This project examines the sensitivity of state-level economic sector output to weather variability, using 24 years of economic data and 70 years of historical weather observations. To estimate sectoral sensitivity to weather impacts such as temperature and precipitation, SIP researchers use a transcendental logarithmic production function. The team is identifying states more sensitive to weather impacts and ranking the 11 non-governmental sectors based on their degree of sensitivity to weather variability. The aggregate dollar amount of variation in U.S. economic activity attributable to weather variability, using 70 years of historical weather observations, varies by about $470 billion a year of 2007 gross domestic product.
Building on several post-Katrina assessments and other studies, NOAA’s “Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project Plan: An Integrated 10-Year Plan to Improve 1-5 Day Hurricane Forecasts” defines a set of aggressive metrics related to research for hurricane track and intensity improvements for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 day lead times, with a focus on rapid intensity change. The work considered here is designed to meet the socio-economic research needs of the HFIP in coordination with ongoing research efforts in the SIP in a manner consistent with the broader social science research issues identified by the social science community. This research focuses on assessing the benefits – assessed qualitatively and if possible, monetized benefits – of achieving the HFIP’s stretch goals. Research efforts for the current effort focus (1) assessment of emergency managers’ needs, uses, and decision-making primarily with respect to hurricane intensity forecast information and (2) households’ values for improved intensity forecasts.
An important component of providing useful weather forecast information is understanding how people interpret uncertainty in weather forecasts and how forecast uncertainty affects people's weather-related decisions. To begin building this knowledge empirically, this project incorporated several weather-related decision scenarios into a nationwide, controlled-access Internet survey with approximately 1500 respondents. Respondents were asked to use precipitation or temperature forecasts to make decisions to protect or not protect from a potential flood or frost. The protection component of the scenario involves monetary costs, and the impact component (flood or frost) involves monetary losses. For each scenario, respondents were given deterministic forecasts and forecasts that conveyed uncertainty in different ways, and they were asked what decision they would make with the different information. The results provide information about respondents' understanding of forecast uncertainty information, inferences of forecast uncertainty, and ability to use uncertainty information in decision making.
Every day, the U.S. weather enterprise collectively provides multiple weather forecasts to a broad public audience. Although the weather community has a general and often experientially based sense of the public arena of weather forecasting, empirical research in this area can improve our understanding of people’s attitudes and behaviors regarding weather forecast information and how these vary among individuals. To begin exploring these topics, SIP researchers with the help of Stratus Consulting conducted a nationwide, controlled-access Internet survey of the general public with 1465 completed responses. The survey included questions to assess people's sources, perceptions, uses, and values for weather forecast information and their perceptions and interpretations for forecast uncertainty information. The socio-demographic characteristics of the sample are comparable to the U.S. population, and there is good geographic distribution with responses from every U.S. state. Respondents were then matched with climatological data and forecast verification measures based on their reported locations. This work examines how people’s attitudes and behaviors for weather forecast information vary based on their socio-demographic characteristics, their experiences with weather based on where they live, and their responses to other questions from the survey.
Appropriate information dissemination and sound decision making during weather emergencies are critical to avoid disasters. This project addresses these needs by developing an integrated understanding of warning systems and processes with a focus on hurricanes in Miami, Florida, and flash floods in Boulder, Colorado. The project, which addresses the HSD decision making, risk, and uncertainty emphasis area, (1) addresses the role of uncertainty throughout the warning process, including information dissemination and decision making; (2) identifies more completely the suite of factors influencing organizational and public decision making and action during extreme weather events; and (3) characterizes public preferences for different attributes of forecast and warning information. The project leverages a multidisciplinary, multi-method approach to understanding weather warning systems, system components, and their interactions. The project includes six components (1) face-to-face organizational interviews with forecasters, public officials, and media personnel; (2) focus groups with public officials, media, and study area residents; (3) face-to-face mental models and decision modeling with National Weather Service forecasters, through individual and group elicitation; (4) face-to-face mental model interviews with public officials, media, and study area residents; (5) a bilingual (English/Spanish) stated preference survey of Miami area residents, and (6) an interdisciplinary weather warning workshop with forecasters, public officials, and media personnel. The project team includes researchers from the fields of meteorology, sociology, economics, decision science, and public policy analysis.
This project investigates communication of hurricane forecast advisories and warnings. Through a multi-method approach, a multidisciplinary team including members from the SIP is examining: 1) the process through which advisories and warnings are developed, and the resulting content; 2) the communication channels used by participants in this process; and 3) how at-risk coastal residents, including more vulnerable populations, comprehend and react to specific components of advisories and warnings. The ultimate goal is to improve communication of hurricane information in order to promote more effective public-protective decision making, thereby saving lives and property. The research will focus around two geographical areas: greater Miami and Houston/Galveston. In each geographical area, the research team conducts semi-structured interviews and observations with (a) National Weather Service forecasters, (b) broadcast meteorologists, and (c) emergency managers. The research team then examines how members of the public comprehend and react to sample messages using (a) a household survey, (b) focus groups with vulnerable populations, and (d) a laboratory test including direct physiological observation. The findings will be communicated back to meteorologists, emergency managers and other communities with the goal of helping improve hurricane warning messages and communication processes.
The purpose of the Storm Data project is to determine the primary information sources, loss estimation techniques, and efforts involved in creating National Weather Service (NWS) damage data presented in Storm Data through a two-part survey distributed to NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologists (WCM) and other relevant NWS employees. Ultimately the results of the survey will be used to present a more comprehensive overview of the Storm Data process, facilitate better training for NWS employees entering Storm Data information, and improve the accuracy of NWS-generated damage data as a whole. The first survey, Part A, was distributed to NWS Weather Forecast Offices’ (WFO) in September 2008 and asked questions about their perceptions of the process as a whole, as well as what changes they believed could be made to improve the quality of loss estimates. The second part of the survey, Part B, was implemented in December 2008 and was distributed to the NWS employee who was responsible for entering damage data into Storm Data for a specific weather event in the preceding year. Events used in the survey were determined as part of a stratified random sample, with 647 events chosen out of approximately 72,000. The survey asked questions about the source types and specific process used to make a damage estimate for each selected event.
The Super Tuesday tornado outbreak on February 5-6, 2008, resulted in 57 fatalities, the greatest number of deaths from an outbreak since May 31, 1985. The event spawned 82 tornadoes in 9 states and caused fatalities in 4 states. There were five violent EF4 tornadoes, two each in Tennessee and Alabama, and one in Arkansas; the Arkansas EF4 tornado had a remarkable 123 mile continuous damage path. The NWS formed a Service Assessment Team to evaluate the event. For the first time ever, the Service Assessment charter included an emphasis on assessing the societal impacts of the event. Two key components of the societal impacts assessment were to better understand why the large loss of life occurred and, more generally, to gather information about people’s actual warning response behaviors. Specifically, there was an emphasis on ascertaining (1) what information people had about the severe weather situation and how they interpreted that information; (2) how people perceived their risk in this situation; and (3) what decisions people made. These aspects were assessed through semi-structured interviews with 41 members of the public. This type of empirical data is critical to helping the meteorological community improve its understanding of how people assess risk and, potentially, to improve its communication of risk to the public.
THORPEX: A Global Atmospheric Research Programme is an international program (under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization) to improve the skill of high-impact weather forecasts for the benefit of society, the economy, and the environment. The NCAR SIP team is playing a major role in developing the Societal and Economic Applications (SEA) component of the International, North American, and U.S. THORPEX efforts. International THORPEX SEA research goals include i) evaluating the net economic benefits of THORPEX improvements in weather forecasting; ii) assessing and improving weather forecast information; and iii) assisting with product development and the transfer of tools and knowledge, especially to developing countries.
Please check back for more information on the User Needs Assessment
The SIP is developing the Digital Library for Societal Impacts (DLSI), a Web-based resource for collecting and disseminating research findings related to the use and value of weather forecasts. The library will provide the research and policy-making communities with easy, organized access to a wide variety of resources, including research results, case studies, Web sites, and decision support tools. The current DLSI collection focuses on literature related to tropical cyclones. You can access a prototype version of the digital library here.
In collaboration with UCAR's Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology Education & Training (COMET), SIP visitor John Cahir (The Pennsylvania State University) is developing a blueprint for how the application of new science and technology developed in THORPEX can improve the capability of meteorological services internationally, particularly in developing countries. The planned work will be organized along societal and economic themes that have the potential to be impacted by results from THORPEX.
The Weather and Society * Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) workshop effort began in 2005 as a 2-part workshop developed by then visiting scientist Eve Gruntfest. Through contrinued support and efforts of several people, WAS*IS continued as a series of annual workshops in Boulder, as well as other related workshops, through the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Societal Impacts Program (SIP), with additional
The IWT-WAS*IS is a workshop that uses WAS*IS as a model for capacity building and integrating meteorology and social science, but that focuses on the local NWS Weather Forecast Office County Warning Area-level. The workshop is bringing together NWS forecasters, broadcast meteorologists, and emergency managers (i.e., the Integrated Warning Team) from the local county warning area, as well as social scientists from nearby universities. The purpose of the workshop is to work toward better serving users of weather information by (1) developing strong, lasting partnerships among these groups, and (2) being introduced to societal aspects of high-impact weather events. The first IWT workshop was held in Kansas City, Missouri January 21-23, 2009, at the NWS Training Center.
The Weather and Society * Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) Compendium is an edited volume of articles written by WAS*IS workshop participants. Please check back for more information about the compendium.