June 30, 2009

U.S. uses 300B weather forecasts annually

A survey indicates nearly 9 of 10 U.S. adults obtain weather forecasts regularly, and they do so an average of more than three times each day.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research say their survey suggests the value Americans place on forecasts is far more than the nation spends on public and private weather services.

The researchers said the survey is the first comprehensive study of its kind to examine how the public perceives, uses and values weather forecasts.

The lead author, NCAR scientist Jeffrey Lazo, said U.S. adults obtain an estimated 300 billion forecasts each year and most people are generally satisfied with those forecasts and have fairly high confidence in forecasts with a lead time of one to two days.

Lazo said understanding how individuals use weather information can help produce more relevant and valuable forecasts and warnings.

Better communication strategies can be developed for hazardous weather like hurricanes, winter storms and floods, Lazo said. Improved understanding will also help forecasters to communicate forecast uncertainty more effectively.

The Internet-based survey, conducted in November 2006, collected information about respondents' weather-related activities and experiences, as well as basic demographic information. Of the 1,520 individuals surveyed, 96 percent said they used weather forecasts.

The research that included Rebecca Morss and Julie Demuth appears in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.