Although much progress has been made in developing probabilistic forecasts of severe weather, the weather warnings issued are usually deterministic. This fact can be explained by institutional rules as well as by habits and expectations on the part of the users of forecasts, including the emergency services and the public. However, meteorological uncertainty with respect to the location and magnitude of severe weather events cannot be avoided. The resulting uncertainty about the impact of severe weather events will be relevant for the actions that users take in response to warnings, and can thus constitute valuable additional information.
In an inter- and transdisciplinary approach involving meteorology, social sciences, and psychology, this project contributes to the optimal use of weather forecasts—with a focus on severe weather and warnings—to the benefit of the society. The ultimate goal is to facilitate transparent and effective communication of risk and uncertainties to specific user groups. User-tailored communication can foster recipients’ ability to make decisions that reduce the risk of loss and damage. A key element of the approach is statistical modelling of the impacts of severe weather, mainly considering effects of windstorm and intense precipitation. Estimates of these impacts provide a link between probabilistic weather information and risk-based warnings. Using the DWD’s fire brigade information system (FeWIS) as a testbed, the project will implement different ways of communicating probabilistic weather information. Use of this information will be analysed in terms of usage and preferences to determine whether and how risk-based warnings can help emergency managers to reduce the risk of loss and damage. The effect of severe weather information conveyed to the public through traditional and new media channels will be assessed using quantitative and qualitative methods. Here, the focus will be on the measures taken by specific social milieus and private businesses to prevent damage. Criteria allowing the employability and acceptance of risk-based warnings among the targeted recipients to be evaluated will be developed empirically. The Berlin Metropolitan area remains the starting point of the investigations, but the diversity of structural frameworks for emergency services in Germany will also be addressed by comparing three further areas of investigation and performing nationwide analysis for specific sectors.
WEXICOM will assess the communication and usage of uncertainties in weather warnings, with the main goal of testing the potential of providing users in emergency service institutions, private businesses, and the general public with probabilistic warning information and risk-based warnings.
Work packages (WP) 1 and 2 approach this goal from a meteorological and psychological expert point of view, focusing on the analysis of different warning types and models (statistical and experience-based). Work package 3 analyses the needs of potential user groups (emergency services, the general public and the traffic sector).
Building on experience from the first phase of WEXICOM focusing on windstorm and the Berlin fire brigades, the second phase will take steps towards a generalization of concepts and approaches in terms of both hazards and recipients.
WP 1 will develop concepts for the design of impact models and their implementation for use in risk-based warnings.
WP 2 develops different ways to communicate probabilistic warning information to emergency managers (using the DWD’s fire brigade information system), and tests, which representation fosters comprehension and use of the information. Based on the results, recommendations for best practice will be derived.
WP 3 determines criteria that allow the evaluation of the employability and acceptance of risk- and impact-based warnings within the emergency services (professional users) via the identification and development of assessment indicators. It also identifies and rates criteria for the need, use, and quality of weather warnings among the general public and the traffic sector and aims at categorising the public into groups with different interests, needs, and media habits.
By integrating the findings of all three WPs, WEXICOM will generate evidence-based suggestions and recommendations for the communication and usage of probabilistic and risk-based warnings by the emergency services, private businesses, and the general public in order to guarantee sustainable operations and prevent loss and damage.