Completing the Forecast—Bridging Weather Predictions to User Applications

Matthias Steiner
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO

Prediction of weather into the future remains a substantial challenge. But that’s only part of the story. Making weather predictions useful to minimize weather impacts on human health and safety, transportation, utilities, agriculture, recreation, or infrastructure is another equally challenging part of the same story. This presentation emphasizes the importance of a thorough understanding of the vulnerability of a particular user, sector or infrastructure to weather in order to maximize the utility of weather forecasts. Thus, assessing a forecast’s quality requires not only evaluation of how well it did in terms of accurately depicting the weather into the future, but also how valuable that forecast was to a user of it. For all practical purposes, user-relevant information will have to be extracted from a weather forecast and placed into a situational context in order to estimate potential weather impacts. Only then a user may devise effective strategies to meaningfully mitigate potential weather impacts. Conversely, fully integrating weather into a user’s decision-making process enables important feedback from the application side as to how accurate a forecast has to be in order to be valuable. Examples will be discussed from different sectors that underscore the importance of tailoring weather forecasts for specific applications rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach, where a standard forecast product gets thrown over the fence and the user has to figure out what to do with it.