how human cognition, memory, and decision-making work, especially in the face of often urgent circumstances, and in light of the probabilistic nature of forecasting grounds the nature and shape of the problems facing the further development of IDSS.