Weather service to drop 'advisories' in favor of plain-language headlines

Research leads to changes planned for 2024

Posted

The National Weather Service  intends to drop the "advisory" and "watch" hazard alerts and replace them with clearer terms.

NWS surveys found the cautionary advisories  for freezing fog,  dense smoke, or heat, and 27 others, confused readers who could not distinguish them from more imminent weather service alerts.

The changes set for 2024 follows "extensive social science research," that found the public was confused by the current terms.

"This research indicated that NWS' "Advisory" headlines are 
responsible for a major portion of the confusion. This is because the Advisory term itself is misunderstood and its meaning is often conflated with that of "Watch." Such confusion can lead to a misunderstanding of forecast severity and certainty with respect to significant weather and water hazards," according to an NWS statement issues March 5.

Reasons for the change, according to the NWS:

  • Too many products and product types : Watches, Warnings, Advisories, Special Weather Statements
  • Advisory headline is very misunderstood and is also confused with “Watch”
  •  Emergency Managers prefer plain language headlines; they can be conveyed clearly and quickly

 Survey results from 2020 engagements with NWS partners and the public indicated strong support for plain language as well

HERE IS THE FULL STATEMENT

1100 AM EST Thu Mar 4 2021
To: Subscribers:
-NOAA Weather Wire Service
-Emergency Managers Weather Information Network
-NOAAPort
Other NWS Partners, Users and Employees
From: Eli Jacks, Chief
NWS Forecast Services Division
Subject: Planned Major Change to NWS' Hazard Messaging Headlines: no earlier than calendar year 2024

The NWS will be implementing changes to its hazard messaging
headlines no earlier than calendar year 2024. This decision is based on results of extensive social science research with partners and the public, which documented significant confusion with current NWS headline terms.

This research indicated that NWS' "Advisory" headlines are 
responsible for a major portion of the confusion. This is because the Advisory term itself is misunderstood and its meaning is often conflated with that of "Watch." Such confusion can lead to a misunderstanding of forecast severity and certainty with respect to significant weather and water hazards.

This, in turn, can adversely impact user preparation for (and response to) these hazards.

  • The major changes are as follows: - All "Advisory" headlines within what is currently the NWS Watch, Warning and Advisory system will be discontinued. Most of the current Advisory headlines will be replaced with plain language headlines that clearly articulate the nature of the hazard. However, these messages will still be equipped with computer-readable Valid Time Event Code (VTEC) as they are today.
  • Exceptions to the transition to plain language will apply to Tsunami and Small Craft Advisories. These Advisories will be elevated to the Warning level due to the life-threatening conditions associated with these hazards. The exact title of the Warning for what is now a Tsunami Advisory is to be determined.
  • - All "Special Weather Statements" (SPS') will be discontinued, also in favor of plain language headlines. In addition, these converted messages will, for the first time, be equipped with computer-readable VTEC and placed in a bulleted "What, Where, When, Impacts" format.
  • The exact language to be used in the plain language headlines
    for each affected hazard is still to be determined. NWS will
    host partner webinars and collect public feedback via on-line
    surveys during 2021 to inform development of plain language
    headlines. Additional Public Information Statements will be
    issued in the coming weeks to announce these feedback
    opportunities.
  • A slide set highlighting public and partner feedback supporting this decision and providing case examples demonstrating how the messages will change is at this link:
    https://www.weather.gov/media/notification/haz_simp_slides.pdf
  • A set of frequently asked questions with responses as it relates to the planned changes is provided here:
    https://www.weather.gov/media/notification/haz_simp_faq_sheet.pdf
  • Additional details on the change may be found on the  “Revamp Progress” tab of the project website. Detailed reports on the numerous social science-based engagements may be found in the "Reference Materials" tab:
    https://www.weather.gov/hazardsimplification/
  • Prior to implementation, there will be other messaging improvements to consolidate, reformat, realign and rename
    messages for specific hazards ahead of the major change. A
    draft calendar of these planned changes is provided at this
    link: https://www.weather.gov/media/notification/haz_simp_calendar_202 1.pdf
  • Individual Service Change Notices will be sent to specify the
    exact dates for each of these changes.
    Questions and comments can be directed to the NWS Hazard
    Simplification Team at hazsimp@noaa.gov.
    National Service Change Notices are online at:
    https://www.weather.gov/notification/

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