Study in Progress

Advancing Social and Behavioral Science Research and Application within the Weather Enterprise

A joint project of these Academies units:
Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
Board on Environmental Change and Society
Board on Human Systems Integration

In May of 2013, a series of tornados and flash floods struck central Oklahoma. Accurate forecasts communicated with adequate lead time kept many out of danger during this string of severe weather. Yet the event still resulted in a number of fatalities, and public fleeing in response to forecasts put thousands more in harm's way.

These types of events highlight the fact that, despite improvements in the accuracy of weather forecasts from a meteorological perspective, a better understanding of individual and societal responses to weather information is needed in order to improve forecast design, communication, and public preparedness. There is growing recognition that social and behavioral sciences play a critical role on this front; in recent years, NSF and NOAA have increased their efforts to fund social science research related to weather hazards and forecast communication.

This National Academies study is designed to help guide government agencies and other institutions in the "weather enterprise," as they grapple with their roles in the generation of social and behavioral science knowledge and its application to meteorology, weather forecasting, and hazard preparedness.

Study Sponsors

National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, National Weather Service
Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

Related Reports

Weather Services for the Nation: Becoming Second to None (2012)
When Weather Matters: Science and Service to Meet Critical Societal Needs (2010)
Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services (2003)
Making Climate Forecasts Matter (1999)


Advancing Social and Behavioral Science Research and Application within the Weather Enterprise: Meeting 1 - 07/27/16
Advancing Social and Behavioral Science Research and Application within the Weather Enterprise: Meeting 2 - 10/06/16
Workshop on Advancing Social and Behavioral Science Research and Application within the Weather Enterprise - 12/01/16

Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee will develop a framework for generating and applying social and behavioral science (SBS) research within the context of meteorology, weather forecasting, and weather preparedness and response. It will identify opportunities to accelerate relevant findings and better engage knowledge and practitioners from multiple social science fields with the weather enterprise, including multiple users of weather information (e.g., transportation, military, agriculture, aviation, energy).

Specifically, the committee will:

1. Assess current SBS activities and applications within the weather enterprise, which encompasses meteorological research, operational forecasting, and users of weather information.
2. Describe the potential value of improved integration of SBS and meteorological sciences and institutions, and identify barriers to better integration.
3. Develop a research agenda aimed at advancing the application of social and behavioral sciences for improving the nation's weather readiness while providing opportunities to advance fundamental social science knowledge.
4. Identify infrastructural and institutional arrangements necessary to successfully pursue SBS weather research and the transfer of relevant findings to operational settings. This will include:
a. An examination of present roles within the public, private, and academic sectors of the weather enterprise for conducting SBS research and applying findings, and recommendation of strategies that could improve coordination.
b. Specific mechanisms for improving interagency coordination to advance SBS research relevant to weather forecasting and emergency response.
c. An assessment the types of routine observations needed to conduct SBS research in support of weather operations, as well as mechanisms within the enterprise for contributing to data collection.
d. A discussion of implications for work force development, staffing, and training within the weather enterprise.