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Alan E. Stewart
Castle A. Williams
Minh D. Phan
Alexandra L. Horst
Evan D. Knox
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John A. Knox


Prior surveys of the public indicated that a variety of meanings and interpretations exist about the probability of precipitation (PoP). Does the same variety of meanings for the PoP exist among members of the professional atmospheric science community? What do members of the professional community think that the public should know to understand the PoP more fully? These questions were examined in a survey of 188 meteorologists and broadcasters. Meteorologists were observed to express a variety of different definitions of the PoP and also indicated a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of their definitions. Differences in the definitions stemmed from the way the PoP was derived from model output statistics, parsing of a 12-h PoP over shorter time frames, and generalizing from a point PoP to a wider coverage warning area. In this regard 43% of the online survey respondents believed that there was no or very little consistency in the definition of PoP; only 8% believed that the PoP definition has been used in a consistent manner. The respondents believed that the PoP was limited in its value to the general public because, on average, those surveyed believed that only about 22% of the population had an accurate conception of the PoP. These results imply that the atmospheric science community should work to achieve a wider consensus about the meaning of the PoP. Further, until meteorologists develop a consistent conception of the PoP and disseminate it, the public’s understanding of PoP-based forecasts may remain fuzzy.

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