Communicating Hurricane Information to Public Officials for Proactive Decision Making

  • Dr. Donald House (PI)
  • Dr. Michael Lindell, Texas A&M University (PI)
  • Jonathan Cox
  • Brandon Pelfrey

Sponsored by NSF and NOAA, NSF 0838639

Although the past 30 years have seen major advances in the scientific understanding of hurricane forecasting, there has been a lack of systematic research on the people’s comprehension of this weather information. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) provides forecast advisories, public advisories, discussions, and wind speed probabilities during incidents and tracking software can assist local officials making hurricane evacuation decisions. However, there have been few attempts to scientifically assess the hurricane information that is communicated to local officials. The primary challenges are (1) that most local officials are not trained in the language of meteorology, (2) that most people have difficulty in understanding the probabilistic concepts that are used to communicate uncertainty, (3) the hurricane information must be combined with other information, risks and costs, about which there is little data.

To address these challenges, we are developing a formal model of hurricane evacuation decision making, examining the cognitive processes that are involved in hurricane tracking, so that we can suggest improvements in hurricane evacuation decision training and in hurricane information displays. Our primary contributions to this project are (1) the development of a web-based tool for developing surveys of the effectiveness of hurricane information displays during simulated hurricane events, and (2) the development of new approaches to visualizing the uncertainty inherent in predictions of hurricane behavior.

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