NOAA awards $879,000 in grants to study how social media might improve warnings for severe weather events like Hurricane Isaac.
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Twitter, text, email, the Web, or traditional media--what's the best source of information in the face of life-threatening weather conditions like Hurricane Isaac? The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded four research grants to find out.
NOAA awarded four grants, worth a total of $879,000, in an attempt to understand and improve the use of various media in delivering timely information in a way that encourages people to take action to protect themselves.
The grants are in support of NOAA's Weather-Ready Nation initiative. Experts from the agency's Storm Prediction Center, National Severe Storms Laboratory, and weather and river forecast centers will work with the award recipients.
"These projects apply innovative social science research methods to the immense challenge of communicating crucial weather information in an increasingly complex world," NOAA deputy administrator Kathryn Sullivan said in statement. The goal is to improve communications within the weather community and motivate the public to seek safety when dangerous weather threatens, she said.
The largest grant, for $394,000, goes to a consortium comprised of Arizona State University, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina, and the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) at the University of Oklahoma, a partnership between the university and NOAA. The project involves studying how the National Weather Service can improve its products and services to feed vital information to public emergency managers.
The Center for Applied Social Research at the University of Oklahoma will evaluate how Twitter can be used as a source of local weather observations and to share weather updates. The project will explore the benefits and potential risks of using Twitter in severe-weather forecasting operations; study the nature and content of tweets about severe weather events; and work with NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory and Storm Prediction Center to evaluate the possibility of using Twitter data to detect and track storms, issue warnings, and assess damage after an event.
The nonprofit Nurture Nature Center will partner with National Weather Service (NWS) offices in New Jersey and New York to evaluate the agency's flood forecast and warning tools. The goal is to help the NWS understand how residents of the Delaware River Basin use its online tools to prepare for flood risks.
Another funded program seeks to understand why some people rush for shelter when they hear a tornado warning while others don't within the geographic zones of the NWS's polygon-shaped warning system. The research will be conducted by researchers at CIMMS, in collaboration with the NWS Warning Decision Training Branch and the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.
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