Typhoon Joaquin as seen via water vapor satellite imagery on September 30, 2015.
By Andrew Freedman2015-09-30 19:53:31 UTC
Hurricane Joaquin is the sort of high uncertainty and high impact extreme weather event that the meteorology community has been preparing for since Hurricane Sandy’s historic and deadly hit on the Mid-Atlantic states in 2012.
Joaquin, which was a Category 1 hurricane as of early afternoon on Wednesday, is forecast to become a major hurricane, which means it would reach Category 3 intensity or greater, before it begins barreling its way up the East Coast toward the end of the week.
Exactly where it goes is a giant question mark right now, though it is helping to aim a firehose of moisture at the East Coast, presenting the near-certainty of dangerous amounts of heavy rain during the next several days.
The task of communicating these threats, from the more certain hazards (heavy rain) to the less clear ones (hurricane-force winds and storm surge flooding) falls to meteorologists and climate and weather reporters, including yours truly.
Many of these experts have been trying to learn from their experience during Hurricane Sandy while dealing with a rapidly changing media landscape, where storms are not just hyped on cable news, but also on Twitter and Facebook.
Trying to temper the hype and alarm but my concern level on #Joaquin rising…Sandy comparisons inevitable but be cautious.
— Marshall Shepherd (@DrShepherd2013) September 30, 2015
Since Sandy, there has been much soul-searching and studying going on in the meteorology and social sciences communities about risk communication. There were many mistakes made during Sandy, many forecasters concluded, including the lack of specific storm surge warnings that were separate from hurricane warnings, as well as the effect that switching the designation of the storm from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm may have had on the perceived threat among the public and emergency officials.
@Jaberuski Way too early. Forecast uncertainty continues higher than average. Monitor forecast at http://t.co/sW29se3SLL
— Gary Szatkowski (@GarySzatkowski) September 30, 2015
Maria LaRosa, a meteorologist at the Weather Channel, told Mashable that her task right now is to communicate to viewers that they need to pay attention to this forecast while also communicating the uncertainty involved at this point.
“There’s been so much discussion recently (a very good thing) about communicating uncertainty when forecasting,” she wrote via a Twitter message. “The message for Joaquin this many …Read More