Worded forecasts, which generally consist of both verbal and numerical expressions, play an important role in the communication of weather information to the general public. However, relatively few studies of the composition and interpretation of such forecasts have been conducted. Moreover, the studies that have been undertaken to date indicate that many expressions currently used in public forecasts are subject to wide ranges of interpretation (and to misinterpretation) and that the ability of individuals to recall the content of worded forecasts is quite limited. This paper focuses on forecast terminology and the understanding of such terminology in the context of short-range public weather forecasts.

The results of previous studies of forecast terminology (and related issues) are summarized with respect to six basic aspects or facets of worded forecasts. These facets include: 1) events (the values of the meteorological variables): 2) terminology (the words used to describe the events); 3) words versus numbers (the use of verbal and/or numerical expressions); 4) uncertainty (the mode of expression of uncertainty); 5) amount of information (the number of items of information); and 6) content and format (the selection of items of information and their placement). In addition, some related topics are treated briefly, including the impact of verification systems, the role of computer-worded forecasts, the implications of new modes of communication, and the use of weather forecasts.

Some conclusions and inferences that can be drawn from this review of previous work are discussed briefly, and a set of recommendations are presented regarding steps that should be taken to raise the level of understanding and enhance the usefulness of worded forecasts. These recommendations are organized under four headings: 1) studies of public understanding, interpretation, and use; 2) management practices; 3) forecaster training and education; and 4) public education.

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1 Authors should submit manuscripts for this section directly to Dr. Robert W. Burpee, Editor, Focus on Forecasting, National Hurricane Research Laboratory, NOAA, Gables One Tower, 1320 S. Dixie Highway, Coral Gables, Fla. 33146. Three copies of each manuscript (text and illustrations), prepared in accordance with “Information for Contributors” on the inside covers of a recent issue of an AMS research journal, are required.

2 This paper is a revised version of a paper (Brown and Murphy, 1982) presented at the Ninth AMS Conference on Weather Forecasting and Analysis (Seattle).

3 Supported in part by the National Science Foundation (Division of Atmospheric Sciences) under grant ATM-8004680.