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Towards the “Perfect” Weather Warning

– By Brian Golding –

This book is a product of the 10-year High Impact Weather (HIWeather) project of the World Weather Research Programme in World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), drawing on research carried out in its first six years. It contains contributions from fifty eminent experts in the various fields spanned by the warning process, representing fourteen countries around the world. Endorsed by the World Meteorological Organisations and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, it offers an in-depth review of the relevant science, complementing the recently updated WMO guide to impact-based warnings and extending its readership to a wide range of emergency managers in government and industry as well as in the weather services. It is structured around the concept of a value chain connecting the various contributors to warning creation, emphasising communication, between experts and with the user, as the potential weak links that may break the chain. The underlying theme of the book is therefore partnership as a means to bridge the communication gaps. Starting with the user of the warning, i.e. anyone who will take protective action on receipt of a warning, the book looks at the information they need to inform their decision to act and how that information needs to be communicated if the right decision is to be made. From there it proceeds up the chain, at each stage addressing the questions: what information is needed at this stage? what information is the provider able to give? and how can the two work together effectively to optimise the end warning.

To set everything in context, the first chapter after the introduction looks at warnings within the wider canvas of disaster risk management and the need for an appropriate governance framework, including assured funding, to enable the key actors to work in partnership. The next chapter addresses the psychology of response and the tools available to the issuer of the warning to make their warnings more effective. Next the book moves to the content, starting with information on the expected impact of the hazard. This draws in disciplines of engineering, epidemiology and economics amongst others. At this point, the book reaches a mid-point where the social, behavioural and economic sciences give way to the physical sciences in the translation of hazard into impact. Here the book exposes most clearly the differences of approach, language and culture that are a challenge to successful partnership. These challenges are also evident in the next chapter where weather forecasting connects with hazard forecasting across the disciplines of meteorology, oceanography, hydrology and atmospheric chemistry, although earth system modelling for climate prediction has given an impetus to integration of these disciplines. Finally, the book addresses the relationship between observations and weather prediction, citing several examples of effective collaboration. Bringing the whole chain back together, a final summary chapter concludes with some recommendations for consideration when building a new warning system.

Each chapter has a brief synopsis and a summary, containing the key questions covered. The main text is written in discursive style in a form that is accessible to non-experts in any of the fields covered. Nevertheless, reference is made to the major primary research contributions, and the chapter bibliographies run to over 500 references in total. An attractive feature of most chapters is the inclusion of illustrative examples, many of them told in a personal style by those involved.

Thanks to generous contributions to the HIWeather trust fund, the book has been published in Open Access and can be downloaded free from the SpringerLink website at Towards the “Perfect” Weather Warning | SpringerLink.

Figure 1: The value chain for weather warnings showing the partnerships and bridges needed to overcome the valleys of death.


Professor Brian Golding has made major contributions to high resolution Numerical Weather Prediction and its use in a wide variety of applications, particularly flood prediction during his long career with the Met Office. He was instrumental in the early adoption of operational convection-permitting models in the Met Office during his tenure as the Met Office’s Director of Weather Science. He currently co-chairs the World Meteorological Organisation’s High Impact Weather (HIWeather) project which has brought together physical, social, behavioural and economic scientists to enhance the effectiveness of weather warnings. He is a visiting professor at Bristol University and was awarded the OBE for services to severe weather forecasting.

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