Societal Impacts of Weather

Helping Society Benefit from Improved Weather Information

All economic sectors, regions, and individuals are affected by weather and, thus, weather forecasts. Both improved weather forecasts and improved use of current forecasts can enhance personal safety, reduce property damage, and increase economic efficiency, saving multiple lives and millions of dollars each year. In order to realize the potential benefits associated with improved weather forecasts, we need to understand how individuals and socioeconomic sectors do and could use different types of weather information. However, few assessments of the benefits of weather information have been performed, and much of the knowledge available on the use and value of weather information has generally been difficult to locate and utilize.

To address this need, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, with funding from the U.S. Weather Research Program, established the Collaborative Program on the Societal Impacts and Economic Benefits of Weather Information, better known as the Societal Impacts Program (SIP), to create a dedicated focal point for assembling, coordinating, developing, and synthesizing research and information on the societal impacts and economic benefits of weather information.

SIP's overarching goal is to help society benefit from current and emerging weather forecasting capabilities by integrating social sciences knowledge and methods into the weather research and policy-making communities. More specifically, the program conducts research, develops infrastructure and outreach programs, and leads workshops aimed at developing and synthesizing knowledge on the use and value of current and improved weather information; building a community of researchers and practitioners engaged in developing knowledge on societal aspects of weather information; and applying the knowledge developed to enhance weather policy-making, weather research, weather information development, and weather information use.

The goal of most weather forecasting activities is to provide useful information for decision making, benefiting society. Yet weather products and services sometimes fail to have the intended impacts, as Hurricane Katrina illustrates. To help the weather community enhance the utility of weather forecasts, SIP conducts research to understand and improve how people interpret and use weather forecasts in both everyday and high–impact weather situations.

Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of weather forecasting, and thus of forecast communication, interpretation and use. Yet communicating forecast uncertainty effectively – in ways that enhance decision making and societal benefit ‐ remains challenging. SIP is addressing this understudied area by including examination of forecast uncertainty in the research on forecast interpretation and use, as well as by conducting research focused on investigating how people communicate, perceive, interpret, and use weather forecast uncertainty information.

Although weather and weather forecasts are known to have significant economic effects, little is known about the economic value of weather impacts and forecasts. Such knowledge is important both for quantifying economic impacts and for aiding decisions about allocation of societal resources for forecasting. To fill this gap, SIP research is examining the economics of weather impacts and forecasts both across the U.S. economy and in specific high–impact weather situations.

The weather community currently lacks specific knowledge about the societal relevance of weather products and services, hindering product and service improvements. For example, most current metrics for forecast verification focus primarily on monitoring forecast performance from a meteorological perspective and thus guide forecast providers towards improvements that may not provide the desired benefits to users. Over the next decade, SIP aims to build a program addressing this area through research evaluating the societal relevance of weather services and developing methodological infrastructure for user–relevant verification of forecast products.

Search through all publications in NCAR's OpenSky Library.


Listed by year. Citation entries for selected publications may contain links to selected abstracts and publications available online. (* denotes a non-NCAR author)


Lazrus, H., Morss, R.E., J.L., Demuth, J.K. Lazo, and A. Bostrom. Forthcoming 2015. “Know what to do if you encounter a flash flood”: Mental models analysis for improving flash flood risk communication and public decision making. Risk Analysis.

Morss, R. E., J. L. Demuth, A. Bostrom, J. K. Lazo, and H. Lazrus. Forthcoming 2015. Flash flood risks and warning decisions: A mental models study of forecasters, public officials, and media broadcasters in Boulder, Colorado. Risk Analysis.

Lazo, J.K., A. Bostrom, R.E. Morss, J.L. Demuth, and H. Lazrus. Forthcoming 2015. Communicating Hurricane Warnings: Factors Affecting Protective Behavior. Risk Analysis.

Morrow, B.H., J.K. Lazo, J. Rhome, and J. Feyen. 2015. Improving storm surge risk communication: Stakeholder perspectives. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 96:35–48.


Morrow, B.H., and J.K. Lazo. 2014. “Coastal Emergency Manager’s Preferences for Storm Surge Information.” Journal of Emergency Management. 12(2):153-160


Demuth, J.L., R. Morss, J.K. Lazo, and D.C. Hilderbrand, 2013: Improving effectiveness of weather risk communication on the NWS point-and-click web page. Weather and Forecasting, 28, 711-726, DOI: 10.1175/WAF-D-12-00118.1

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Stewart, A.E., J.K. Lazo, R.E. Morss, and J.L. Demuth, 2012: The relationship of weather salience with the perceptions and uses of weather information in a nationwide sample of the United States. Weather, Climate, and Society, 4, 172–189, DOI: 10.1175/WCAS-D-11-00033.1.

Lazrus, H., B.H. Morrow, R.E. Morss, and J.K. Lazo, 2012: Vulnerability beyond stereotypes: Context and agency in hurricane risk communication. Weather, Climate, and Society, 4, 103-109, DOI: 10.1175/WCAS-D-12-00015.1.

Demuth, J., R.E. Morss, B.H. Morrow, and J.K. Lazo, 2012: Creation and communication of hurricane risk information. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 93, 1133-1145, DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00150.1.

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Demuth, J., J.K. Lazo, and R. Morss, 2011: Exploring variations in people's sources, uses, and perceptions of weather forecasts. Weather, Climate, and Society, 3(3): 177-192.

Lazo, J.K., and D.M. Waldman, 2011: Valuing improved hurricane forecasts. Economics Letters, 111, 43-46, DOI: 10.1016/j.econlet.2010.12.012.

Lazo, J.K., M. Lawson, P.H. Larsen, and D. M. Waldman, 2011: Sensitivity of the U.S. economy to weather variability. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 92.

Morss, R. E., O. V. Wilhelmi, G. A. Meehl, and L. Dilling, 2011: Improving societal outcomes of extreme weather in a changing climate: An integrated perspective.  Annual Review of Environment and Resources, in press.

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Laidlaw, E. K. The Controversy Over Outdoor Warning Sirens. Weatherwise. 63, 16-25.

Lazo, J.K., J.S. Rice, and M.L. Hagenstad, 2010: Benefits of Investing in a Supercomputer to Support Weather Forecasting Research: An Example of Benefit Cost Analysis. Yuejiang Academic Journal. 1, 1-22.

Morss, R. E., and M. H. Hayden, 2010: Storm surge and “certain death”: Interviews with Texas coastal residents following Hurricane Ike. Weather, Climate, and Society, 2, 174-189.

Morss, R. E., 2010: Interactions among flood predictions, decisions, and outcomes: A synthesis of three cases.  Natural Hazards Review, 11, 83-96.

Morss, R. E., J.K. Lazo, and J. L. Demuth. Examining the use of weather forecasts in decision scenarios: Results from a U.S. survey with implications for uncertainty communication. Meteorological Applications. 17, 149–162.

National Research Council Committee on Progress and Priorities of U.S. Weather Research and Research-to-Operations Activities (including R. E. Morss), 2010: When Weather Matters: Science and Service to Meet Critical Societal Needs.  The National Academies Press, 208 pp.

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Demuth, J.L., *B.H. Morrow, J.K. Lazo. Weather Forecast Uncertainty Information: An Exploratory Study with Broadcast Meteorologists. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 90, 1614–1618.

*Gladwin, H., J.K. Lazo, *B.H. Morrow, *W.G. Peacock, *H.E. Willoughby. Social Science Research Needs for the Hurricane Forecast and Warning System. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 90, 25–29.

Lazo, J.K., R. E. Morss, and J. L. Demuth, 2009: 300 Billion Served: Sources, Perceptions, Uses, and Values of
Weather Forecasts. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 90, 785–798.

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Lazo, J.K., N. F. Bushek, E. K. Laidlaw, *R. S. Raucher, *T. J. Teisberg, *C. J. Wagner, and *R. F.Weiher, 2008: Economic valuation and application of services. World Meteorological Organization Bulletin, 57, 222-228.

Lazo, J.K., *R. S. Raucher, *T. T. Teisberg, *C. J. Wagner and *R. F. Weiher, 2008: Primer on Economics for National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. Sponsored by World Meteorological Organization Voluntary Cooperation Program, managed by the National Weather Service International Activities Office and National Center for Atmospheric Research, 53 pp.

*Morrow, B. H., J. L. Demuth, and J. K. Lazo, 2008: Communicating weather forecast uncertainty: An exploratory study with broadcast meteorologists. Report to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted in support of the AMS Ad Hoc Committee on Uncertainty in Forecasts, 28 pp.

Morss, R. E., J. Demuth, and J. K. Lazo, 2008: Communicating uncertainty in weather forecasts: A survey of the U.S. Public. Weather and Forecasting, 23, 974–991.

Morss, R. E., and *F. Zhang, 2008: Linking meteorological education to reality: A prototype undergraduate research study of public response to Hurricane Rita forecasts. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 89, 497-504.

Morss, R. E., J. K. Lazo, B. G. Brown, *H. E. Brooks, *P. T. Ganderton, and *B. N. Mills, 2008: Societal and economic research and applications for weather forecasts: Priorities for the North American THORPEX program. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 89, 335–346.

*Smith, P.L., *J.F. Davis, *E. Im, J.K. Lazo, *D. McLaughlin, *R. Palmer, *S.A. Rutledge, *S. Sandgathe, *R.J. Serafin, *M.M. Wolfson. 2008. Evaluation of the Multifunction Phased Array Radar Planning Process. Committee on the Evaluation of the Multifunction Phased Array Radar Planning Process; National Research Council. Washington, DC.

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Demuth, J. L., *E. Gruntfest, R. E. Morss, *S. Drobot, and J. K. Lazo, 2007: Weather and Society*Integrated Studies (WAS*IS): Building a community for integrating meteorology and social science. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 88, 1729-1737.

Gladwin, H., J.K. Lazo, B. Morrow, W.G. Peacock, H. Willoughby, 2007: Social Science Research Needs for the Hurricane Forecast and Warning System: An Introduction. Natural Hazards Review, 8: 87-95.

Lazo, J.K. 2007. “Economics of Weather Impacts and Weather Forecasts.” Secure and Sustainable Living: The Societal and Economic Benefits of Weather, Climate and Water Products and Services, Madrid 2007, WMO.

Lazo, J.K. and W.G. Peacock. 2007. “Social Science Research Needs for the Hurricane Forecast and Warning System: An Introduction.” Natural Hazards Review. 8(3):43-44.

Lazo, J.K., *T.J. Teisberg, and *R.F. Weiher. 2007. “Methodologies for Assessing Economic Benefits of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.” Secure and Sustainable Living: The Societal and Economic Benefits of Weather, Climate and Water Products and Services, Madrid 2007, WMO.

*Letson, D., *D. Sutter, J.K. Lazo. 2007. “The Economic Value of Hurricane Forecasts: An Overview and Research Needs.” Natural Hazards Review. 8(3):78-86.

Morss, R. E., and *E. Wahl, 2007: An ethical analysis of prediction and decision making: The case of the Red River flood of 1997. Environmental Hazards, 7, 342-352.

Morss, R. E., and *F. M. Ralph, 2007: Use of information by National Weather Service forecasters and emergency managers during CALJET and PACJET-2001. Weather and Forecasting, 22, 539-555.

*Rogers, D.P., *Y. Adebayo, *C. Clarke, *S.J. Connor, *R. DeGuzman, *P. Dexter, *L. Dubus, *J. Guddal, *L. Jalkanen, *A. Korshunov, J.K. Lazo, *H. Puempel, *V. Smetanina, *B. Stewart, *Tang X., *V. Tsirkunov, *S. Ulatov, *P-Y. Whung, and *D.A. Wilhite. 2007. “Deriving Societal and Economic Benefits from Meteorological and Hydrological Services.” WMO Bulletin.

*Zhang, F., R. E. Morss, *J. A. Sippel, *T. K. Beckman, *N. C. Clements, *N. L. Hampshire, *J. N. Harvey, *J. M. Hernandez, *Z. C. Morgan, *R. M. Mosier, *S. Wang, and *S. D. Winkley, 2007: An in-person survey investigating public perceptions of and responses to Hurricane Rita forecasts along the Texas Coast. Weather and Forecasting, 22, 1177-1190.

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National Research Council, 2006: Completing the Forecast: Characterizing and Communicating Uncertainty for Better Decisions Using Weather and Climate Forecasts. The National Academies Press, 124 pp.

Glantz, M. H., *L. M. Cavanaugh, R. E. Morss, *E. Gruntfest, and J. Tribbia, 2006: Will recent “super” storms lead to seasons of superstorms? Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 87, 1173-1174.

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Downton, M. W., R. E. Morss, O. V. Wilhelmi, E. C. Gruntfest, and M. L. Higgins, 2005: Interactions between scientific uncertainty and flood management decisions: Two case studies in Colorado.  Environmental Hazards, 6, 134-136.

Hacker, J., J. Hansen, J. Berner, Y. Chen, G. Eshel, G. Hakim, S. Lazarus, S. Majumdar, R. Morss, A. Poje, V. Sheremet, Y. Tang, and C. Webb, 2005: Future scientific directions: Predictability.  Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86, 1733-1737.

Morss, R. E., O. V. Wilhelmi, M. W. Downton, and E. Gruntfest, 2005: Flood risk, uncertainty, and scientific information for decision-making: Lessons from an interdisciplinary project.  Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86, 1593-1601.

Morss, R. E., and W. H. Hooke, 2005: The outlook for U.S. meteorological research in a commercializing world: Fair early, but clouds moving in? Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86, 921–936.

Morss, R. E., 2005: Science fiction, science fact, and society: Meteorology in recent popular film and fiction. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86, 691-694.

Morss, R. E., K. A. Miller, and M. S. Vasil, 2005: A systematic economic approach to evaluating public investment in observations for weather forecasting.  Monthly Weather Review, 133, 374–388.

Morss, R. E., 2005: Problem definition in atmospheric science public policy: The example of observing system design for weather prediction. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86, 181–191.

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Societal Impacts of Weather