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Keywords:

  • emergency management;
  • tornado warnings;
  • weather radar;
  • spotters;
  • user-centred system design

Abstract

Emergency managers (EMs) play a critical role in communicating severe weather and tornado warnings to the public, yet communicating the uncertainty of when, where or if a tornado may hit remains a great challenge for EMs. Focus group and survey data concerning weather product usage, weather observing spotter interaction, and decisions to warn the public were collected from Oklahoma EMs in order to characterize the communication processes EMs employ during severe weather outbreaks. These processes include: (1) acquiring weather information, (2) interpreting the information in order to make weather hazard threat assessments, (3) verifying the information, and (4) making time-sensitive warning decisions. The results indicate that while EMs use a variety of weather and radar products to acquire information, weather observing spotters are key sources of verification data. With respect to warning the public about tornado threats, sirens are the primary method. These findings are related to the development of a new radar system being developed by the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA), so that this new technology can be designed to reduce uncertainty in the EM decision-making and warning communication processes. Copyright © 2010 Royal Meteorological Society