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Perceptions, Uses, and Interpretations of Uncertainty in Current Weather Forecasts by Spanish Undergraduate Students

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  • 1 Department of Applied Physics, Faculty of Sciences, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
  • 2 Multidisciplinary Institute for Environmental Studies Ramón Margalef, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
  • 3 Department of Regional Geographic Analysis and Physical Geography, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
  • 4 Department of Physics, Systems Engineering and Signal Theory, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
  • 5 University Institute of Physics Applied to Sciences and Technologies, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
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Abstract

This quantitative study evaluates how 71 Spanish undergraduate students perceive and interpret the uncertainty inherent to deterministic forecasts. It is based on several questions that asked participants what they expect given a forecast presented under the deterministic paradigm for a specific lead time and a particular weather parameter. In this regard, both normal and extreme weather conditions were studied. Students’ responses to the temperature forecast as it is usually presented in the media expect an uncertainty range of ±1°–2°C. For wind speed, uncertainty shows a deviation of ±5–10 km h−1, and the uncertainty range assigned to the precipitation amount shows a deviation of ±30 mm from the specific value provided in a deterministic format. Participants perceive the minimum night temperatures as the least-biased parameter from the deterministic forecast, while the amount of rain is perceived as the most-biased one. In addition, participants were then asked about their probabilistic threshold for taking appropriate precautionary action under distinct decision-making scenarios of temperature, wind speed, and rain. Results indicate that participants have different probabilistic thresholds for taking protective action and that context and presentation influence forecast use. Participants were also asked about the meaning of the probability-of-precipitation (PoP) forecast. Around 40% of responses reformulated the default options, and around 20% selected the correct answer, following previous studies related to this research topic. As a general result, it has been found that participants infer uncertainty into deterministic forecasts, and they are mostly used to take action in the presence of decision-making scenarios. In contrast, more difficulties were found when interpreting probabilistic forecasts.

© 2020 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: Igor Gómez, igor.gomez@ua.es

Abstract

This quantitative study evaluates how 71 Spanish undergraduate students perceive and interpret the uncertainty inherent to deterministic forecasts. It is based on several questions that asked participants what they expect given a forecast presented under the deterministic paradigm for a specific lead time and a particular weather parameter. In this regard, both normal and extreme weather conditions were studied. Students’ responses to the temperature forecast as it is usually presented in the media expect an uncertainty range of ±1°–2°C. For wind speed, uncertainty shows a deviation of ±5–10 km h−1, and the uncertainty range assigned to the precipitation amount shows a deviation of ±30 mm from the specific value provided in a deterministic format. Participants perceive the minimum night temperatures as the least-biased parameter from the deterministic forecast, while the amount of rain is perceived as the most-biased one. In addition, participants were then asked about their probabilistic threshold for taking appropriate precautionary action under distinct decision-making scenarios of temperature, wind speed, and rain. Results indicate that participants have different probabilistic thresholds for taking protective action and that context and presentation influence forecast use. Participants were also asked about the meaning of the probability-of-precipitation (PoP) forecast. Around 40% of responses reformulated the default options, and around 20% selected the correct answer, following previous studies related to this research topic. As a general result, it has been found that participants infer uncertainty into deterministic forecasts, and they are mostly used to take action in the presence of decision-making scenarios. In contrast, more difficulties were found when interpreting probabilistic forecasts.

© 2020 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: Igor Gómez, igor.gomez@ua.es
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