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Dr. Jennifer First Receives Federal Grant

Dr. Jennifer First and colleagues were recently awarded a federal grant of over $350,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Center’s Weather Program Office for their research titled, While you were sleeping: Improving warning reception and response to nocturnal rapid-onset hazards in the Southeast.

The Southeast region experiences a high proportion of rapid-onset hazards (e.g., tornadoes, flash floods) that can occur quickly with little warning. When rapid-onset hazards occur at night, they increase public fatality odds as they are difficult for the weather enterprise to forecast and difficult for the public to respond to, as much of the population may be sleeping when they occur. Furthermore, the Southeast contains a high percentage of socially vulnerable populations who may not have access to resources to receive overnight alerts (e.g., NOAA weather radio, smartphone). This project seeks to provide much-needed research into nocturnal rapid-onset hazard (tornado and flash flood) risk and vulnerability factors in the Southeast, and develop visual communication products that can enhance nocturnal warning reception and decision-making among diverse populations. 

The interdisciplinary and applied research team will purposefully interconnect climatological, social science, and communication research methods with NWS Weather Forecast Office (WFO) expertise to advance knowledge in three transferable areas, including 1) examining spatiotemporal distributions of two common rapid-onset hazards occurring at night in the Southeast––tornadoes and flash floods––and areas of overlap with socially vulnerable populations, 2) identifying social, behavioral, and environmental factors that prevent or support nocturnal hazard warning reception and protective decision making, and 3) developing visual risk communication products to improve nocturnal warning reception and response with diverse populations. Together these objectives will address FY2023 NOAA/WPO SBES priorities to understand information ecosystems in support of weather-related decision-making among vulnerable populations and improve personalized visual displays of weather risk. By collaborating with partner NWS WFOs in all stages of the project, the team will create a feedback loop of knowledge transfer between researchers and NWS forecasters to provide essential information into the various information factors that support or prevent weather-related decision-making during nocturnal hazards in the Southeast. In addition, by developing multilingual risk communication products for diverse members of the public, the team prioritizes addressing diverse populations’ risk communication needs in the hazard warning process. The project outcomes have the potential to benefit the operational community, the public, and the scientific community through broad access and dissemination of the final deliverables, including maps, a white paper, a project website, whiteboard animation videos, factsheets with infographics, presentations, and scholarly publications. 

Jennifer M. First (PI), University of Tennessee
Kelsey Ellis, University of Tennessee
J. Brian Houston, University of Missouri
WPO SBES Competition FY2023: NOAA-OAR-WPO-2023-2007516