Communicating uncertainty in weather forecasts: A survey of the U.S. public

AMS Citation:
Morss, R. E., J. L. Demuth, and J. K. Lazo, 2008: Communicating uncertainty in weather forecasts: A survey of the U.S. public. Weather and Forecasting, 23, 974-991, doi:10.1175/2008WAF2007088.1.
Resource Type:article
Title:Communicating uncertainty in weather forecasts: A survey of the U.S. public
Abstract: Weather forecasts are inherently uncertain, and meteorologists have information about weather forecast uncertainty that is not readily available to most forecast users. Yet effectively communicating forecast uncertainty to nonmeteorologists remains challenging. Improving forecast uncertainty communication requires research-based knowledge that can inform decisions on what uncertainty information to communicate, when, and how to do so. To help build such knowledge, this article explores the public’s perspectives on everyday weather forecast uncertainty and uncertainty information using results from a nationwide survey. By contributing to the fundamental understanding of laypeople’s views on forecast uncertainty, the findings can inform both uncertainty communication and related research. The article uses empirical data from a nationwide survey of the U.S. public to investigate beliefs commonly held among meteorologists and to explore new topics. The results show that when given a deterministic temperature forecast, most respondents expected the temperature to fall within a range around the predicted value. In other words, most people inferred uncertainty into the deterministic forecast. People’s preferences for deterministic versus nondeterministic forecasts were examined in two situations; in both, a significant majority of respondents liked weather forecasts that expressed uncertainty, and many preferred such forecasts to single-valued forecasts. The article also discusses people’s confidence in different types of forecasts, their interpretations of the probability of precipitation forecasts, and their preferences for how forecast uncertainty is conveyed. Further empirical research is needed to study the article’s findings in other contexts and to continue exploring perception, interpretation, communication, and use of weather forecast uncertainty.
Peer Review:Refereed
Copyright Information:Copyright 2008 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be "fair use" under Section 107 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law (17 USC, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the Society's permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form on servers, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statements, requires written permission or license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policies, available from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or Permission to place a copy of this work on this server has been provided by the AMS. The AMS does not guarantee that the copy provided here is an accurate copy of the published work.
OpenSky citable URL: ark:/85065/d7z60p79
Publisher's Version: 10.1175/2008WAF2007088.1
  • Rebecca Morss - NCAR/UCAR
  • Julie Demuth - NCAR/UCAR
  • Jeffrey Lazo - NCAR/UCAR
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