Forecasting and Severe Weather Warnings
Operational meteorologists are those individuals working at the National Weather Service who monitor daily weather patterns and computer models so that they can issue forecasts and weather warnings. They also collect different kinds of data through weather balloon launches, satellite images, Doppler radar, and other instruments at their own facility and across the country. With all of this technology and the policies implemented at each office, forecasters have the challenge of meeting different people's needs and coordinating what they understand about the weather with the technology they use to implement predictions. It's a complex job, one that has an effect on all of our lives. From the hourly tables that show the temperature and probability of precipitation for the day to the polygon warnings issued during life-threatening weather, operational meteorologists at the National Weather Service balance multiple tasks and responsibilities.
To better understand their concerns, I've spent fourteen months observing them work. For several hours each week, I visited the forecast office (FO) in order to learn what different considerations come into play as they complete their everyday tasks and what they do to prepare for severe weather in their County Warning Area (CWA). From these interactions, I've developed three basic research questions:
- What are the social, political, and ethical issues that forecasters face when issuing severe weather warnings?
- What constraints do technologies impose on forecasters as they create weather products?
- How do forecasters communicate uncertainty and risk in their forecasts?
With all questions in my research, I'm looking to help shape policies and procedures that might improve how these expert communities succeed at their work. And I do so with an eye toward how different publics are impacted by their decisions and their products.