National Weather Service Open House

National Weather Service Open House

Weather Warning Systems

Operational meteorologists are those individuals working at the National Weather Service (NWS) 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. 

To better understand their concerns, I've spent nearly three years 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 technical issues that forecasters face when issuing severe weather warnings?
  • How do forecasters communicate uncertainty and risk in their forecasts?
  • How do different partners and publics receive, understand, and act on this risk information? 

Most recently, this has been conducting research with the NWS through two NOAA funded grants in a program called VORTEX Southeast

Grant 1 (NA15OAR4590233) with Russ Schumacher and Erik Nielsen at Colorado State University focuses on overlapping tornado and flash flood warnings, which give conflicting advice to the public and can have deadly consequences for those in the Southeastern U.S., many of whom live in manufactured homes or less safe structure. See invited talk at Severe and Local Storms at AMS, 2017, here

Grant 2 (#NA16OAR4590217) with Julie Demuth, Heather Lazrus, Rebecca Morss and Jamie Vickery at NCAR examines the dynamics and evolution of risk information as threats occur, both for different publics and experts, including the NWS. See invited talk to VLAB at NSSL in Norman, here.   

With all questions in my research, I'm looking to help shape NWS policies and procedures that might improve how these expert communities succeed at their work. To this end, I also help facilitate Integrated Warning Teams as a social scientist, act as a subject matter expert in their impact-based decision support webinars, and collaborate on local issues with different forecast offices.