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Minh D. Phan, Burrell E. Montz, Scott Curtis, and Thomas M. Rickenbach

Abstract

Millions of people in the United States regularly acquire information from weather forecasts for a wide variety of reasons. The rapid growth in mobile device technology has created a convenient means for people to retrieve this data, and in recent years, mobile weather applications (MWAs) have quickly gained popularity. Research on weather sources, however, has been unable to sufficiently capture the importance of this form of information gathering. As use of these apps continues to grow, it is important to gain insight on the usefulness of MWAs to consumers. To better examine MWA preferences and behaviors relating to acquired weather information, a survey of 308 undergraduate students from three different universities throughout the southeast United States was undertaken. Analyses of the survey showed that smartphone MWAs are the primary weather forecast source among college students. Additionally, MWA users tend to seek short-term forecast information, like the hourly forecast, from their apps. Results also provide insight into daily MWA use by college students as well as perceptions of and preferential choices for specific MWA features and designs. The information gathered from this study will allow other researchers to better evaluate and understand the changing landscape of weather information acquisition and how this relates to the uses, perceptions, and values people garner from forecasts. Organizations that provide weather forecasts have an ever-growing arsenal of resources to disseminate information, making research of this topic extremely valuable for future development of weather communication technology.

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

Abstract

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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