Employing Rhetoric to Improve Probabilistic Forecast Communication

Project: Research project

Project Details


Employing Rhetoric to Improve Probabilistic Forecast Communication Employing Rhetoric to Improve Probabilistic Forecast Communication Increasingly extreme weather events urgently require new communicative practices to provide stakeholders with actionable forecast information to accurately assess risks and take action to protect life and property. The National Weather Services (NWS) National Blend of Models (NBM) now provides statistically post-processed probabilistic forecast information on a wide range of weather elements to forecasters in operations (Craven et al., 2019). To produce worldclass Impact-Based Decision Support Services (IDSS) the NWS needs to understand how to best communicate this new and often complex Probabilistic Hazard Information (PHI). The proposed research is immediately applicable to a wide range of forecast hazards from heavy rain and flooding, to extreme heat and cold, high-impact snow storms, and damaging wind events. Our group of interdisciplinary researchers will collaborate across three research institutions and five NWS forecast offices in the western U.S. to ensure widespread usability of our findings. Our main goal is to identify stakeholder risk thresholds to improve the visualization of PHI forecasts. We will accelerate operationalization of this research via an iterative communication-engineering approach. We will create a consistent, effective approach for communicating probabilistic forecast information using NWS stakeholder survey results with our findings made available to operational forecasters during the practical award period. Our research is directly relevant to NOAA OAR Program Priority SSP-2(a) because we are combining expertise from meteorology, social science, and communication studies to improve the visual display of confidence, uncertainty, and/or probabilistic information for forecasters, emergency managers, and/or the public. We propose to test visualizations of PHI for a wide range of weather hazards with decision makers throughout the western U.S. by surveying NWS forecast offices core partners and social-media users. We will create and evaluate visualizations of probabilistic forecasts using a range of methods to determine where risk-assessment thresholds lie and use them to create tools NWS staff throughout the U.S. can employ to optimize PHI communication with their own user groups. Central to this project is the use of rhetoric, a subdiscipline of communication studies that models collective decision making in the face of rampant uncertainty (Goodnight, 1982, 2012). Rhetoric is effectively the engineering counterpart to social science. A rhetorical approach allows us to apply social-science research to particular risk assessment situations in real time. Project outcomes are as follows: (1) Provide operational meteorologists with a best practices guide and adaptable templates for visual and verbal communication techniques of PHI; (2) Supply a simple rhetorical toolkit for recovering risk thresholds from stakeholder surveys to allow more NWS offices to engineer just-in-time communication solutions for their partners; (3) Create educational videos about PHI forecasting to enrich and strengthen NWSstakeholder communication. The proposed multifaceted approach has a high probability of revolutionizing weather forecast communication and enhancing IDSS, especially during high impact, costly, and deadly weather events.
Effective start/end date8/1/217/31/23


  • DOC: National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): $485,382.00


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