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Chance for public to shape the weather forecasts of the future – University of Reading

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Chance for public to shape the weather forecasts of the future

Release Date 31 July 2017

Blue skies

Members of the public are being asked to help scientists reinvent the weather apps in their pocket or the forecasts they see on TV.

A new survey, supported by the Met Office, is allowing feedback and ideas to be passed to experts at the Royal Meteorological Society (RMS) and the University of Reading. It will reveal how people want their weather forecasts to look in the years to come.

Key questions the scientists want the public to consider are how they would like to see uncertainty presented in weather predictions, and what changes could be made to help them better plan around expected weather conditions.

The ideas provided in the survey will be presented by University of Reading scientists at a public meeting on the communication of weather forecasts, hosted by RMS in September.

Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez, Associate Professor in Meteorology at the University of Reading, will be chairing the meeting. He said: “The rise of smartphone apps means we have access to an unprecedented amount of forecast information. However, weather forecasting is an inherently uncertain process and even the best forecasts have some uncertainty about the weather in a specific location, for example the timing of showers or if temperatures will drop below freezing.”

“Research we have carried out suggests people are able to process more information about the probability of a certain type of weather occurring than they are currently given, and indeed value it. Our research group is thinking hard about ways in which we can improve the ways that weather forecast information is presented to the public.

“This survey gives everyone an opportunity to have their say on this important and interesting problem. We want people to send us their most creative and innovative ideas for what weather forecasts might look like in 10 years’ time.”

The researchers want to find out if members of the public would benefit from having the uncertainty of weather predictions communicated to them. Some apps already do this with some information, for example by displaying the percentage chance of rain for a given hour.

Among other aspects, people are invited in their submissions to think about if they would prefer longer-term forecasts, or more precise detail about the day ahead, and if they would like to see information on how conditions are evolving or how they will affect our health.

Other areas to consider are what devices should deliver forecasts, and if information on weather in other areas would be of interest in addition to local predictions.

The Message Impossible national meeting, on 20 September, will bring together experts in meteorology, psychology, information design and health to investigate how forecasts may be shaped to meet the growing needs of society in the future.

Ideas from the public can be submitted to in any form, such as text, pictures, animations or videos. Submissions should consider:

  • What should a forecast contain?
  • How should a forecast be presented and delivered?

The ideas will be presented to those attending the meeting and the most innovative ones will receive a 2018 RMS calendar.

A video explaining the survey is available here 


Additional information:

When making their submissions, members of the public are encouraged to think about:

  • Timescales: do you think we want and need longer-term outlooks or increased precision and detail about the day ahead?
  • Which parts of the weather we need information about: does this just cover the traditional meteorological variables like temperature, wind and rain or should it encompass the impacts of weather on our environment, health and well-being?
  • How we present uncertainty: do you want to see the full range of possibilities that our weather forecasts predict or do you want forecasters to tell you only about the most likely outcome?
  • How do we put the weather in context: should forecasts show how different conditions are to a typical day or season, should they include updates on how conditions have evolved during the past month or two and should they try to discuss climate and how this is changing?
  • How do we provide weather forecasts: which devices need them and when and how do we deal with the problem of multiple, possibly conflicting forecasts from different sources and delivered by different technologies?
  • How targeted should our forecasts be: should we just provide targeted information for individuals about how weather will affect them today or do people need a wider perspective about what is happening elsewhere and why?

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