Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats (FACETs) is a proposed next-generation severe weather forecast and warning framework that is modern, flexible, and designed to communicate clear and simple hazardous weather information to serve the public.
FACETs supports NOAA's Weather-Ready Nation initiative to build community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather and water events.
Facet #1: Threats
FACETs will allow forecasters to improve upon standard weather watches and warnings by delivering detailed hazard information through the use of “threat grids” that are monitored and adjusted as new information becomes available. Threat grids will be based on a rapidly updating high-resolution stream of weather information fed by current and future scientific tools. Forecasters can interpret and communicate weather threats along with the uncertainty associated with the predicted trend. Decision-makers requiring longer lead-times such as hospitals and large venues can set their own threat threshold based on their specific needs. Threat grids will also support the development of new products that address high impact but non-severe weather events such as lightning and strong winds that are below-severe limits.
The FACETs framework will adjust to advances in satellite, radar and surface observation technology that already aid the forecasters' decisions. It will also introduce new computer-model predictions of storm-specific hazards such as tornadoes large hail, and extreme local rainfall from NOAA's Warn-on-Forecast research project. Forecasters will receive real-time statistical projections of a storm's longevity, intensity and hazards from NSSL's database of climatological storm-scale behavior. FACETs intends for grid-based threat information to be linked from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center broad national and regional outlooks, watches and discussions, flowing downstream into local NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) forecast products and warning grids.
Facet #3: Forecaster Decisions
Forecasters are essential to the warning process and they will be trained to understand and use the new probabilistic tools in support of warning decisions. FACETs will also explore the decision-making process of the forecaster, how the public grasps the information, and ways the messages could be crafted so they respond safely.
Facet #4: Threat Grid Tools
Earth System Research Lab's “Hazard Services” software is already being developed with FACETs threat grid concepts in mind. Since storm-scale decisions need to be made quickly, Hazard Services will include tools for rapid grid interactions. A forecaster could draw hail, wind and tornado threat swaths all within one “supercell app.”
The video below is a conceptualization of the future FACETs paradigm, envisioned to help the National Weather Service improve its weather threat forecasting and communication. The solid red lines depict the NWS tornado warnings issued for the April 27, 2011 Southeast U.S. tornado outbreak. The solid black lines are the tornado paths. As the movie begins, you will see how current "legacy" warnings will benefit from the additional context provided by smaller, focused tornado probability "swaths," updated frequently and moving ahead of (and with) the tornado threat area. The colors correspond to tornado probabilities, with the hotter colors being the highest probabilities. Note how low (but increasing) probabilities extend outside of the red, legacy warning polygons - thereby giving advanced lead time for the approaching threat. The smaller and more focused tornado threat areas, as compared to the tornado warning area, will result in a significant decrease in areas unnecessarily warned.
Facet #5: Useful Output
Under FACETs, the NWS will still issue legacy products such as watches and warnings, but their products will include more impact-specific information including urgency, confidence, and variability. All grid-based threat forecast information would be easily transferable to various geographic formats to streamline and enhance decision support services.
Facet #6: Effective Response
Forecasters cannot anticipate how many people are exposed to a threat and how they will respond if faced with one. FACETs will find ways to fine-tune threat output in a way that people will choose to implement their safety plan. Any progress made in the previous five facets would be for naught if peoples’ responses will be ineffective or wrong. This is where social and behavioral sciences integration will have the greatest impact, although contributions of these disciplines are essential in all facets of the threat forecasting process (see below). Likewise, FACETs development work will involve officials in emergency management, law enforcement, broadcast media, public health and other disciplines to ensure your response to hazardous weather is the most effective response.
Facet #7: Verification
Threat forecasts and warnings will be placed on the same geospatial grid to improve methods used to verify forecasts and warnings. Metrics such as false alarm duration, false alarm area, and site-specific lead-time and end-time could provide greater insight into the effectiveness of threat forecasts and the threat forecasting process.
Facet Binding: Fully-Integrated Social Science
Social science will strengthen the link between each facet. Anthropology, for example, might reveal important insights into the decision-making process of the forecaster or the education process of the public. Similar applications can be said of economics, human factors, sociology, communication, human geography, political science, linguistics, and law.
The unified vision, framework and concept through FACETs will guide warning research and development work towards an effective, future warning paradigm. FACETs will address issues identified in Weather-Ready Nation community meetings, anticipate and adapt to the trajectories of science, technology and society, and develop and implement the change in the NWS warning paradigm. Each facet will require research, development and testing, user interaction and cultural adjustment using assets already in place such as the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed, Operational Proving Ground and pilot projects. If adopted, FACETs can serve as a framework for prioritizing and directing subsequent activities to achieve a Weather-Ready Nation through a partnership between NOAA Research and the NOAA National Weather Service.