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Communicating uncertainty in severe weather forecasts

Wednesday 22 November 2017, 14:00 - 15:00
Room 1.44, Maurice Keyworth Building
Dr Nadine Fleischhut, Centre for Adaptive Rationality, Max Plank Institute for Human Development, Berlin
Centre for Decision Research and Sustainability Research Institute


Communicating uncertainty to lay audiences is as challenging as indispensible if people are to understand medical test results, risk in financial investments, or weather warnings. Dr Fleischhut will present recent results from a representative survey in Germany, which demonstrates a deficient public understanding of probabilistic weather forecasts. This was accompanied by overly high expectations about the quality of a forecast that may easily lead to a loss of trust and dangerous behavior if they are disappointed.

Secondly, Dr Fleischhut will show initial results from an ongoing longitudinal study investigating which uncertainty representations emergency managers rely upon under real operational constraints. The research team implemented different representations of probabilistic weather forecasts within an online information system operated by the German National Weather Service. By analysing web usage behaviour, they observe which representations emergency managers prefer and link the analysis to tests which representations are best understood — and could thus aid emergency managers in their decisions.

The work is part of an interdisciplinary project on the effective communication of weather warnings (WEXICOM) funded by the Hans Ertel Centre for Weather Research of the German National Weather service.

Research Profile

Dr Nadine Fleischhut is a research scientist at Centre for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Her applied research interest is in how to communicate risk and uncertainty in order to improve decision-making. Currently, Dr Fleischhut works in an interdisciplinary project funded by the German National Weather Service, which investigates this question within the operational context of emergency managers in Germany.

Dr Fleischhut’s other research interests include social sampling and heuristics in social interaction under uncertainty, in which she combines methods from psychology and experimental economics. After a Masters in Analytical Philosophy, she received a PhD in Psychology in 2013 at the Centre for Adaptive Behaviour and Cognition, Berlin, within a joint Max Planck graduate program with behavioural economists. In 2013, she joined the Centre for Adaptive Rationality first as a post-doctoral fellow before starting my current position in 2015.

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