The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) convened a full Committee hearing on communicating weather threats.
Committee members questioned experts on how to best mitigate the communication gaps about weather risks between federal agencies, local weather forecasters, and the general public. Dr. Kim Klockow, a behavioral science and meteorology researcher with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), highlighted the importance in understanding how people react to weather warnings, while Dr. Jay Trobec, chief meteorologist at South Dakota’s KELO-TV, stressed the fact that a good forecast that is poorly communicated is “worthless” to the public. “Social scientists tell us that when people are confronted by conflicting emergency messages, they either freeze and do nothing, or waste valuable time trying to gain additional information,” he said. He added that hometown weather forecasters remain vital “translators” of storm forecasts for their local communities, but ensuring that local meteorologists and emergency managers are all on the same page should be NOAA’s responsibility. Ron Sznaider, Vice President of Schneider Electric, urged federal agencies to expand partnerships with the private sector so as to fill the gaps in America’s weather modelling and forecasting capabilities. Experts agreed that improving weather communication and forecasting will benefit commerce, and most importantly will enhance the safety of Americans during storms.