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Improving Communication of Uncertainty and Risk of High-Impact Weather through Innovative Forecaster Workshops

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  • 1 Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York
  • | 2 NOAA/NWS/Eastern Region Headquarters, Bohemia, New York
  • | 3 Riley’s Way Foundation, Brooklyn, New York
  • | 4 Department of Environmental and Society, Utah State University, Logan, Utah
  • | 5 Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York
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Abstract

It is challenging to communicate uncertainty for high-impact weather events to the public and decision-makers. As a result, there is an increased emphasis and training within the National Weather Service (NWS) for “impact-based decision support.” A Collaborative Science, Technology, And Research (CSTAR) project led by Stony Brook University (SBU) in collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, several NWS forecast offices, and NWS operational centers held two workshops at SBU on effective forecast communication of probabilistic information for high-impact weather. Trainers in two 1.5-day workshops helped 15–20 forecasters learn to distill their messages, engage audiences, and more effectively communicate risk and uncertainty to decision-makers, media, and the general public. The novel aspect of the first workshop focused on using improvisational techniques to connect with audiences along with exercises to improve communication skills using short, clear, conversational statements. The same forecasters participated in the second workshop, which focused on matching messages to intended audiences and stakeholder interaction. Using a recent high-impact weather event, representatives in emergency management, TV media, departments of transportation, and emergency services provided feedback on the forecaster oral presentations (2–3 min) and a visual slide. This article describes our innovative workshop approach, illustrates some of the techniques used, and highlights participant feedback.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Brian A. Colle, brian.colle@stonybrook.edu

Abstract

It is challenging to communicate uncertainty for high-impact weather events to the public and decision-makers. As a result, there is an increased emphasis and training within the National Weather Service (NWS) for “impact-based decision support.” A Collaborative Science, Technology, And Research (CSTAR) project led by Stony Brook University (SBU) in collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, several NWS forecast offices, and NWS operational centers held two workshops at SBU on effective forecast communication of probabilistic information for high-impact weather. Trainers in two 1.5-day workshops helped 15–20 forecasters learn to distill their messages, engage audiences, and more effectively communicate risk and uncertainty to decision-makers, media, and the general public. The novel aspect of the first workshop focused on using improvisational techniques to connect with audiences along with exercises to improve communication skills using short, clear, conversational statements. The same forecasters participated in the second workshop, which focused on matching messages to intended audiences and stakeholder interaction. Using a recent high-impact weather event, representatives in emergency management, TV media, departments of transportation, and emergency services provided feedback on the forecaster oral presentations (2–3 min) and a visual slide. This article describes our innovative workshop approach, illustrates some of the techniques used, and highlights participant feedback.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dr. Brian A. Colle, brian.colle@stonybrook.edu

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