Understanding Broadcast Meteorologists’ Current and Future Use of Severe Weather Watches, Warnings, and Probabilistic Hazard Information
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Understanding Broadcast Meteorologists’ Current and Future Use of Severe Weather Watches, Warnings, and Probabilistic Hazard Information

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  • Journal Title:
    Weather, Climate, and Society
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    Broadcast meteorologists are essential in the communication of National Weather Service (NWS) warnings to the public. Therefore, it is imperative to include them in a user-centered approach for the design and implementation of new warning products. Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats (FACETs) will modernize the way meteorologists forecast and communicate NWS warning information to the general public using rapidly updating probabilistic hazard information (PHI). Storm-scale PHI consists of probabilistic forecasts for severe wind/hail, tornadoes, and lightning hazards. Hence, NWS warnings would have the capacity to be supplemented by a quantitative or qualitative likelihood of hazard occurrence. The researchers conducting this study wanted to know what broadcast meteorologists thought about the inclusion of this likelihood information and how it could impact their decision-making and communication process. Using a nationwide survey, this team of researchers first asked broadcast meteorologists about their current practices for severe weather coverage using NWS watches and warnings. Next, broadcast meteorologists were introduced to multiple iterations of PHI prototypes and queried for their input. Findings indicated that broadcast meteorologists already face a complex decision-making and communication process under today’s warning paradigm. In addition, respondents were split on whether to explicitly communicate probabilities with their viewers. Respondents’ choices were also somewhat inconclusive regarding nomenclature, definitions of PHI and representations of PHI with warning polygons. These results suggest that PHI should feature user-driven, customizable options to fulfill broadcast meteorologists’ needs and that the iterative nature of the research-and-development process of PHI should continue. Significance Statement Broadcast meteorologists are vital communicators of dangerous weather to the public, leading researchers to study them more closely. Using a nationwide survey, this team of researchers wanted to know how broadcast meteorologists talk about tornadoes, large hail, and high winds to their viewers under today’s system of National Weather Service warnings. Survey findings indicated that broadcast meteorologists face a complex decision-making process when communicating dangerous weather. Any effort to modernize the current warning system, such as including hazard probability, should consider this complex process. Modernization should complement the role of broadcast meteorologists to ultimately serve the public and user-driven options should be a key component of any probabilistic information that is included in a future National Weather Service warning system.
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    Weather, Climate, and Society, 15(4), 893-907
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