I was in the grocery store last week and a woman stops me in an aisle. We strike up a conversation about this winter and all the snow we’ve received. She comments on how it’s been worse than the last few years, but average when she thought back far enough. I don’t remember much about what else was said but there is one line that stuck out to me.
She said, “It seems like you all have been more accurate this year than before, why is that?”
I don’t think I had a straight answer at the time. Yes, the models are getting more accurate but there is something we are drastically changing.
The way we commute the weather to you.
The changes we’ve made in our communication style has produced outstanding results.
With this simple Facebook post, a winter update had over a thousands interactions (thats likes, comments, and shares) on top of being clicked over eight thousand times!
So what changed?
We simplified the forecast while still being able to provide you with local and unique details. We ditched the long drawn out explanations and answered three simple questions.
When? Where? How?
This is the first question we had to tackle. The timing of winter storms is everything. When will the storm reach your house? When will it change over to snow? When will the snow start and stop?
These are all critical questions people need to know heading into their day. This is an example of how we broke down the timing of snow events.
This was a huge success! Online interaction on our weather posts jumped almost overnight. There was still more we needed to communicate though.
We have the timing in place but now we have to add details of where this is taking place. In an area that has several lake effect events per year it is critical that we communicate where the snow will be the greatest and how it will move.
On top of timing out the winter storm, we showed how the snow tapered off and where the next chance of snow w
ould come from. Communicating the change from system snow to lake effect snow tells the viewer that the snow belt could see higher totals.
By the end of an active winter weather pattern we improved this style and answered one final question.
People want to know how this weather event is going to effect them. How much snow am I going to see and what is the impact going to be from this storm? By laying the forecast out in an easy to read format it allows the viewer to find exactly what they are looking for both quickly and in detail!
What if I wanted to know if the second round of snow is going to mess up my doctor’s appointment? I go to Round 2 and find out when the snow will move through. If I see that it will start falling at the same time as my appointment, then I look at the impacts and see the roads could become impassable with several inches of snow.
Quick and easy.
Plus people don’t have to read through the entire forecast to have their personal questions answer.
Something your weather app can’t do. There is still one more area that we are working on.
Some meteorologist will argue for and against telling the public that we are not confident on a particular part of the forecast.
I’m all for it!
I want people to know where I am confident and parts where I am still waiting to see how things play out.
However, there is a big obstacle. As meteorologist, we have to effectively communicate why we are less confident on certain aspects of the storm. If we don’t then the public will lose confidences in us to give them the forecast.
Answering all three questions and commutating the forecast properly will allow meteorologists to not only reach more people in the future, but also allow us to clearly give you the most accurate information ahead of the storm.