Probabilistic Tornado Warnings

Current operational tornado warnings are dichotomous and assume an even distribution of risk inside the warning area. However, not every location inside a warning area has an equivalent level of risk. Probabilistic tornado warnings have the potential to better convey the differential risk that people face from a specific tornado threat based on where they are located. Probabilistic warn-on-forecasts have further potential to help heighten risk awareness among members of the public and to prompt pre-sheltering protective behavioral responses (e.g., determining what sheltering options are available). Yet, probabilistic tornado risk information will only be effective if it is understood and usable.

This NOAA funded project employs a combination of behavioral-experimental and semi-structured interview methods to evaluate how members of the public interpret and use different forms of probabilistic tornado threat information, including uncertainty visualizations, with a focus on the Southeastern United States. The findings will be used by the research team, in conjunction with NOAA collaborators, to develop recommendations for improving communication of probabilistic tornado forecast and warning information.

  • Sonia Savelli, PhD — Senior Research Scientist, Human Centered Design & Engineering, Co-Director of CoSSaR