Improving the Use of Hydrologic Probabilistic and Deterministic Information in Decision-Making
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Improving the Use of Hydrologic Probabilistic and Deterministic Information in Decision-Making

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  • Journal Title:
    Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
  • Description:
    Uncertainty is everywhere and understanding how individuals understand and use forecast information to make decisions given varying levels of certainty is crucial for effectively communicating risks and weather hazards. To advance prior research about how various audiences use and understand probabilistic and deterministic hydrologic forecast information, a social science study involving multiple scenario-based focus groups and surveys at four locations (Eureka, California; Gunnison, Colorado; Durango, Colorado; Owego, New York) across the United States was conducted with professionals and residents. Focusing on the Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast System, the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, and briefings, this research investigated how users tolerate divergence in probabilistic and deterministic forecasts and how deterministic and probabilistic river level forecasts can be presented simultaneously without causing confusion. This study found that probabilistic forecasts introduce a tremendous amount of new, yet valuable, information but can quickly overwhelm users based on how they are conveyed and communicated. Some were unaware of resources available, or how to find, sort, and prioritize among all the data and information. Importantly, when presented with a divergence between deterministic and probabilistic forecasts, most sought out more information while some others reported diminished confidence in the products. Users in all regions expressed a desire to “ground truth” the accuracy of probabilistic forecasts, understand the drivers of the forecasts, and become more familiar with them. In addition, a prototype probabilistic product that includes a deterministic forecast was tested, and suggestions for communicating probabilistic information through the use of briefing packages is proposed.
  • Source:
    Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 102(10), E1878-E1896
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