Developments in the US National Weather Service might influence the way weather warnings are issued in Australia. In any event discussion about the use of language can inform Australia’s hazard managers as they seek to improve warnings.
The US National Weather service is considering changing it’s warnings, in line with its aim to ensure more recognition for impact to be described when issuing forecasts.
This approach was taken by Australia’s bushfire and emergency experts in creating the National Bushfire Warning Framework. It’s interesting to consider how it might be included in weather warnings.
The NWS is gathering opinions from the public and weather product users to help guide the process, and in a promising move their approach highlights it’s relationship with the public – and its belief that people are capable of receiving and processing large amounts of data to make their own decisions.
It’s trialling a new system side by side with the present system, despite the obvious concern about confusion.
In its own words, it says it wants to have “a conversation” with users:
“In support of our Weather-Ready Nation initiative, NWS wants to start a conversation on how we might simplify and clarify our products. For this demonstration, we are proposing an alternative way to express headlines within our hazard messages, with winter hazard messages as a focus. If you have other ideas for simplifying and clarifying these messages, we want to hear them.”
The language used by the NWS in the US is very close to the language used in Australia. The principal enhancements are to headlines:
For all current, official winter weather hazard messages that lead with the phrase:
“THE NWS HAS ISSUED A _____ WATCH” it will say: “THE NWS FORECASTS THE POTENTIAL FOR ____” with the hazard type (snow, ice, wind, etc.), level of certainty, timing and expected impact(s) clearly stated in the blank space.
For all official winter weather hazard messages which lead with the phrase: “THE NWS HAS ISSUED A(N) ______ ADVISORY” it will say instead: “THE NWS ADVISES CAUTION FOR ____” and for messages which lead with the phrase: “THE NWS HAS ISSUED A(N)______ WARNING” it will change to: “THE NWS HAS ISSUED A WARNING FOR A DANGEROUS______”
“We retain the term “Warning” for the demonstration because of its direct connection to protection of life and property, but this alternative approach would eliminate the individual hazard products within the Warning category.”
The NWS will receive feedback early this year, and is proposing that it will revisit its approach to water and wind warnings if this proposal receives public endorsement.