1.4 Optimizing Confidence Messaging in Decision Support Services

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 9:30 AM
Salon K (Hilton) (Austin, Texas)
Todd P. Barron, NOAA/NWS, Huntsville, AL

The National Weather Service (NWS) continues to evolve to better serve its partners. As such, the Huntsville Weather Forecast Office (WFO) has taken proactive steps to assess and communicate uncertainty and confidence in its decision support services (DSS). The Tennessee Valley has experienced its share of well-anticipated and significant weather events, however, low-probability but potentially high-impact events are typically more common. Our local Integrated Warning Team (IWT) discussed methods to improve communication during high-impact and low confidence events during two workshops in 2016 and 2017. We then incorporated the identified best practices from the workshops into our DSS to address the communication challenges. These communication practices were used not only for routine duties but for on-scene and remote impact-weather support.
From April 2016 through July 2017, WFO Huntsville supported 50 events remotely and 7 events on-site. Several of those events were directly affected by hazardous weather or the forecast prompted contingency plans from our partners. Due to the complexity of the forecast, our confidence of the impacts were low for many of these supported events. As an example, the opening day of the 2016 Panoply Arts Festival was delayed and eventually cancelled due to stratiform lightning behind an area of thunderstorms. While this situation is very difficult to accurately project, realistic forecast scenarios were communicated to the decision makers that made the call to cancel the Festival. As we witnessed during this example as well as other events, Emergency Management Agencies are more likely to base their decision off a realistic, worst-case scenario from the current, low confidence forecast.
This presentation will detail the efforts made at WFO Huntsville to better serve its partners through effective messaging for events with high uncertainty. Additionally, I will detail best practices from local IWT workshops regarding this subject.
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