Gerst, Kenney, Wolfinger Published on Visualizing Climate Forecasts

ESSIC/CISESS scientists Michael Gerst, Melissa Kenney, J. Felix Wolfinger, Allison E. Baer, and Amanda Speciale have a publication out in Weather Climate and Society about the use of visualization science to improve expert and public understanding of probabilistic temperature and precipitation outlooks.

Visually communicating temperature and precipitation climate outlooks graphics is challenging as it requires viewers to have subject familiarity and specific visual literacy.  Additionally, designers are left with a lack of concrete guidance due to uncertainty on the most effective visual design choices.  Using a two-phase experimental set-up, the researchers investigate how recently developed visualization diagnostic guidelines can be used to iteratively diagnose, re-design, and test the understandability of NOAA climate outlooks.

Results show that, overall, end users exhibit a better understanding of outlooks, but some types of probabilistic color-mapping are misunderstood by both end users and the general public, which was predicted by the diagnostic guidelines.  Modifications lead to significant gains in end user and general public understanding of climate outlooks, providing additional evidence for the utility of using control versus treatment testing informed by visualization diagnostics.

In addition to being ESSIC/CISESS Visiting Associate Research Professor, Kenney is the Associate Director of Knowledge Initiatives at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.  She focuses on participatory processes and tools to advance environmental decision support science by integrating scientific knowledge and societal values into decision-making under uncertainty.  Gerst is an assistant research professor with ESSIC/CISESS motivated by helping stakeholders identify problems and solutions at the intersection of the environment, technology, and society.  Wolfinger is an ESSIC/CISESS research scientist with consulting experience working with government agencies and private companies to use social science methods for studies of usability, scientific translation, and decision processes.

To access the article, click here: “No Access Using Visualization Science to Improve Expert and Public Understanding of Probabilistic Temperature and Precipitation Outlooks”.